Root and branch review might lead to more privatization

A ROOT and branch review of Australia's competition laws could yet open the door to further privatisations of government assets, Small Business Minister Bruce Billson confirmed on Thursday.

Mr Billson released the final terms of reference for the extensive review, saying it could lead to the first major overhaul of consumer and competition law in 22 years.

The review investigates everything from market power in the groceries and fuel industries to consumer protections, mergers, red tape, industry codes of conduct and more.

But Mr Billson said it would also examine the potential for government to "get out of the way" in markets, not ruling out a sell-off of the ailing Australia Post service.

The terms of reference show the review will have a specific focus on "reducing government involvement where there is no longer a clear public interest".

While the Commission of Audit that the government has been considering privately for weeks has a similar remit, the review could go further.

It would specifically look at areas where the government owns a company or corporation which "should not be a substitute for the private sector" in existing markets.

The review will be led by economist Professor Ian Harper; public servant and current chief executive of the Regional Australia Institute Su McCluskey, Victoria lawyer Michael O'Bryan SC; and former chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Peter Anderson.

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