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TPA changes to address market power abuse & unconscionable conduct

19 June 2007

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) firmly supports changes to the Trade Practices Act (TPA) to strengthen its powers in the areas of Misuse of Market Power and Unconscionable Conduct.

“Australia’s farmers are proud of their strong record of productivity growth and know only too well that they need a strong, competitive environment throughout the supply chain to effectively compete on the domestic and international markets,” NFF Vice-President Charles Burke said.

“The Australian Government’s proposed amendments, announced today, in the area of Misuse of Market Power will ensure our competitive edge is maintained through greater enforcement in the areas so vital to the Australian farm sector – including fuel distribution, retailing and transport supplies.

“The amendments will help small businesses secure a fairer operating environment and allow authorities to more effectively combat predatory pricing tactics, which undermine the viability of small businesses.

“Further, widening of the Unconscionable Conduct provisions within the TPA sends a strong message to the ‘big end of town’ that it cannot simply back-out of contractual obligations on a whim... in particular, the targeting of unfair unilateral variation clauses will help to ensure reneging on contracts will come under heightened scrutiny.

“Australian farmers have noted, and been increasingly concerned about, players in the market trying to capitalise on the limited number of buyers within regional areas by including unfair clauses in their contracts with farmers.

“Today’s move will see greater scrutiny on contract clauses allowing buyers to ‘opt out’ of their contractual obligations whenever they see fit, leaving farmers unjustly exposed. These will be targeted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the grounds of Unconscionable Conduct.

“Eliminating inherently unfair contracts is essential, and the NFF looks forward to working with the ACCC in ensuring farmers get a fair deal that properly rewards their efforts in producing top quality goods in the most efficient manner.”

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250.

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