ACCC is looking into Toll-TWU link, it reminds critics

Sims says his organisation keeps low profile on its investigations

ACCC is looking into Toll-TWU link, it reminds critics
Rod Sims highlights sensitivities to probe publicity


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is reiterating to critics that the relationship between Toll and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is being looked at following evidence to the Royal Commission into unions.

Some lobbyists and business commentators, notably Robert Gottliebsen of website Business Spectator, have criticised the ACCC over its authorisation last week of a Brisbane Toll-related collective bargaining agreement and questioned its response to Royal Commission evidence.

But the Commission points out that chairman Rod Sims – in comments to the Sydney Business Chamber CEO's Leadership Roundtable, later noted in an otherwise little-reported July 28 press release – had said that the ACCC is "looking into allegations of anti-competitive conduct involving the TWU and Toll".

The allegations had been made during hearings of the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.

"Detecting, stopping and deterring significant anti-competitive conduct is a high priority for the ACCC," Sims stated.

He noted criticism the regulator had recently received for not confirming whether it is looking into these matters, while on the other hand, the ACCC has also been criticised by some in the business community for confirming investigations that can reflect poorly on the companies involved.

"The ACCC has around 80 in-depth investigations underway, of which, virtually all are confidential," Sims said at the time.  

"As a general rule the ACCC policy is to keep investigations confidential; it does not seek to publicise specific matters and traders until an investigation is concluded and a decision has been made on whether to initiate court proceedings or take other action."

Beyond that aspect, the Brisbane collective bargaining agreement served to inflame Independent Contractors Australia (ICA) executive director Ken Phillips, who had led objections to it.

"The double standard displayed by the ACCC is extraordinary," Phillips says.

"The signal the ACCC is sending is that if a business wants to be anti-competitive and they do that through a union, then that’s okay."

He continues: "Amazingly the ACCC says that the fact of Toll admitting to anti-competitive agreements with the TWU is ‘not relevant’ to the TWU’s collective bargaining application."

In explaining the decision in question, Sims had described it as a "separate matter".



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