Lack of competition driving decline in Australian living standards, productivity


Customers visit a supermarket in Sydney, Australia, Dec 19, 2022. [Xinhua]

The living standards of Australians are under threat from a lack of competition in the private sector, a parliamentary inquiry has warned.

In a report published on Wednesday, the federal parliament's bipartisan Standing Committee on Economics found that there has been a decline or stagnation in competition in Australia and a rise in market concentration across a range of sectors.

It attributed the slowdown in Australia's productivity over the past decade to reduced competition, increased market concentration, slower private investment in new technology and the shift towards a service economy.

Committee chair Dan Mulino, a member of parliament (MP) for the governing Labor Party and former economist, said that Australia must become more competitive in order for people to enjoy higher standards of living.

"Australia is at a crossroads. We are emerging from a decade of low productivity growth. The need for competition and economic dynamism is great," he told Nine Entertainment newspapers.

"There are many opportunities -- at an economy-wide level and at a sectoral level -- for meaningful reform that not only produces immediate benefits for consumers, but that will also deliver higher standards of living for future generations."

Australia's average productivity growth fell to 1.1 percent in the 10 years to 2020 -- the lowest figure in 60 years -- according to the government's landmark 2023 intergenerational report.

The committee was asked to conduct the inquiry into promoting economic dynamism, competition and business formation by Treasurer Jim Chalmers in January 2023.

To boost competition among airlines, it recommended the government consider introducing mandatory compensation for passengers whose flights are delayed.

In banking, it recommended financial institutions run trials where customers are told when they are about to lose bonus interest on their savings or are close to activating an interest rate bonus.

The report also advocates making it easier for small businesses to win major government contracts.

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