Australian and New Zealand competition watchdogs announce new cross-appointment

By on 11/12/2015
ACCC commissioner Sarah Court of has been appointed as an associate member of the NZCC until 30 April 2018, when her term at the ACCC will come to an end.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the New Zealand Commerce Commission (NZCC) have announced a new cross-appointment.

ACCC commissioner Sarah Court of has been appointed as an associate member of the NZCC until 30 April 2018, when her term at the ACCC will come to an end.

Court replaces Dr Jill Walker, who became the ACCC’s first cross-appointment with the NZCC in 2010. Walker has now fully moved over the NZCC where she began working as a member last week.

Both organisations have one cross-appointment, with the NZCC’s post currently filled by NZCC chair Dr Mark Berry.

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison said: “The cross-appointment arrangement between the ACCC and NZCC has helped ensure there is alignment and consistency, particularly in considering proposed merger cases that affect markets in both jurisdictions.

“The cross-appointment of Sarah Court enables the NZCC and ACCC to coordinate their approach to consumer law enforcement, given the recent reforms of consumer legislation in both countries.”

And New Zealand Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Paul Goldsmith said: “Sarah Court has acknowledged expertise in both competition and consumer law areas and I am sure the NZCC will benefit from her participation in the NZCC’s Consumer and Commerce Act Divisions, where similar matters have been under investigation in Australia.

“Jill Walker has proven to be a valuable asset to the NZCC, given her extensive expertise in trade practices and anti-trust economics, and is well regarded both in New Zealand and overseas. I am very pleased she will continue to contribute as a member to the NZCC.”

The cross appointments at associate member level between the NZCC and ACCC began in 2010 to align the administration and enforcement of competition law to promote a Single Economic Market between New Zealand and Australia.

The cooperation was strengthened by the Commerce Commission’s International Co-operation, and Fees Act, which passed in 2012.

The aim of the act is to enhance cooperation between the Commerce Commission and overseas competition, consumer and telecommunications regulators, while ensuring that appropriate safeguards are in place to address public interest concerns, including the maintenance of privacy interests, confidentiality and legal privilege.

The ACCC this week also announced its first ever chief economist.

Dr Graeme Woodbridge, a senior economic specialist with the ACCC, will take up the post, which ““[…] will help ensure sound economics continues to underpin ACCC decisions by raising the status of economics at the ACCC, with important implications for the perception as well as the reality of our decision-making,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“The chief economist will also help to communicate with business and to inform markets and consumers about the economic foundations of our decisions,” he added.

Sims continued: “The relationship between economics and law inherent in the Competition and Consumer Act is an important factor when the Commission has to make decisions on what conduct is likely to harm competition, markets, and consumers.

“The Commission therefore relies heavily on legal and economic advice to inform, guide, and clarify our thinking about complex issues.

“We are delighted to have someone with Graeme Woodbridge’s skills, knowledge, and experience available as chief economist.

“He has the credentials and the depth of experience that will allow him to build this new role for the organisation.

“The complexity of the issues we deal with on a daily basis requires input from the best minds to understand what really underlies the conduct we are assessing and its impact so we can make sound decisions in the interests of all Australians.”

Woodbridge received his PhD in Economics from the University of California in 1991. His career began in academia at the Australia National University and then the University of Melbourne, where he taught economics and econometrics.

He has been working as a senior economic specialist with the ACCC for a number of years. After some time at the Industry (now Productivity) Commission and the ACCC, he spent six years working in the private sector with Frontier Economics and CommSec before re-joining the ACCC to concentrate on competition economics.

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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