Misuse of market power laws could stifle innovation

THE Turnbull government will need to address the market power of the big end of town before regional businesses can fully capitalise on the government's "innovation agenda", a key industry figure says.

The government released its signature $1.1 billion innovation policy on Monday, aiming to get more start-ups running around the country to take up the slack left by the end of the mining boom.

Council of Small Business of Australia chief executive Peter Strong describes the policy as a good start but believes regional businesses face two key impediments to taking advantage of the plan.

One is the existing "misuse of market power" laws that he says stop regional businesses from innovating for fear of "a couple of big players getting in the way or stealing your ideas".

"Due to bad policy over the last 50 years, we have domination in a few sectors by too few companies, and that's a real barrier to innovation, particularly for producers, manufacturers and growers in regional Australia," Mr Strong said.

"Another part of that is that if you come up with a good product, labelling laws allow the big retailers to copy the labels or push the product off the shelves.

"If this isn't addressed, we'll never see another Edgells or Golden Circle starting up."

Mr Strong said the second major issue was a lack of high-speed, affordable broadband internet access.

"The National Broadband Network will eventually increase speed and access, but if you've got only one provider in the area, we still don't know how it will affect prices," he said.

The government has begun a review of market power laws, with a report due in March next year.



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