A parliamentary inquiry into the iron ore industry would be entirely inappropriate and damage Australia’s international image, former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel says.
Speaking after Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared his support for an inquiry into the behaviour of the struggling industry, Mr Samuel said the parliament should not be trying to intervene in a global market.
“I don’t know what parliament thinks it can do, is it going to limit the exports of BHP and Rio Tinto? I can’t imagine what role parliament has in dealing with an international market of this nature,” said Mr Samuel.
“The very reason we have independent competition authorities is to ensure politicians don’t get involved in political situations. This is an attempt to intervene in the market in a way that is entirely innappropriate.”
Mr Samuel’s comments come after ACCC chairman Rod Sims said last month it was “misguided” to think BHP and Rio were engineering the recent price fall.
The exact design and focus of the inquiry are unknown at this stage, with Mr Abbott saying he wanted transparency on the issue.
“I think we do need an inquiry,” Mr Abbott told radio station 2GB.
“I think we do need to know the facts of what’s going on here because I am conscious of the claims that are being made by Andrew Forrest and others.
“What we don’t want to see is predatory behaviour by any company.”
Mr Abbott’s comments come after Independent senator Nick Xenophon failed to win support for an inquiry on Thursday.
Mr Abbott’s support for an inquiry so soon after Senator Xenophon’s push failed was interpreted by some as a sign that the Coalition government wants to have control of the inquiry committee when set up.
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