Any individual or organisation (including a government body) may lodge a complaint with the Australian Government Competitive Neutrality Complaints Office (AGCNCO). The Productivity Commission Act 1998 also allows Australian Government agencies to complain that they are disadvantaged in competing with private firms by a government policy.
Types of complaint
Complaints will generally fall into one of three groups:
- an Australian Government business is not complying with the competitive neutrality arrangements that apply to it
- those arrangements are ineffective in removing competitive advantages arising from government ownership
- an Australian Government business not subject to competitive neutrality arrangements should be.
The first step
Those contemplating making a complaint are encouraged to discuss their concerns with the government business involved and/or the AGCNCO. This will help to clarify whether the concerns fall within the scope of competitive neutrality policy and may allow for the resolution of matters without the need for a formal investigation. Formal complaints must be lodged in writing, preferably using the Competitive Neutrality Complaint Form. Office staff are available to discuss the preparation of a complaint.
Lodge a Competitive Neutrality Complaint
Information needed for a complaint
While there is no specific information that must be provided to support a complaint, the case for initiating an investigation and recommending changes to competitive neutrality arrangements will have more weight if supported by facts and arguments. Thus, complainants are encouraged to describe their concerns and the effects of any perceived breach of competitive neutrality arrangements on their activities.
To facilitate the investigation process and promote transparency, the AGCNCO generally makes written material submitted in relation to a complaint available to other interested parties. However, it will accept commercially or otherwise sensitive material on an 'in confidence' basis.
How a complaint is investigated
The AGCNCO will generally make a formal complaint public (by posting it on our website) and invite interested parties to approach the AGCNCO with information they consider would be relevant to our investigation.
When the AGCNCO investigates a complaint, it provides a written report to the Government setting out its findings and the reasons for them. It subsequently publishes the report and also makes it available on this website. While the AGCNCO may recommend changes to competitive neutrality arrangements, the Government is not obliged to accept that advice.
The AGCNCO does not automatically investigate complaints. Apart from those which do not concern an Australian Government business, it will generally rule out complaints that:
- are frivolous, vexatious, not made in good faith, or are made by someone with an insufficient interest in the matter of the complaint
- do not warrant investigation having regard to all the relevant circumstances.
If the Office does not proceed with an investigation, it provides written advice to the complainant outlining the reasons for its decision.
The AGCNCO generally aims to report to the Government within 90 days of accepting a complaint. For its part, the Government aims to respond to recommendations within a further 90 days. For complex complaints, an AGCNCO report may result in a Government decision to hold a subsequent public inquiry into the matters raised.