Competitive neutrality is the principle that a public sector business or agency should not have a competitive advantage (or disadvantage) over the private sector solely due to their government ownership. Public sector businesses should compete with private sector businesses on an equal (competitively neutral) basis.
Public sector businesses may have competitive advantages over private sector businesses. For example, some public sector businesses may:
- be exempt from taxes and charges
- have access to less expensive funds because of implicit or explicit government guarantees
- be exempt from complying with certain regulations and procedures.
In Queensland, the competitive neutrality principle is applied to relevant state and local government businesses (see ‘State and local government businesses’ below).
We advise government agencies about complying with the principle of competitive neutrality. We also receive, investigate and report on complaints about the alleged failures of government agencies to comply with the principle of competitive neutrality.
If you have a complaint about competitive neutrality, we encourage you to review the materials below and to contact us to discuss your complaint. A formal complaint can be lodged by using the ‘Make a competitive neutrality complaint’ form.
State government businesses
The competitive neutrality principle applies to significant business activities carried out by government agencies. A list of all significant business activities that are subject to competitive neutrality principles is provided below.
The competitive neutrality principle also applies to all government-owned corporations (GOCs). A list of GOCs can be found on the Queensland Treasury website.
We can only investigate competitive neutrality complaints that are made against state government businesses that are on the list of significant business activities, or that are a GOC (as listed on the Queensland Treasury website).
Local government businesses
The competitive neutrality principle applies to various business activities of local governments, including (but not limited to) water and sewerage, building certification, roads activity, quarries, off-street parking and sporting facilities. The requirements to comply with competitive neutrality differ based on the nature of the business, its size (for example the number of customers serviced, or the current expenditure of the business), and the policies of the local government that owns the business.
If you have a complaint against a local government business, we encourage you to first contact the relevant local government to discuss your concerns. All local governments in Queensland are required to have in place a process for resolving competitive neutrality complaints, including a process for resolving and clarifying a matter before a formal complaint is made.
We also encourage to you to contact us to discuss your concerns before lodging a formal complaint, and to read the competitive neutrality guideline.
The Minister has approved a guideline that sets out the process for dealing with competitive neutrality complaints. This is the guideline published under sections 43 and 258 of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 (Qld).
The legislation and government policies regarding competitive neutrality that currently apply are:
- Queensland Competitive Authority Act 1997 (Qld) – see Part 4
- Local Government Act 2009 (Qld) – see Chapter 3, Part 2, Division 2
- Local Government Regulation 2012 (Qld) – see Chapter 3, Part 2
- City of Brisbane Act 2010 (Qld) – see Chapter 3, Part 3, Division 2
- City of Brisbane Regulation 2012 (Qld) – see Chapter 3, Part 2
- National Competition Policy and Queensland Local Government – A Queensland Government Policy Statement
The competitive neutrality principle applies to significant business activities carried out by state government agencies.
All the business activities carried out by the following agencies are significant business activities:
- CITEC (Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy)
- Economic Development Queensland (Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning)
- Gladstone Area Water Board
- Mount Isa Water Board
- QBuild (Department of Energy and Public Works)
- Queensland Rail Ltd
- RoadTek (Department of Transport and Main Roads)
- TAFE Queensland.
In addition, the business activities of all Queensland government-owned corporations are also significant business activities. A list of Queensland government-owned corporations is available on the Queensland Treasury website.
The above list is the list of all significant business activities for the purpose of section 39(4) of the Queensland Competition Authority Act 1997 (Qld).
We started our competitive neutrality role in June 2021.
We are preparing a handbook for making a competitive neutrality complaint to us, to explain the complaints process. The handbook will be published here shortly.