Australia’s competition chief, Rod Sims, has warned big companies not to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to nobble their competitors and set themselves up as monopolies.
Stopping Australia emerging from the pandemic as an economy where even more power is concentrated in the hands of a few players is just one entry on a long to-do list kept by Sims, who has spent the crisis helping keep food on the shelves of supermarkets and stopping banks rushing to foreclose on bad loans by authorising companies to coordinate their behaviour in ways that would normally be against the law.
Sims has already taken action to keep competition alive in aviation – in March he publicly chastised the Qantas boss, Alan Joyce, for campaigning against any government support for weaker rival Virgin Australia, which at the time was teetering on the verge of collapse.
Related: ACCC orders ticket reseller Viagogo to pay $7m fine for misleading consumers
“Just because we’re watching has a profound effect, we see that every time,” Sims tells Guardian Australia.
“That will inhibit players taking action to knock off their competitors, but if it doesn’t we’re here to take action – either under the Act or through recommendations to government.”
Sims thinks getting Australia out of the recession caused by the business shutdowns, travel bans and other restrictive measures imposed by authorities to fight the virus will require plenty more government spending – something he is expecting to see in Tuesday’s budget.
At the same time as dealing with the financial effect of the virus, which has crushed an economy that was already struggling with weak growth, Sims and the regulator he chairs, the Australian Competition