The Nationals member of Parliament, Keith Pitt has broken ranks to endorse a push by the Centre Alliance to legislate an economy-wide power to break up big companies when the Morrison government’s debated “big stick” energy package returns the Parliamentent in July.
The Queensland National, who has been one of the most articulate supporter of the “big stick” legislation, which allows energy companies to be broken up if they involve in price gouging, says a power to break up big companies should apply right across the economy, not just in the energy sector alone.
When asked if he subscribe to a proposal by the Centre Alliance to broaden the divestiture power, Pitt told Guardian Australia: “I agree with them.”
“This has been the position of the Nationals and supported by MRS
for a long period of time. It’s been debated previously, and we know this type of legislation is in place in other major economies such as the USA and Britain and been very successful,” he said.
When asked if he would support non-government amendments when the package is argued in the new parliament, Pitt said: “I don’t support anything I haven’t seen and I’m yet to read anything that’s been put forward, but in terms of a general principle, I surely support extending divestiture powers, especially into other areas like the supermarket duopoly, which we all know has been of disadvantages to regional producers for a very long period of time.”
Presuming Scott Morrison post-election governs in majority, the government try as much as possible to direct the package through the lower chamber without reformation, unless Pitt is joined by more MPs in a concerted push to widen the divestiture proposal in the current legislation. The package is also susceptible during Senate debate in the event any Nationals decide to break ranks.
Any attempts by the MPs to beef up the divestiture power proposed in the big stick package would prompt significant pushback from Liberals. Liberals have already exert changes to the government package on the basis they were philosophically uncomfortable with it, because cracking up private companies offends most important liberal values.
The government had to revise its original proposal last December because of concerns expressed by a number of Liberal backbenchers. The energy sector and major business groups are also keen opponents of the package and have engaged in a substantial lobbying effort to try to scuttle it.
Fearing preelection, the package was going to be put on a long time, Pitt was one of a group of MPs including George Christensen, Michelle Landry, Ken O’Dowd, Llew O’Brien and Barry O’Sullivan who put their leader, Michael McCormack, and the energy minister, Angus Taylor, on a prompt notice that the “big stick” package needed to be passed as a matter of relative importance.