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Blakeney, Michael --- "Review of: 'Annotated Trade Practices Act 1974, 1996 Edition'" [1996] MurdochUeJlLaw 10; (1996) 3(2) Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law

Review of: Ray Steinwall and Lucienne Layton, "Annotated Trade Practices Act 1974", 1996 Edition, (Sydney: Butterworths, 1996), ISBN 0 409 312223, 548 pages; and Russell V. Miller, Annotated Trade Practices Act, 17th edition, (Sydney: LBC, 1996).

Author: Michael Blakeney BA, LLB, LLM., Hons (Syd), MA, Hons (UNSW)
Issue: Volume 3, Number 2 (July 1996)

  1. The Trade Practices Act 1974, which was considered to be one of the most revolutionary of the legislative innovations of the Whitlam administration, has gradually attracted the bipartisan support of both Federal and State governments. Initially, the unfair competition and restrictive trade practice provisions were emulated by parallel State statutes. The Federal Act was largely confined to s.51(xx) trading corporations by decisions such as St. George County Council[1], Adamson[2] and Hughes[3] and the Crown in right of the various States was exempted from the reach of the Act by the High Court in Bradken Consolidated Ltd v. Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd[4]. This confinement has been reversed by a package of State and Federal legislation which was precipitated by the 1993 Hilmer Committee report.

  2. The vision of the National Competition Policy Review, chaired by Professor Fred Hilmer, was for a national competition policy in which State and Federal governments cooperated to establish a competition code which uniformly applied rules of market conduct to all market participants regardless of their ownership. On 11 April 1995, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), signed a series of agreements in support of a national competition policy reform package. On 20 July 1995 the Competition Policy Reform Act 1995 received the Royal Assent and reciprocal legislation in the States and Territories recognised the superintending authority of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

  3. The Trade Practices Act was itself reformed to replace the Trade Practices Commission with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). With the parallel State and Territory legislation the prohibitions of anti-competitive conduct in Act now apply to the State Crown and to virtually all businesses in the country. Additionally, the competition provisions of the Act were broadened and the penalty levels increased to $10 million for corporations and $500,000 for individuals.

  4. The detail of theses changes is reproduced in Steinwall and Layton's 1996 Annotation of the Act. The Annotation contains the Trade Practices Act and Regulations, the Competition Policy Reform Act 1995 and a very comprehensive index and case commentary. A useful feature of the Annotation is the legislation notes which explain the very considerable volume of changes to the Act, such as the various transmogrifications of s.45D, the secondary boycotts provision, which prior to 1994 applied to trade union activity.

  5. The Steinwall and Layton Annotation will inevitably be compared with Russell V. Miller's Annotated Trade Practices Act, published by the Law Book Co, which is now in its 17th edition. Miller is 50% larger than Steinwall and Layton. It contains the Competition Principles Agreement and related regulations. It also contains the specialist regulations which have been promulgated under the Act. In its earlier editions a strength of Miller was its reference to secondary commentaries as well as case law. This has fallen away in later editions.

  6. A particular strength of Steinwall and Layton is its reference to unreported cases.

  7. Until now Miller has been in a monopoly position and may have become flabby from lack of competitive exercise. Consumers will view with interest whether Steinwall and Layton can attract market share and whether the vigour of competition will call forth an innovative response from Miller.

  8. For the student reader price will probably be the ultimate criterion of choice between these publications. For the competition law practitioner nurtured on Miller, Steinwall and Layton have to meet the challenge of breaking down consumer loyalty.


[1] R..v. Trade Practices Tribunal; Ex parte St George County Council (1974) 130 CLR 190.

[2] R..v. Trade Practices Tribunal; Ex parte West Australian National Football League [1979] HCA 6; (1979) 143 CLR 190.

[3] Hughes v. West Australian Cricket Association (Inc) [1986] FCA 357; (1986) 19 FCR 10.

[4] [1979] HCA 15; (1979) 145 CLR 107

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