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Money Cruising contract under scrutiny from ACCC

14:42  12 march  2018
14:42  12 march  2018 Source:   msn.com

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While the ACCC has yet to make a final decision, it has highlighted in its draft determination that Carnival's preferential berthing arrangement could “limit or prevent” competition from opposing cruise liners. But the competition watchdog will block another clause in the contract that gives Carnival first

Delivering the keynote address at a UNSW forum on recent developments in competition and consumer law, ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said the regulator would be taking enforcement action in relation to a number of companies over B2B unfair contract terms this year.

Carnival and the Port of Brisbane have come under fire for a commercial deal which could limit competition in the cruise ship industry, worth a billion dollars a year to Queensland.

The partly confidential contract gives Carnival preferential use of a new cruise ship terminal under construction at Luggage Point, which could see rival liners snub the river city altogether.

The Queensland Government had invited media to witness the progress of the new terminal, from the deck of the Queen Mary II.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has a number of in-depth investigations underway across a range of industries following the introduction of the “Ensuring small businesses receive protection under new unfair contract terms law is a priority for the ACCC in 2017.” Background.

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The Cunard liner, owned by parent company Carnival, had been forced to drop her anchor in front of the grain terminal at the Port of Brisbane, currently the only location exceptionally large ships can dock.

"It's a bit third worldish, isn't it,” passenger Terry Adsett told 9NEWS.

Another passenger, Jim Curtain labelled the dock conditions "shocking. Bloody awful."

It’s the reason the new $158 million cruise ship terminal is being built. But not by the Queensland Government.

The funds are instead coming from a contractual arrangement between Carnival and the Port of Brisbane - an arrangement which is now under investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

ACCC documents reveal Carnival will pay an undisclosed but reportedly “significant” sum to the Port, guaranteeing Carnival and its subsidiaries like P&O preferential birthing at the new terminal. Exclusive rights to dock 100 days a year, up to four days a week and Carnival can pick the days.

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But enrolment in retail training programs – which Grill'd contracts stipulate as a "compulsory and a condition of ongoing employment – allows the company to continue paying its young workforce below full wages.

Carnival CEO Ann Sherry defended the contract telling 9NEWS "our investment has been critical to get, I guess, the Queensland facilities up to the standard you'd expect. The ACCC hasn't said its anti-competitive".

But competitors believe it is, claiming Carnival's contract would essentially lock them out of the lucrative summer market altogether, the peak cruising season, and forcing passengers from competing lines like Royal Caribbean to dock instead at the old grain terminal or sail past Brisbane altogether.

Tourism Minister Kate Jones declined to respond directly to questions about the contract except to say, “the ACCC is looking at this, what they don’t need is political commentary from me".

While the ACCC has yet to make a final decision, it has highlighted in its draft determination that Carnival's preferential berthing arrangement could “limit or prevent” competition from opposing cruise liners.

But the competition watchdog will block another clause in the contract that gives Carnival first rights to a second dock, if, it is ever built down the track at the new terminal.

The ACCC will hand down its findings next month.

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