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Competition review a blow to community pharmacies and will strengthen dominance of Coles/Woolworths: Harper harpoons small business



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For more information contact Jeremy Roberts on 0433 620 850 or Nick Xenophon on 0411 626 677

31 / 3 / 2015

Competition review a blow to community pharmacies and will strengthen dominance of Coles/Woolworths

HARPER HARPOONS SMALL BUSINESS Independent Senator for South Australia, Nick Xenophon, has called the final report of the Harper Review of Competition Law “more than a missed opportunity, it betrays the very basis upon which the review was established”. Senator Xenophon focused on two aspects of the report’s recommendations that he says, if implemented, will be a “body blow for small businesses, and especially community pharmacies throughout the country”. The Harper Review recommended deregulation of community pharmacies. “Make no mistake, deregulating pharmacies will mean Coles and Woolworths will dominate this sector in next to no-time. The consequences could include a real reduction in service and quality. Do we really want medications and associated health advice to be doled out like discount bread and milk?” said Nick. “Community Pharmacies are already the whipping post for ‘quick and dirty’ savings in the health sector - with accelerated price disclosure changes slashing an average of $90,000 in revenue, per pharmacy, this year alone. This has already led to job losses and a reduction in service. Deregulation will tip this sector over the edge, with regional Australia bearing the brunt.” Senator Xenophon was also highly critical of the Harper Review’s Recommendation 30, on the misuse of market power. It proposes changes to Section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) to include an ‘effects’ test - that is, to no longer require proving that a competitor’s conduct was deliberately aimed at damaging a competitor or substantially lessening competition. “However, despite the encouraging comments in the draft report last September, the final report has come up with a convoluted and useless jumble of words that will suit big business perfectly. This will just entrench the dominance of players like Coles and Woolworths in the retail, liquor and fuel sectors,” said Nick. “The proposed effects test is a bit like those elusive fairground ‘claw’ machines, which offers much but invariably leaves you empty-handed.” Senator Xenophon said he would proceed to move amendments to Section 46 based on a simplified effects test following the budget session of Parliament.