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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4858


Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (22:10): Tonight here in parliament I was proud to host the inaugural Independent Butchers BBQ together with my good friend Senator John Williams. I would like to thank the many members of parliament from both sides of this House, their staff and the members of the Press Gallery that attended to show their support for our independent butchers.Tonight we all enjoyed taste-testing the wide variety of select cuts of premium beef and lamb available from local family butchers, which were all cooked by gourmet chef Brett Eldridge. The overwhelming judgment was: how could you even compare the superior produce and the quality from your family butcher with the mass produced supermarket meat?

Tonight the small business supplying the meat for the inaugural Independent Butcher's BBQ was a local producer called Lost River Produce. Lost River Produce is a small family business run by Phil and Rebecca McCormack from a farm located at Crookwell. Three years ago the McCormack family built their own on-farm processing facility to enable them to bypass the big supermarkets and sell their produce direct to consumers via the internet. In addition to their internet sales, Lost River Produce is proudly in the process of opening a new independent butcher 's shop right here in Canberra, in Ba d ham Street, Dickson, where they will be taking the big supermarkets head on.

The McCormacks are a fifth generation farming family that have been on the land since the 1800s. Phil and Rebecca have two young sons, and I hope through good governance that we can provide them with the market conditions where the i r sons will have every opportunity to be the family's sixth generation of farmer s .

But not all is well for our beef producers. Decades of poor returns have sapped their manpower and energy. The Australian Beef Association estimates that the average age of Australian beef producers today is well over 55 , and it increases every year as few young people today are taking up a career in agriculture. But one of the best ways that we can support our independent beef producers is to support our independent local butchers and to prevent them from becoming a dying breed. About 25 years ago, there were over 8,000 independent butchers around our nation. But despite the growth of our population, those numbers today are down to fewer than 3,500.

I know from my experience growing up in Sydney's south, that we had a friendly local butcher, and he was not only friendly to all his two-legged customers. I can remember a particularly well-fed dog that lived in our road that used to make the daily trip up to our local butchers at Peakhurst South and there he would plant himself outside the front of the butcher shop until the kindly butcher found him an old bone. But, sadly, today our o ld family butcher at Peakhurst South is no longer.

The irs is just one of the 5,000 independent butcher shops that have closed their doors around our nation over the last two decades, as these independent butchers have seen their market share stolen by the supermarket duopoly. The latest ACN i elsen Homescan data released this year shows that the supermarket duopoly's national share of the retail beef market today is over 57 per cent with the independents' share down to just 25.9 per cent.

It may be argued by some that the decline of the independents and the increasing dominance of the supermarket duopoly is the work of 'market forces'. To the contrary, the decline of the independents is a direct result of government interference in the workings of the free market through the protection and privilege granted to the supermarket duopoly, which has distorted the market for retail leases, resulting in independent butchers in shopping centres finding themselves trying to compete but paying 1,000 per cent more per square metre for their rent.

It may also be argued by some that the decline of the independents and the increasing dominance of the supermarket duopoly has been of benefit to the customer. Again to the contrary, for as the independents have disappeared from the market, competition has been reduced, resulting in the consumer paying more and more for lower quality cuts. Therefore I encourage all members of this House and all members of my electorate: if you are not shopping at your local butcher, I strongly recommend that you give them a try. You m ay just be pleasantly surprised.