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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10423

Mr TREVOR (8:25 PM) —I rise to speak on this motion—and I thank the member for Mallee for it; it is an excellent one. My government, the Rudd Labor government, believes that there is real reform to be had in Australia’s grocery market. So do I. In my opinion, big business has too much market share. In its report to government, the ACCC states: ‘Australian consumers would significantly benefit if Coles and Woolworths faced more competitive threats that encouraged more aggressive pricing strategies.’ The first move the government made was to relax foreign investment rules to make it easier for the likes of Aldi to set up more shops and create more competition in the market. In addition, during the last session of parliament the government introduced the biggest package of reforms to the Trade Practices Act in 22 years. That included provisions to promote competition and protect smaller retailers from predatory pricing.

The government is moving on the key recommendations in the ACCC report into the price of groceries. The government will implement its action plan in response to the ACCC inquiry as a matter of urgency, namely referring the anticompetitive impacts of state and local zoning and planning laws to COAG, considering the best way to introduce a mandatory nationally consistent unit-pricing regime in consultation with industry and consumer groups, working with the horticulture industry on improvements to the horticulture code of conduct and implementing a creeping acquisition law following feedback on a discussion paper to gauge the best way forward.

Also, for the benefit of consumers and to put added pressure on retailers, the government has fulfilled its election commitment to set up a dedicated website that gives consumers a snapshot of local grocery prices by launching, on 6 August 2008, the GROCERYchoice website. I commend my government on these initiatives. After 12 years of neglect, the Rudd Labor government has taken, and is taking, positive steps to address the effects of a high level of concentration of market ownership in the retail grocery sector. We must ensure more vigorous competition in the retail grocery sector, and the Rudd Labor government has shown commitment to that. I look forward to seeing some more. I look forward to seeing more developments in this area so that consumers are given a fair choice, a fair deal and a fair price for their goods purchased at our supermarkets. After all these years of neglect, all Australians deserve that. The farmers and independent retailers, in my opinion, also deserve a fair go. I do not believe they are getting a fair go. I also note with interest that recently the price of fuel in my hometown of Gladstone was significantly higher than 20 to 30 kilometres down the road. I cannot comprehend why this is so. It beggars belief. I will ask the Petrol Commissioner to visit Gladstone to establish whether market share is influencing unfair market prices and forcing them upon the people of Gladstone.

I also want to comment tonight on GROCERYchoice, which I spoke about earlier today. The government announced that it will be working with retailers and consumer organisations to further enhance the GROCERYchoice website with additional information and applications in coming months. GROCERYchoice provides consumers with practical grocery price information, which was not previously available to consumers, that will assist them to compare general price levels for a large number of products in different regions. Allowing consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions will promote more vigorous competition between supermarkets. It is the increased competition between supermarkets which may put downward pressure on grocery prices. The website publishes price information for seven typical baskets of goods, including basic items such as meat, fruit, vegetables and dairy products, which reflect weekly grocery choices by the average Australian household.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Sidebottom)—Thank you to all members who contributed to that debate. It being 8.30 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 41. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.