The Liberal, National and Labor parties today failed to act on their own words in voting down a motion that calls on the government to direct the ACCC and Productivity Commission to take the first steps in reining in the Coles Woolworths supermarket duopoly.
"This motion, to implement the findings of a unanimous 2010 Senate Committee report, would have been an important step in reining in the Coles Woolworths duopoly, which is unfair to both consumers and producers, and the Greens will make it a major campaign," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.
"The Greens intend to make the Year of the Farmer mean something for farmers and we will use it to help keep farmers on the land by getting them fairer farm gate prices.
"Labor, Liberal and Nationals MPs regularly talk about how the Coles Woolworths duopoly is unfair to both consumers and producers, but they find every excuse to vote against doing anything about it.
"The government votes down reform on the basis that the duopoly hasn't been tested in the courts, but won't encourage or fund the ACCC to test it. The Coalition votes down reform on the basis that they'll do something about it when, they assume, they take government.
"Meanwhile the impact on farmers continues.
"The duopoly works directly against the interests of rural and regional Australia, and it doesn't well serve the interests of consumers of small business competitors either.
"Next time any govt or opposition MP gets up and talks about the Coles Woolworths duopoly, they should be asked why they won't put their vote where their mouth is."
The motion, supported by the Greens and Senator Xenophon, reads:
That the Senate;
a) the failure of the Government to adopt the recommendations of the Senate Economics References Committee, which were supported by members of four political parties and Senator Xenophon, for reinstating specific legislative provisions on price discrimination, tightening legislation to inhibit firms achieving market power through takeovers and calling on the ACCC to conduct further study into the increasing shares of the grocery market being taken by the generic products of the major supermarket chains;
b) the Government's refusal to contemplate improvements to the current competition laws on the basis that these laws have not been adequately tested in the courts;
c) that Coles have announced large cuts in the prices of some fruit and vegetables; and
d) that bodies such as Ausveg, the National Farmers Federation, the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, and the Council of Small Business of Australia have expressed concern about the impact on farmers and small retailers if these price cuts are sustained.
Calls on the Government to:
a) direct the Productivity Commission to report on the effectiveness of competition policy in the grocery retailing sector;
b) direct the ACCC to update its 2008 report on competition in the grocery industry, with particular reference to the market power of the two largest retail chains, the impact of their increasing use of generic product lines, and the impact of large cuts in the price of specific food items on the viability of Australian farmers;
c) direct the ACCC to examine and report on the extent to which the cuts in fruit and vegetable prices initiated by Coles in early 2012 are affecting the prices of other goods sold by the major supermarket chains, their profits, the prices they pay their suppliers and the farmgate prices received by Australian farmers; and
d) ensure that the ACCC is encouraged and adequately funded to bring matters before the courts that would lead to the current competition laws being adequately tested.