Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 799 ..
Debate resumed from 21 May 1998, on motion by Mr Smyth:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
MR HARGREAVES (10.35): Mr Speaker, this Bill is in essence a machinery Bill. It intends to protect the ACT from prosecution under the Trade Practices Act by extending transitional arrangements from 21 July this year to 31 December this year. The Bill preserves the current arrangements regarding the role of the Milk Authority until that time and gives us reason to approach the ACCC for consideration of suggested non-compliance with competition guidelines in respect of milk supply in the ACT.
The philosophy behind the Bill is sound, in that it gives a framework for the ACT to consider the review of the supply of milk without the pressure of non-compliance sanctions from the Commonwealth. However, Mr Speaker, it is not necessarily a watertight umbrella for the retention of current practices of sole milk supply by the authority. Already we have seen the current practices attacked by Woolworths and National Foods. Woolworths' advice to Capital Chilled Foods that they will no longer source Capital Chilled Foods for milk products is indicative that Woolworths and National Foods intend to flout the current arrangements and test the resolve of this Government and the laws of this Territory.
It seems to me, Mr Speaker, that National Foods intend to supply Woolworths outlets from interstate and to challenge the Government to stop them. Perhaps they are assuming that section 92 of the Constitution gives them the right to indulge in predator-like tactics. Neither Woolworths nor National Foods is content to wait until after the review has been considered by the Government, to wait and see whether deregulation is introduced and to have the public benefit test applied. Why not wait until after these considerations before marching into the ACT and eliminating many small businesses and ACT jobs - a result which will inevitably accompany the incursion of suppliers from New South Wales? Mr Speaker, I would encourage the Government to use all its power, not merely take legal advice, to stop this incursion. Has the Government considered taking out an injunction against Woolworths and National Foods to stop them until such time as the competition and deregulation issue has been determined?
Mr Speaker, this action from Woolworths and National Foods and the fear and trepidation felt by the many people in our industry here show only too graphically that the clouds of destruction loom large on the horizon for the small player in our milk industry. This action is nothing short of an invasion before the public benefit test can be mounted. It is blitzkrieg. I would like to see the Government support the local industry, not merely sit on its hands and watch interstate interests come into this city and devastate the aspirations of the small vendors and distributors and the 400 young people who have milk runner jobs, and see those interstate interests monopolise the supply of milk through predatory commercial practices.