Page 2455 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 17 June 2009

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government’s longer term policy objectives to promote competition and diversification; the dynamic impact on the grocery sector from the introduction of Aldi as a niche competitor; and any other additional measures that might be considered by the ACT government to support a diverse and competitive retail grocery sector over the medium to longer term.

I must say that I think it is vitally important in this very difficult and complex area that we get our policy settings right, not just in the short term but in the medium and longer term as well. I would also observe that the grocery sector is moving quickly and it is important that we understand the dynamics of the sector and what impacts are likely to play out locally. Again, John Martin will bring these perspectives to the review, courtesy of the 2008 ACCC inquiry.

I would also add that he has a wealth of experience in consultation and at all levels. He knows the major players in the grocery sector well and he understands the issues from a consumer and community level.

What the government is aiming for out of the processes is a short and a long-term policy framework. We expect to see outputs such as a clearly stated overarching policy which contains short, medium and long-term preferred outcomes and objectives in the sector; a forward plan for supermarket site release; a clear assessment process that would be applied against individual sites to determine how they would be offered to the market—this would also involve an agreed consultation process to engage all stakeholders, including the community; and at clear intervals a review and analysis to gauge the impact of new policy settings and opportunities for finetuning those as necessary.

This is not just about how the government approaches site issues that are challenging us now but about how we place such decisions in a logical policy framework and how we approach site issues and competition policy over the medium and the long term as well. The government, as I am sure some members are aware, have been criticised—some members are actually involved in criticism of the government—regarding the process we have committed to undertake in relation to this very important issue.

I will just recap: we have appointed a leading expert to assist with our deliberations and we are committing to a process that will give direct stakeholders and the community a chance to input their views. In my view, the criticisms that we see today and that surprise us reflect short opportunism and a level of ignorance of the complexity of the issues and how we need to respond to the ACCC’s position.

MR SPEAKER: Ms Burch, a supplementary question?

MS BURCH: Yes. Why is it important to take the evidence-based approach to supermarket policy?

MR STANHOPE: I think it is important that we take an evidence-based approach to all significant policy initiatives that are pursued within the Assembly. I do not think it is in the best interests of the community to seek quick fixes to local supermarket site issues when those issues are not clearly understood, quite obviously.

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