Page 4875 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 11 November 2009

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Small businesses in Canberra employ thousands of people and make a significant contribution to the everyday lives of Canberrans. I think we can all agree that competition is important in any market. A strong competition regime in any market is important to ensure that consumers are well-off and that business runs efficiently, thus maximising economic growth.

It was therefore with much interest that we received the ACT government’s Review of ACT supermarket competition policy in October of this year. There are a number of good aspects of the review, as I noted at the time, and it contains many recommendations that relate to planning which are worth supporting. However, we are concerned about two particular recommendations which I have noted before and will note again. These recommendations, Nos 6 and 8, appear to seek to exclude some businesses from opening up new stores. I and many of my colleagues have spoken to many IGA store owners recently and they are very concerned by recommendation 6, which states:

An alternative source of wholesale supply would be encouraged by a restricted approach for particular sites that precluded Metcash-controlled ventures as well as the two major chains.

Hardworking IGA owners, like most small business owners, want to expand their business. There is much confusion in the grocery sector about whether these businesses will have the opportunity to expand into new supermarket sites, as they are seen to be connected with Metcash. Recommendation 8 is also restrictive. It would appear that it supports criteria for new independent supermarket entrants to include a minimum 10 years trading history in full-line supermarkets. Once again, there is much confusion in the grocery sector. Will a small business owner who has run a small supermarket but not a full-line supermarket be excluded from new sites?

This is just one of several eligibility criteria which appear to restrict who can bid for certain sites. Indeed Ken Henrick, Chief Executive of the National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia, which represents 4,500 independent supermarkets around Australia, has described these criteria as “really a bit bureaucratic and unnecessary”.

That is at the heart of this motion. We already know what Mr Stanhope will be arguing because we have seen the press release go out from Mr Stanhope in relation to this. It bears no resemblance to the truth. It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the truth in terms of what this motion is.

It is a very simple motion and perhaps Mr Stanhope had not read it when he put out the press release, or perhaps he just chose to deliberately misrepresent, which is something that he seems to do quite often. It gives the context, it notes the comments by Graeme Samuel in relation to the review, it notes supermarket industry concerns and confusion about certain recommendations contained in the review, it notes the important contribution that small independent supermarket operators make to the grocery sector in the ACT and the ACT economy more broadly, and it notes that robust competition is required in the grocery market to maintain downward pressure on grocery prices.

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