It's Time for a Change

18 March, 2024

I seconded this motion for a reason: I seconded this motion so that this parliament would discuss the issue around the size of the market held by supermarkets. Philosophically, I probably don't sit well with the motion that Mr Katter has put forward but I'm happy to second it so that the parliament can have the discussion.

Access to healthy, fresh food should not be a luxury in this country. We all realise the prices people are paying at the moment seem to be inflated beyond their control and beyond the household budget. What we're facing here is that the market dominance of the supermarkets is probably unprecedented in nations around the world. If we compare ourselves with the UK, the biggest player in their market is around 28 per cent. In the US the biggest player in the market is around 25 per cent. In Australia the biggest player in the market is 37 per cent. With our second biggest player having a larger nominal share than the share that the largest supermarket in the US has, just two supermarkets account for 60 per cent of the market share and prove how lacking competition is in the sector. You already know which two supermarkets I'm talking about.

Of course, there's a choice. In Melbourne you can seek out a retailer that may be a long way away from you but will give you a better price. I asked a customer the other day—I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to name names here—in the ALDI store, 'Do you believe you get a better price shopping at ALDI than you do at the major supermarkets?' She said: 'Absolutely. This is my major shop for the week.' It was about $275 for her major shop. She lives with her daughter. In that process, she said, 'Yes, I think I'm this many dollars better off by shopping at that particular store.' So in Australia you can still seek out, if you're prepared to look and travel, opportunities for independent supermarkets.

Where I have a problem with the bill put forward is that, even though the member for Hasluck a few minutes ago outlined all the programs that the government has in place to fight against the monopoly, the market happens very quickly. I'm a former retailer. The market happens on that day in that week in that time. By the time all the inquiries that you might have with the ACCC or any other body over price gouging are held and done, the damage is done. It's all over—it's finished—for the retailer. In my own area, when a major player in the market in my industry came in to my community, I knew that our retail model was over, finished, gone. It took a long time for me to explain that to my family—that we were now finished—because we couldn't compete in the marketplace with such an enormous organisation. Therefore, businesses like mine disappeared not just in my area but right across Australia because the big organisation came in and took over from the very small.

In the inquiry that's currently going on in Australia with regard to food prices—or whatever the inquiry is called—it was really interesting to hear the apple growers and what they're going through at the moment and the fact that many of them are ripping their plants out of the ground because they can't put apples on the shelf—you'd know this in South Australia—because of what it costs them to produce it. In fact, the gap is enormous. Some of their produce is perfect to eat, but, because it's slightly the wrong colour, it gets rejected, for heaven's sake. So 30 per cent of this beautiful product here in Australia is thrown out or sent back to the grower just to be ploughed in or thrown down the tip.

What I'm putting to the House is that it's good to have this discussion around how we deliver food into households in Australia but remember that we're dealing with a marketplace which is moving quickly every day and you've got to be a very big supplier to supply a very big supermarket. So the smaller man is left out. If you want that change, you have to change how you are supporting the smaller operators and the smaller growers.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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