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4 December, 2020
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    A Letter to the Editor by Senator Susan McDonald

    The Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has secured an examination of the domestic fresh food and dairy supply chain by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).  The Perishable Agricultural Products and Dairy Industry Code Inquiry was prompted by numerous complaints from primary producers who describe an unfair market and feel supermarkets and their agents hold too much power in negotiations over supply contracts.

    This three month inquiry will allow a comprehensive review into how the supply chain, including processors and retailers deal with their suppliers.  While I acknowledge that for many, supermarkets’ abuse of power has been personally experienced and well-known, I am urging each and every producer or agri-food market player to put their voice on the record – even confidentially.

    We need Queenslanders from all industries, from dairy, to meat or horticulture, to make submissions to the ACCC. There needs to be no doubt left in anyone’s mind around the tactics used by supermarkets flexing their bargaining power.

    The reality is that the ACCC needs greater powers and penalties to take on the supermarkets. They won’t get this without your input.

    In one of the only successful cases brought against the majors, Coles demanded ‘profit gap’ payments from small suppliers and threatened their business if they didn’t pay. Justice Gordon said of Coles’ behaviour, “Coles’ misconduct was serious, deliberate and repeated. Coles misused its bargaining power. Its conduct was “not done in good conscience”. It was contrary to conscience. Coles treated its suppliers in a manner not consistent with acceptable business and social standards which apply to commercial dealings.”  

    Sadly, this sentiment isn’t new. While there are farmers who have successful dealings with their buyers, there are those commodity groups who don’t and it is important while this opportunity exists the ACCC hears from them.

    Submissions are scheduled to open on August 31, and the ACCC will report to the Government by 30 November, and I encourage anyone who has had commercial dealings with supermarkets and their agents to make their views known.

    Should you require assistance with making a submission, please contact my office 07 4771 3066 or senator.mcdonald@aph.gov.au. Please visit www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/agriculture for more information on how to make a submission.

    Make no mistake, your efforts won’t be in vain. I will be making sure a spotlight is finally held over the big supermarkets’ practices.

    Senator Susan McDonald

    LNP Senator for Queensland

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