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AGAINST – Business — Rearrangement

Bob Katter

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Kennedy from moving the following motion immediately—That this house

(1) notes that:

(a) The Coles and Woolworths oligopoly is having an appalling impact on farmers and consumers around Australia;

(b) The people of Australia are being overcharged punitively by the supermarket giants whilst the nation's farmers are being paid prices which are below cost of production and do not provide them a liveable income;

(c) Urgent action is required to level the playing field between the farmers and consumers on the one hand, and the supermarket giants on the other;

(d) The Member for Kennedy and Member for Clark introduced the 'Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill 2024' this morning which divests supermarkets of this market power specifically by setting market power limits with associated timeframe, providing significant penalties and establishing an oversight body;

(e) The Senate's oversighting legislation does not in itself provide divestiture but leaves the onus of proof resting with another government authority. Such authorities have already proved to be ineffective; and

(2) Calls on the Parliament of Australia to: Bring on the Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill 2024 for debate immediately, and it be given priority over all other business in order to stop any further delay in providing affordability to consumers and fairness to farmers.

Milton Dick

The member has moved a suspension. The member for Kennedy has 10 minutes.

Bob Katter

I think that this battle is far from over. We may not win in the parliament today, but the government must be served notice that every element of Australia is screaming for this. The minute the gun went off, the Leader of the Nationals said he was going for divestiture. The Greens said they were going for divestiture. Whether they said that before or not, I don't know. All I'm saying is that this is a rolling thunder ball, and it's going to keep rolling until we get some justice on this issue.

When these people had 50.1 per cent of the market, in 1991, we had 276,000 farmers in Australia. We now have 83,000. That's all that's left, and those that are left are in a pretty poor state. No country on earth has allowed this sort of concentration of market power—and it's in food; it's not as though it's in some commodity that is an indulgence.

I want to make the situation perfectly clear. In 1991, Woolworths and Coles had 50.1 per cent of the market. By 2001, the ABS said they had 68 per cent and ANOP said they had 72 per cent—so let's say they had 70 per cent—so they've gone from 50 per cent to 70 per cent by 2001.

This is the interesting part: their mark-up went from an outrageous 109 per cent to 196 per cent. We had to have a small basket because we're not a big research engine or anything of that nature. We just said, 'Put these items down. Go out and find out what price they are.' Whether you want to believe that or not, that's up to you. I don't care. I've held up constantly throughout this debate a picture of a potato. I've held up a potato. The potato on the day that I held it up last week was between 40 cents and 50 cents. That's 45 cents they paid the farmer. Their price here is $3.90. It's a mark-up of 800 per cent.

Does this place do nothing about it? Don't we care that people out there are going hungry now, and they're missing meals? Doesn't anybody care? Really, if you don't do anything about this, you don't care. Don't give it to an authority. Nothing's going to happen. Canberra will never discipline a giant like this. Don't do that. That's just a waste of time. Have another inquiry? People are laughing at you and they are voting. Just understand this. There was a Tasmanian result. I can't speak for other parts of Queensland, but I know that in North Queensland, every incumbent went for a fall, almost every single incumbent mayor, because the people are getting more and more angry. They can't meet their house payments and they can't meet the cost of buying food for their families. This place is doing absolutely nothing about it. I'm not going to go into the reasons why, but I think all of my crossbench colleagues would share my view that the boys on the gravy train are on my right and the boys on the gravy train are on my left here. They're on the bandwagon. Snouts in the trough is a term we used, and that's an accurate term to use. Because there can be no other explanation for their blatant and continuous refusal to do anything about a problem which, when I did the figures some time ago, the worst country outside of Australia was Great Britain. In Great Britain the big six had 36 per cent. In Australia the big two—they're claiming they've got somebody in to do the figures for them and they're saying 65 per cent. Hold on a minute. You're going to two per cent a year up to 2001, and you've done two per cent a year. Do you suddenly stop and go backwards? No. In your own reports you were skiting around how your market share was growing, both of you, over the next 10 years. Now it's 20 years and you're telling me you've gone down to 65 per cent from 70 per cent. Well, the only people not laughing at you are the people that have to go into your store and buy food. They're the people that are not laughing.

I repeat those figures. They had 50.1 per cent in 1991. In 10 years they had gone to 70 per cent of the market. They've been increasing at two per cent a year. So you can take the guess yourself. But I want my crossbench brothers and sisters to take cognisance of this, because there were two series. One was an ANAO P series and one was an ABS series. One said 68 per cent, and the other one said 72 per cent. Both series were discontinued two years after this place became aware of those figures. I rang up a person associated with the grocery world, who has long since left, and said, 'Why did you stop the series? He said, 'Why do you think?' That is all he said. They've even got the muscle to cover up their own success story, if you like.

For those that are worried about divestment, I've got to tell you that when Theodore Roosevelt broke up Esso, the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey under Rockefeller, he broke it up into 32 companies. The value of the shareholders went up. Rockefeller knew that, so he bought a whole stack of shares before the break-up occurred. To anyone who's a shareholder: don't be worried, because your share prices are going to go up, not down.

I went to Coles the other night. It was about 11 o'clock at night, I think, and there was no-one there. You had to serve yourself. There are cameras on you. Are they looking after their employees? No. They're doing everything humanly possible to eliminate employees. That's how much they care about their employees, whilst paying themselves a salary of $10 million to $12 million a year—that they admit to. I just can't think of any situation in any country on earth where this sort of situation has prevailed.

Theodore Roosevelt had the courage to stand up to the richest and most powerful man on earth, Rockefeller. Roosevelt's face is carved on Mt Rushmore, along with Abraham Lincoln's, and justifiably so. Would that someone in here had a tiny bit of spine to stand up to these giants.

I've always had great faith in the Australian people. I take cognisance of the fact that there were two of us in here when I came in—just two of us on the crossbench—and now there are 17. In election after election those people that are in power are being knocked off. They richly deserve to be knocked off. We've got no manufacturing left in the country. We've got no industry in the country. Those industries that we do have have been flogged to death. As far as being able to buy something, well, no other country on earth has the concentration of market power that has occurred in Australia. What we're saying is: let's not muck around any longer. It's going to be Theodore Roosevelt time here and we're going to get there. We might not get there today, but we will get there. (Time expired)

Sharon Claydon

Is the motion seconded?

Andrew Gee

I second the motion moved by the member for Kennedy. I commend him for bringing it to this House. I also commend the member for Kennedy and the member for Clark for introducing the Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill 2024 in this House this morning. Those members have been ringing alarm bells on this issue for 10 years. They are true trailblazers, and now others are finally starting to listen. We want Australia to listen and we want all parties—all members of this House and those in the other place—to listen and to support our bill. It's very clear to everyone that right around this great country of ours supermarket giants have way too much market power. As the member for Kennedy so eloquently stated earlier, they have their snouts well and truly in the money trough and they are wallowing in massive profits. Things have to change. Farmers are being paid a pittance and consumers are being price gouged on the way through.

The member for Kennedy and the member for Clark recently dressed up as pigs in a lighthearted moment to draw attention to what is an extremely serious issue. It's an issue that just keeps getting worse. It's an urgent issue because we are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and this bill would do something about it. It's no good having members of parliament wring their hands and shake their heads about how terrible the cost-of-living crisis is, saying something must be done. Today all members of this House will have a chance to do something—to vote for this legislation to be debated and get through this House this afternoon and this evening.

This bill would make a real difference in reducing the market power of the supermarket giants, and it would limit the mark-ups they can put on goods like fruit and vegetables. In Orange, New South Wales, we once had hundreds of orchards around our district. Now we would have fewer than 30. It's because farmers have not been able to see a future in farming. Why is that? Because the returns have not been there for them; because they've been slowly but surely ground down by the supermarket giants. So we want all parties to support this motion and this important bill. Let's not just talk the talk about market power and how dangerous this great market power in the hands of the supermarket giants is; let's walk the walk and do something.

Recently the member for Kennedy came to Orange in the Central West of New South Wales to draw attention to this very issue—and, yes, there were a couple of pigs there, too, holding up a sign! During our press conference we were disgracefully interrupted by a National Party senator, who yelled pathetic insults at us. It was appalling and it was very disappointing. The National Party should be backing us on this bill. The Liberal and Labor parties should be backing us on this bill as well, as should the Greens. Australia is sick of the talk. We need action. Parliament exists not just to hold inquiries, not just to feel everyone's pain, but to pass the laws and take the action that will make life better for the people that we represent.

Today the member for Kennedy drew attention to the massive mark-ups the supermarket giants are putting on everyday items like potatoes. Our farmers are crying out for a fair go and a better deal, and so are consumers, who are at breaking point. Our communities have had enough. This legislation is a true game changer. It divests the supermarkets of their power, reducing it to 20 per cent over five years. It also limits the mark-ups they can put on those items like potatoes and cherries and everything else, as the member for Kennedy so eloquently spoke about.

If you're not prepared to back your big talk with a vote in parliament—this is to the major parties—then you're all just about the hot air and the porkies. We want the parties to back up their words with deeds. Stop talking and start walking the walk. We want everyone to vote for the Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill and help get those supermarket snouts out of the trough. Vote for this bill and make— (Time expired)

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 4:00 PM on 2024-03-25
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 13
Total number of "no" votes: 52
Total number of abstentions: 85

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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