IF THE supermarket price wars are a serious issue for Australian farmers, the major parties don’t seem to be tackling it.
Two weeks from the federal election, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) says the public does not have the details it needs on key agricultural policies from either the Coalition or Labor.
Some of Ballarat’s minor party candidates have echoed his calls.
Katter’s Australian Party candidate Shane Dunne said Australian farmers had been let down by the major parties.
“It’s just got to the stage where Coles and Woolworths own just about everything and the Liberal and Labor parties just don’t care, they’re quite happy for it to get bigger and bigger,” he said.
“We have to smash Coles and Woolies – they’re 85 per cent of the market.”
Some of the minor parties have unveiled detailed policy platforms addressing the issue.
Katter’s Australian Party wants to mandate premium shelf space in Coles, Woolwoths and Aldi stores for Australian grown and processed food, introduce a 10 per cent customs duty on all imports and labels on imported food.
Mr Dunne said the party would also break up the supermarket duopoly by targeting fuel sales.
The Greens plan also outlines a number of initiatives including preventing the supermarket duopoly from purchasing agricultural land, placing a temporary ban on expansion by Coles and Woolworths, and providing the ACCC an extra $100m over the forward estimates to increase the number of legal cases they are able to pursue.
Greens’ candidate Stephanie Hodgkins-May said the barriers to making it easy to buy local food in Australia were significant.
“Farmers around Ballarat and Bacchus Marsh and across the region play a crucial role in providing agricultural products and food yet the supermarket duopoly is in a position to abuse their power in the marketplace to demand lower prices from producers,” she said.
VFF president Peter Toohey said the Greens also opposed live exports, GM crops and a raft of policies that would dramatically raise the price of farm inputs.
He said the VFF was sick of Labor and Liberal declarations proclaiming the importance of agriculture that weren’t backed by policy detail.
Labor incumbent Catherine King said her party encouraged competition, rather than forced sales or regulation.
“Labor believes that lower prices, as a result of competition between supermarkets, directly benefit consumers, help to relieve the daily cost of living pressures on families and are not necessarily anti-competitive,” she said.
“In the past 12 months the Labor government has also sought to clarify the misuse of market power provisions in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, including in relation to predatory pricing.”
Liberal Party candidate John Fitzgibbon said the Coalition supported competition across all industries, including in the supermarket industry.
“If elected, a Coalition government will provide support to farmers and to small business by cutting red tape and regulation, and scrapping the carbon tax,” he said.
“We must do all we can to support local producers and this can only be done by strengthening the economy, both locally and around Australia.”