Tuesday, April 9th, 2013 - Bank Reform Party

Bank Reform Party's three prong policy to protect farmers and suppliers from allegations of serious market abuse by Coles and Woolworths and help safeguard Australia's long term food security. 

- Pricing pressure and market abuse allegations final nail for many farmers

- Three prong BRP policy to protect farmers & suppliers

- Enforceable "Fair Go Code" to restore fairness for farmers and suppliers

- New workable test for "Fairness" inserted into Competition and Consumer Act

- Unconscionable Conduct provisions clarified

- Competition Ombudsman & confidential complaint provisions

The Bank Reform Party today announced details of its three prong policy to protect farmers and other small business and restore fairness in the supermarket sector as primary producers and suppliers struggle to survive amid serious allegations of market abuse by Coles and Woolworths.

Many people are unsettled by the "un-Australian" treatment of our farmers and suppliers by the supermarket duopoly, which controls more than 80% of the Australian retail grocery market - making it the least competitive in the world.

"These people feed us, we need to look after them," BRP Leader and NSW Senate Candidate Adrian Bradley said. "We need to decide if we want a viable farming sector with long term national food security or not."

Despite allegations of market abuse and unfair prices, the lack of competition means many farmers and supplies have no choice but to deal with Coles and Woolworths.

But more worrying, Australia's long term food security is potentially compromised if more farmers go to the wall due to unsustainable farm gate prices.

As more farmers leave the land and Australia's primary production capacity is diminished, the country will become more dependent on food imports - many from China with its dubious record of food safety.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council in 2010 estimated that Australia was a net importer of food and this trend will only worsen if more farmers are driven off the land - with serious implications for our long term food security.

"We are seeing serious allegations of predatory treatment of our farmers and suppliers by the supermarket giants and this is simply un-Australian," Bradley said.

"Farmers across all sectors are already hurting due to fuel prices, the high Australian dollar and export downturn and rock bottom farm gate prices is the final straw for many.

"If we lose farmers we lose food production, which means it has to come from somewhere else, which means Australia no longer has control over its long term food security. Is this an outcome we as a nation are happy with?"

The BRP will contest the 2013 Federal Election on a platform of reforming and introducing greater competition to the banking, supermarket, fuel and energy sectors, legal reform and boosting consumer protection and will field Senate candidates in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, WA, the ACT and Tasmania.

Bradley said the BRP advocated a three prong policy approach to restoring equity in the supermarket sector and delivering fair prices across the food supply chain. While some industry groups are calling for a mandatory code of conduct, the BRP believes this alone won't go far enough in restoring fair treatment to farmers and suppliers.

Under BRP policy, all stakeholders will be brought together by an independent tribunal to develop and reach consensus on a simple and enforceable "Fair Go Code" to ensure there is no abuse of supermarket power. A new Competition Ombudsman with confidential complaint provisions will be introduced.

"Our farmers and suppliers urgently need a fair go, an enforceable binding code developed in consultation with grassroots stakeholders to ensure supermarkets don't abuse their market power is the first step to restoring equity and fair prices," Bradley said.

"There needs to be anti-bullying provisions and there needs to be a confidential complaints mechanism so suppliers and farmers can raise their voices about abusive market behaviour without fear of reprisal."

Secondly, the concept of "fairness" and a workable test for small and medium businesses with significant penalties for breaches needs to be inserted into the Competition and Consumer Act (CCA) to give the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission (ACCC) teeth that bite in ensuring fair dealing. This would cover all small and medium businesses, not just those involved in primary industry.

"Small and medium businesses aren't covered by a workable definition of fairness in the CCA and that needs to change if we are to solve the problems we are seeing across the wider economy where big corporations bully and exploit the smaller players," Bradley said.

Unconscionable conduct needs to be defined in plain and simple language so the ACCC can express clear-cut guidance and the courts can resolve disputes quickly and inexpensively.

"As it stands, there is no precise legal definition of unconscionable conduct which means the ACCC has difficulty investigating it and the courts can't really get their heads around it," Bradley said.

"A small business or individual going up against a corporation, be it a bank or supermarket, has no chance in the civil courts particularly when they need a lawyer to try and work out what unconscionable conduct means in the first place.

"Our laws need to be couched in simple and clear language so we can all understand our rights and have them enforced on our behalf. How businesses treat each other is just as important if we are to have a fair go."

More information: Adrian Bradley, BRP Leader, 0427 674 851

Contact Profile

Bank Reform Party


The BRP is a new non-aligned Centrist political party that will contest the 2013 Federal Election on a platform of reforming and introducing greater competition to the banking, supermarket, fuel and energy sectors, legal reform and boosting consumer protection and field Senate candidates in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, WA, the ACT and Tasmania.
Adrian Bradley
P: -
M: 0427 674 851
W: www.brp.org.au

Keywords

National Food Security,"Un-Australian" Treatment of Farmers, pricing pressure, market abuse

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