The Land NSWFA View Competition review due

The Land Newspaper
NSW Farmers View
2 January 2014

Bill McDonald - Chair Business Economics & Trade Committee

The Abbott Government’s commitment to a root and branch review of competition law comes at a time when it is desperately needed.  The last review of Australia’s competition law was completed over 20 years ago and while its outcomes have helped the economy become stronger over this period of time, growing complexity in Australia’s markets has blunted competition to the detriment of farmers and small businesses.

These changes have seen the major supermarkets flex their market power to the disadvantage of farmers, such as the devastating impact of the major supermarkets on the farm gate price for milk.  Farmers are also facing less competition for their grain as some grain traders withdraw from the NSW market due to GrainCorp’s monopolistic grain handling and storage business and the risks and costs they face as a result.

With much of the progress made over the last 20 years now stalled, NSW Farmers has welcomed the broad nature of the draft terms of reference that the Federal Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, has published for the review.  These terms of reference provide the review with the scope to develop recommendations that will enable vital reforms to competition law and provide the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission with the necessary powers to deal with anti-competitive behaviour.

The draft terms of reference also signal the need to examine whether industry codes provide effective protection for small businesses, in particular the Horticulture Code of Conduct which enables rogue traders to deny fruit and vegetable growers the full value of their produce.

NSW Farmers is committed to working with the Federal Government to see the implementation of reforms that would not only provide durable economic growth to Australia, but ensure that this growth is not captured by a handful of big businesses across the value chain.

During the review, NSW Farmers will also continue to work on the direct issues impacting on its members.  This will include reviewing the proposed Food and Grocery Code to provide guidance to the government on its suitability to the farming sector; calling for changes to the Horticulture Code of Conduct; and working in the grain market to promote greater market transparency and competition.

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