Grocery code review a ‘slap on the wrist with wet lettuce’: Katter

Apr 11, 2024

LAUGHABLE and uninspiring are the words that come to Kennedy MP Bob Katter’s mind when told of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct review’s interim report.

The report recommends the current voluntary code of conduct be made mandatory and suggests penalties of up to $10m for serious breaches.

“What does a serious breach even mean?” Mr Katter said.

He said proposed increased penalties were only useful if they were actually imposed.

“We have little faith in the ACCC or ASIC and their track record of inaction against major corporations in this country – they’re toothless tigers.”

The current Code has long been used by the Supermarket giants to cement their power imbalance with suppliers and rip off consumers.

Various submissions from farming groups, highlighted in the Interim Report, noted the current Code was used to justify abhorrent behaviours and costs on suppliers often with exemptions so broad that the code is next to meaningless.

“As for the supermarkets ‘improving’ self-regulation – it’s a case of Caesar judging Caesar.

“You’d have to believe in the tooth-fairy if you believe that the supermarkets are going to better police themselves.”

In his 50 years in politics, Mr Katter said he’d almost lost count of how many inquires and reviews there had been into the supermarket sector.

“And what ever comes of it?

“I nearly died of shock when I heard findings of this inquiry were the same as every other.

“Now we have a recommendation to slap them on the wrist with wet lettuce, while they’re marking up potatoes over 800 per cent, and general food items 200 per cent. Is that not already a breach?”

In legislation Mr Katter introduced to Parliament in March, he suggested a 100 per cent mark up on produce from their farmgate price to retail price, as well as forced divestiture, to break up the market share of the major grocers and reduce it to 20 per cent – in line with other developed nations.

Responding to commentary disregarding divestiture following the interim report, Mr Katter said oligopolies and duopolies often did not compete against each other, rather with each other to maximise profits.

“Every school of economics around the world tells its students that oligopolies are in a very powerful marketing position.

“And a duopoly is of course in a position of control – there’s no free market setting the prices now.”

Mr Katter said the review itself noted that fear of retribution by the supermarkets was the dominant reason for so few disputes being raised by suppliers.

“Retribution could take many forms, including the unfavourable renegotiation of terms and conditions of supply, relocation of shelf space to less popular locations within stores, and total delisting of a supplier’s products.”