ABC Canberra Breakfast With Adam Shirley Wednesday, 21 February 2024 - Transcript


SUBJECTS: Resignation of Woolworths CEO, Government’s competition agenda.

ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: Andrew Leigh is the Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury and Member for Fenner. Dr Leigh, thanks for your time on this breaking news today.


SHIRLEY: Did Brad Banducci have to go?

LEIGH: Well, it's up to him and the Board. They've clearly made a decision to move on to Amanda Bardwell and appoint her from September. I'm really focused on the competition issues and what that means for Australian shoppers, Adam. I need to make sure in the face of a cost-of-living crisis, that the supermarkets are doing the right thing by their consumers and suppliers. If this change in leadership delivers better outcomes for consumers and suppliers, then that's to the good.

SHIRLEY: Brad Banducci said at the time and he clarified with Rod Sims being the recently retired head of the Competition and Consumer Commission, basically, many saw that as throwing shade on the Commission and Rod Sims, was that reasonable and fair of the CEO of Woolworths?

LEIGH: Look, I know both of those men. I respect them both and certainly they're big enough and ugly enough to look after themselves in the public arena. Frankly, my main focus is on making sure that our Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Inquiry into supermarket prices produces good results. Ensuring that the work that Craig Emerson is doing in reviewing the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct and seeing whether it should be made mandatory that that process delivers. When Choice begins its quarterly price monitoring, which we've just funded them to do, that helps Australians see where the best prices are available in their supermarkets. We've got a big competition agenda, including competition in supermarkets and I think the Four Corners episode did bring out some of the concerns about competition, both as it affects suppliers and as it affects consumers.

SHIRLEY: Well, on that very point, Patricia says, "No, Adam, it was not the interview that was the final straw. He was expected to depart this year. Please get that straight", says Patricia. On the other hand, this unsigned texter says, "Woolworths needs to have a good look at itself. It has been profiteering at everyone's expense. We need to go hard on the supermarket giants. Being profitable is one thing, price gouging is another." Is price gouging the issue here and are the big two doing it in the supermarket realm Minister Leigh?

LEIGH: Well, that's what we've asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to do. They've got access to better data than they've ever had before. Previously these sort of inquiries, Adam, have been done based on anecdote and hoping somebody would spill the beans. Now we've actually got access to big data and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission increasingly has the powers to crunch that big data to make sure that people are getting a fair deal. Now, they've pointed to their profit margins, and it's true that they might be middle of the pack for the Australian Stock Exchange, but they are higher than you see in supermarket sectors overseas. Our supermarket sector is more concentrated than the supermarket sector in Britain or the United States. So, there are reasonable reasons to be concerned about supermarket competition in Australia, which is why we've got the processes in place that I've talked about and why we're delivering for consumers with the Choice price monitoring coming shortly.

SHIRLEY: This listener says, "Thank you, Andrew Leigh for taking it back to the real issue what Coles and Woolies are both doing. One man or woman, does not make all the decisions.” Do you believe this change at the top of Woolies will make that difference that it sounds like, as a Minister, you want to see Andrew Leigh?

LEIGH: Yeah proof will be in the customer experience, I think, Adam. We'll be looking to see whether customers feel they're getting a better deal and also whether those inquiries we've got in place suggest that there are better ways of ensuring that consumers and suppliers get a fair deal. The cherry farmer who had to plough his trees into the ground, I think was a shocking example of somebody who felt that they weren't getting a fair deal. We do know, Adam, that when we get more competition into a market that's good for consumers. We've seen that domestic airline prices, you and I talked about that before. We've seen it in the supermarket sector with the entry of Aldi, driving down prices in Coles and Woolworths. And if we could get more competition in the supermarket sector, I think that would be a good thing for shoppers. That's why I'm so passionate about competition and really enthusiastic in this portfolio to drive more competition across the economy.

SHIRLEY: We'll see if this adds to that momentum and whether it actually happens. Dr Leigh, thanks for your time.

LEIGH: Thanks so much, Adam.

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  • Georgia Thompson
    published this page in What's New 2024-02-21 11:35:17 +1100

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.