Sky Newsday with Kieran Gilbert - Thursday 29th February 2024


SUBJECTS: Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into supermarkets; impact of Albanese Government’s bigger tax cuts for more Australians.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Assistant Minister for Competition and Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Great to see you. This stunt yesterday by Andrew Wilkie and Bob Katter. They're calling for a divestment by the two major supermarkets. Is that possible? Can you force that?

ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES, COMPETITION, TREASURY AND EMPLOYMENT ANDREW LEIGH: We're not looking at divestment powers, Kieran. Where they exist in other countries, they're very rarely used. They're not one of the major tools you use for getting better prices for consumers. Instead, we're kicking off this supermarkets inquiry through the ACCC; the first such inquiry to be conducted in 16 years. The ACCC has just put out its issues paper looking at issues ranging from shrinkflation to discounting…

GILBERT: I do want to ask you about that because it's also seeking consumer feedback. So, we should get into that so that our viewers can provide feedback where necessary. But just on that Wilkie-Katter call for divestment, others have made similar suggestions. Does it not look at the reality of our country as well? Being such a massive land mass scale is important when you've got such a small population. That's just the reality of dealing with Australia, isn't it?

LEIGH: Mergers can provide efficiencies, but they can also lead to higher prices and lower quantities. This is textbook economics, Kieran, and that's why we're reviewing the merger settings right now in common with a range of other countries. Making sure we get competition right has been a big priority for our Government.

GILBERT: But not divestment?

LEIGH: No, but we raised the penalties for breaches of competition laws upon winning office. We banned unfair contract terms. We've set up the Competition Taskforce within Treasury and we've got Craig Emerson reviewing the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.

GILBERT: Isn't it true as well, where internationally there are divestment powers within governments, they're not really used very often?

LEIGH: Yes, that's the point I was making before. So, this is not a power that we believe is one of the best ways of tackling challenges and competition. We do have a broad and ambitious competition agenda coming off the back of a former government that did nothing on competition reform and oversaw the slowest decade of productivity growth in the post war era.

GILBERT: This ACCC issues paper, you're calling for consumer feedback. What sort of things do you want to hear from people as to the supermarkets?

LEIGH: It's a broad ranging supermarkets inquiry, the first conducted since 2008. The ACCC has an issues paper and they're calling for public submissions through their survey that's open until the 2nd of April and I'd urge your viewers to dive in and have their views heard.

GILBERT: Absolutely.

LEIGH: The ACCC will also take submissions from suppliers. They're looking on the supply side and people can ask for confidentiality there. They'll be looking at the gap between the prices that suppliers are paid and the prices that consumers are charged, as well as at the profits within the supermarket sector. It's been a big issue for many Australians; we've had the Four Corners episode recently, we've had a range of people expressing concerns about the way in which the supermarkets have behaved. We've got pretty concentrated supermarkets and-

GILBERT: people are hurting…

LEIGH: people are hurting, people are increasingly-

GILBERT: Cost of living is- I'm sure you feel that and Canberra's got one of the higher rates of employment and wages, but it's been felt right across the country, including in your hometown.

LEIGH: Indeed and when I speak to financial institutions, they tell me that one of the trends they see is increased split basket shopping. Shoppers doing part of their shop at a discount supermarket and part of their shop at another supermarket.

GILBERT: Are the tax cuts going to make a difference? Obviously, when you look at the hit to cost of living through rates and inflation, it really is only taking off the edges, isn't it, in terms of its impact, the tax cuts?

LEIGH: Well, the tax cuts will flow to every taxpayer in Australia. Having a tax cut for every taxpayer means that people will see more in their pockets. After the 1st of July. You'll see the threshold for the top marginal tax rate being increased for the first time since Labor was last in office and you've all got that sitting alongside our policies for getting wage growth for the middle and bottom Australia. We want Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn.

GILBERT: Appreciate your time, as always.

LEIGH: Thanks, Kieran.

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  • Toby Halligan
    published this page in What's New 2024-02-29 15:03:23 +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.