OPINION: by Senator Barnaby JoyceNews Weekly
Caving in to predatory big business
, June 9, 2007
Nothing is done to protect small and medium-sized businesses from the predatory, anti-competitive practices of big business, argues Queensland's Senator Barnaby Joyce.
We have laws in Australia that have allowed the greatest centralisation of retail wealth in the world and they allow that position to be entrenched with only a single direction on a tightening cog.
|Senator Barnaby Joyce|
We lack the political will, on both sides, to have the Teddy Roosevelt fortitude to take on a Rockefeller. The political paradox of our protecting the major oil companies from ethanol and the major retailers from stronger trade practices laws - but exposing our wheat exports to the onslaught of the US- and EU-based multinational subsidised grain-traders - is astounding.
We justify the centralisation of media while slowly whittling away their access to information. Prime ministerial aspirants travel on a political Hajj to an elderly media proprietor in a distant country to attain his blessing and a hopeful benevolence of good press. The unfortunate reality is that to pursue the course of the highest office in the land without the relevant media imprimaturs is pure folly.Largest retailer
Let us look at the facts. Woolworths has 42 per cent of the retail market, Coles about 36 per cent. Coles is about to be strategically purchased, in part, by Woolworths whose former CEO and current consultant, Mr Rodger Corbet, is a director of Wal-Mart, the largest retailer on the planet.
It is depressing that Wal-Mart, with only 20 per cent of the US market, faces a far more active campaign by the US people to curtail its grasp on the US citizens' disposable income.
Coles and Woolworths are the largest holders of gaming, the largest sellers of alcohol, the largest sellers of cigarettes - yet they want to take over pharmacies. Maybe this is a new form of vertical integration, when they inflict you with a malady then attend to the sale of the treatment.
Coles and Woolworths are the largest sellers of fuel and now are responsible, hand in glove, with the oil companies for the greatest demise in small business fuel-retailers.
Coles and Woolworths are amongst the largest donors to both sides of politics, so always gain a good hearing in Canberra.
The oil companies now have the knockout combination of:
• an embargo on import competition from Asian refineries;
• an active campaign to stymie the development of domestic ethanol;
• no restriction on their ability to effectively take over all substantial retail sites; and
• predatory pricing laws that are so weak that they can effectively eliminate any independent competitor they choose - and they do.
Major Oil tells you there is competition; but the fact is that, in any state, you will have at best only two majors' refineries, and generally only one.
The so-called "competitors" have an agreement to sell product to each other at agreed prices and are very reliable in allowing each other to stay in business.
The only thing that would spoil that party is the creation of additional refining capacity by the replacement of some oil-based fuel with ethanol.
Big unions love big business, as it has the most unionised workforce and delivers a reliable cash flow to fund the Labor Party. There has not, nor will there be, any substantial change in policy by Labor to support the retention of the biggest non-unionised workforce in the nation, i.e., small business.
To help small business, you have to be at times partisan to small business over big business. Neither major party has put forward a platform of these partisan policies yet. This means one side does not want their vote, and the other one knows this and takes small business support for granted.
What policies would re-install that new opportunity into the economy? Section 46 of the Trade Practices Act has to be strengthened.
Laws against predatory pricing laws in this nation are near to non-existent, so new entrants and small players can be eliminated from the market place by big business's capacity to "below cost price" them out.
The test for excessive market power needs to be widened to enshrine the protection of new and existing smaller entrants. Small business is the path of the economic aspirant and, as such, is a vital manifestation of our freedom.- Barnaby Joyce is a National Party senator for Queensland. This article is part of a speech he gave to the National Civic Council's Queensland state conference on May 20.