Sadly for consumers, Governments of all persuasions are often tempted to offer gimmicks rather than direct action in dealing with consumer issues.

What have you got in your cereal box Mr Rudd?

Direct action, of course, is hard work for Governments. To begin with, there is the inevitable noisy attack by powerful vested interest groups on any proposal for direct action.

Have a look at any recent proposal for direct action on consumer issues and you will find a very loud, but well organised, chorus of big end of town interests opposing the proposal. Indeed, when such proposals are put forward, the lobbyists are immediately despatched to Parliament House to “educate” the Government on the “dangers” of direct action.

If this “education” process doesn’t work, then the big end of town is mobilised through industry associations such as the Business Council of Australia, Shopping Centre Council of Australia and the Australian National Retailers Association.

There will be more vigorous lobbying and by this stage the big end of town lawyers have joined in the noisy protest by their big clients. The big end of town lawyers will be relied upon to provide an opinion regarding, you guessed it, the “legal dangers” of the proposals.

With such shrill big end of town attacks it’s perhaps not surprising that Governments typically lack the backbone for direct action. That is, until the self interested big end of town voices are drowned out by consumer (ie voter) protests that they are being ripped off by large and powerful companies.

Two examples conveniently demonstrate how Governments can be seduced into offering gimmicks instead of implementing direct initiatives.

Take the WA Fuelwatch scheme for example. Yes, this provides transparency to motorists on petrol prices, but it’s a gimmick, and an expensive one at that. Fuelwatch has many problems. Two problems will suffice to illustrate the point.

Firstly, Fuelwatch prevents Perth petrol prices from coming down during the day. Fuelwatch locks up prices for 24 hours. This means that prices are very quick to rise, but very slow to come down. It also means that Perth motorists also face a price cycle in the same way that motorists do in the Eastern States where there is no Fuelwatch.

Secondly, the transparency under the WA Fuelwatch scheme comes at a cost to WA taxpayers. Motorists in the Eastern States also get transparency, but in their case they get it through the privately run Motormouth website at no cost to taxpayers.

Despite these problems, successive WA Governments have persisted with Fuelwatch because they can point to “doing something” about petrol prices. Direct action involving the introduction of new competition to the cosy oil industry club comprising the oil majors and Coles and Woolworths is possible, but leads to frontal attacks on the Government by the cosy club.

What could direct action involve? ACCC enforcement of the Birdsville Amendment to our competition laws against predatory pricing would be a start.

Predatory pricing involves a large and powerful company selling a product below its cost for a sustained period of time with the purpose of driving out independent competitors. Once those independent competitors are driven from the market the predator raises its prices to consumers.

Outlawing geographic price discrimination would be another way to ensure that a large and powerful company charges the same low price for the same petrol at all its service stations in the same geographic area. That was the purpose of the proposed Blacktown Amendment to our competition laws.

You guessed it, the Blacktown Amendment was opposed by the same companies that rip off motorists by charging a different price for the same petrol at service stations owned by the same company even across the same road.

Surprise, surprise, the Federal Government “understands” the “concerns” expressed by the oil companies and Coles and Woolworths and also opposes direct action involving the Blacktown Amendment.

What alternatives does the Federal Government offer to deal with the cosy oil industry club? Well, apart from endless inquiries by the ACCC, we have been given “advice” by the Federal Petrol Commissioner that since world oil prices have gone up recently motorists should fill up because retail prices will go up.

There you have it! The tough petrol cop on the beat we were promised by the Rudd Government is suggesting we fill up before prices go up!

No sign of any direct action from the ACCC or the Federal Government, just “advice.” No doubt, good and obvious advice, but with private industry commentators also telling us to fill up before the price rises, why don’t we just do away with the petrol commissioner and save taxpayers his salary and associated costs?

Next, we have the banks. Here the Federal Government offered us another gimmick. This time it was the “bank switching” package. With 4 major banks dominating the banking sector so comprehensively and with the pain and suffering associated with trying to switch banks, it’s hardly surprising that the 4 major banks act as a law unto themselves.

The problem here is that the 4 major banks have been allowed to buy out their competitors by the ACCC and by our weak anti-merger laws. Direct action in this case is simple. Just strengthen our anti-merger laws.

Our current weak ant-merger laws allow the ACCC to let through 97% of all mergers and acquisitions that it considers. This percentage is just too high and means that Australia has some of the most highly concentrated markets in the world.

That means that in Australia as few as 1, 2, 3, or 4 major companies dominate key sectors of the economy, while in other developed countries many more companies operate in the marketplace and compete in a cut throat way to deliver lower prices to consumers.

Few players in a market are a recipe for either collusion or “price coordination” behaviour. Either companies collude to set prices or they just act as a cosy club and shadow one another on prices and terms and conditions.

Recently, Senator Nick Xenophon introduced a proposal into Federal Parliament that would strengthen our anti-merger laws. The proposal is called the Richmond Amendment to our competition laws and surprise, surprise that proposal is being opposed by the big end of town and their lawyers.

Why would the vested interests oppose the Richmond Amendment? Simply because the big end of town and their lawyers are hooked on mergers and acquisitions! Mergers and acquisitions are an easy way to show “growth” and to knock out the competition.

Less competition means higher prices for consumers. Fewer competitors following mergers and acquisitions mean fewer competitors to keep prices down for consumers.

For the lawyers, mergers and acquisitions generate lots of revenue for the law firm. Nothing wrong with anyone making lots of money on mergers and acquisitions, provided, of course, that’s not at the expense of consumers and provided that doesn’t influence any opinions they may offer on reform proposals designed to stop the destruction of competition through mergers and acquisitions.

So, in the lead up to the next Federal Election it will be interesting to see if we get more gimmicks from the Federal Government or whether growing voter interest in direct action will spark the Government’s imagination.

While the Federal Government may not appreciate this author’s drafting of the Birdsville, Blacktown and Richmond Amendments, the Government can certainly come up with their own effective direct action competition law reforms. Nothing like an election to focus the mind!

Most commented

38 comments

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    • persephone says:

      04:47am | 06/01/10

      At last we find where this author is coming from - he is the drafter of various amendments for one of the independent senators.

      Nice if this disclaimer had come before his series of anti government articles.

    • Aberford says:

      07:25am | 06/01/10

      @persephone, I’d rather have Professor Frank Zumbo expertly representing my interests as a consumer than all the jobs-for-ALP-faithful meaningless gestures that seem to have been the only action from the govt to date.

      Perhaps you should just rename yourself kruddephone.

    • Macon Paine says:

      07:38am | 06/01/10

      @ persephone

      So essentially your only complaint about the author and the points raised in his article is that he is associated with one of the independent senators that you may not be fond of?
      Unfortunately your entire argument is a logical fallacy, specifically the “Guilt by Association” fallacy so therefore we have no choice but to dismiss it.

    • persephone says:

      08:08am | 06/01/10

      Glad to see I’m generating more responses than the article, must get Punch to give me a column. I’d obviously draw the crowds.

      No point commenting on the rest of Zumbo, he’s just saying exactly what he’s said in the last column of his I read here. If you are really that anxious for my rebuttal, I’d refer you back to that.

      Aberford, maybe you could rename yourself “Abbottfor”?

      Macon, no, it’s not my only complaint. My biggest complaint would be that he keeps writing exactly the same article. At least now I know why.

    • Wayne Hutchins says:

      08:18am | 06/01/10

      It’s about time people woke up to the fact that our government do not run this country! Most of us think they do and they would have us believe they do but really we are governed by big business and particularly by the media empires. An opposition will promise to fix what they know to be clearly broken until they become the Government and realize they are now part of the club. You don’t mess with the club. Turnbull was in the club already. As such he wanted an ETS as there is mega bucks to be made. I don’t think there is one Government Minister who is not in their role other than for vested interests. Many start out with notions of grandeur and doing great things for their communities but they soon fall in line (Peter Garrett as an example). Seen a Labor back bencher cross the floor lately? Do you really think these people care about you? They want us to obey. Like mindless drones we go about our lives building wealth for the select few. This has been going on around the world for centuries. They run this phony war on drugs but put the bulk of our population on amphetamines. All done legally with a prescription. Feeling a bit stressed out today? Wolf at the door? Well go and see your doctor! Have your head right in no time. Big Pharmaceuticals make billions of bucks keeping the population under control. Each and every day our televisions, radios and newspapers tell us the news they want us to hear. A very one sided offering to say the least. And now we have big business (some call it Government) who think it in their interest to filter the internet so as to keep us all reading from the same page. Another control mechanism to rob us of our freedoms! Money is power! It doesn’t matter who you vote for in the next election. They are just the puppets. This system needs a shake up as the people have lost the power.

    • Shane From Melbourne says:

      08:27am | 06/01/10

      Considering the Rudd government’s recent decision upon the parallel import of books, I have little faith in any government promises of reform towards competition in the retail sectors.

    • T.Chong says:

      08:31am | 06/01/10

      Yeah Peresphone, KAPOW!!, BLAMMO!! Take that!! (Batman style). Dont you know that Macon Paine and Aberford will not even give you the time of day if you arre merely complaining about previosly undiscloseed conflict of interest?
      Abers: does ALP faithful include Nelson and Costello?
      As MC, Abers et al will tell you,the only time an academic should have an opinion is whenit is non Labor. If any academic has compassionate, humanist and social justice POVs than this is just evidence of Lefty latte,tax payer funded ivory towers, Right guys and gals?
      Aberford , since you have raised the level of debate with name calling, how about “Aber-botts-lick-spittle” not as funny as your kruddephone, of course, but might just help the punters identify where your coming from.

    • watty says:

      08:35am | 06/01/10

      You mean MORE GIMMICKS than in 2007,2008.2009 and now 2010?

      Surely not?

      Though trying to PROVE Global Warming is man made and the “greatest moral issue” facing mankind should provide a very fertile launching pad.

    • E says:

      08:35am | 06/01/10

      Thanks Prof Zumbo, although my immediate reaction is ‘duh who didnt already know this?’. I think there are two major questions:
      1) Why do govt ministers even bother to meet with corporate lobbiests? I mean, they always say the same thing i.e. ‘Give my industry free money or it will cost jobs’, so surely the meetings are a complete waste of time as the corporates hold an unloaded gun to the head of a dimwitted minister.
      2) Why havent the media informed the Australian people of these proposed amendments? Could it be that the ‘cosy club’ extends beyond industries, to the point where large corporates will by default protect the interests of other large corporates?

      @persephone: yep, it makes him qualified to discuss the matter and knowledgable. I think its ridiculous to attack the author of a piece talking about the lengths vested interests will go to to protect their patch of having vested interests…think of it as meta-commentary

    • persephone says:

      08:48am | 06/01/10

      Oh, so because he has vested interests I can’t attack him for criticising others for having vested interests?

      So glad we cleared that up.

    • Old Clive says:

      08:59am | 06/01/10

      Wen need leaders not bloggers, or perhaps a government of political commentators and bloggers might just do the country more good than harm, at least it looks as if the can do what a lot of voters can’t do and that is THINK.

    • E says:

      09:08am | 06/01/10

      @Wayne Hutchins 09:12 : Well said
      @persephone: hehe Kruddphone

      Another question I would ask KRudd is that if AGW is such a threat, why is his response so piss weak? Why is it designed to subsidise everyones emissions to the point that nobodies behaviour will change? I think its the billions of dollars in carbon trading revenues for the paper shufflers.

      Also how come we never hear about housing affordability anymore? And surely the negative gearing laws should be altered to only apply to new construction.

    • iansand says:

      09:10am | 06/01/10

      If the press with their precious news cycle teated the gimmicks with the disdain they deserve the pollies would stop.  The problem is that our journalists are obsessed with bright colours and movement.

    • Aberford says:

      10:26am | 06/01/10

      Very interesting.  Frank Zumbo is rightly critical of the lack of effective government action to protect consumers’ rights, and the ALP droids fly out of the blocks to attack him and what he is saying.  What part of Consumer Protection do you guys not understand?

      Now if only the government could show such dedication in controlling the actions of monopolists who seem able to screw over the public at every opportunity.

    • Chase Stevens says:

      11:28am | 06/01/10

      Perhaps this is a contributing factor to the political apathy of australia.

    • Macon Paine says:

      11:47am | 06/01/10

      @ T.Chong
      You wrote:
      Yeah Peresphone, KAPOW!!, BLAMMO!! Take that!! (Batman style). Dont you know that Macon Paine and Aberford will not even give you the time of day if you arre merely complaining about previosly undiscloseed conflict of interest?

      Actually thats not entirely fair T.Chong, I wont give people the time of day if they spout nonsense or attempt to dismiss articles by using blatant logical fallacies which is what peresphone did in her/his first comment.

      “As MC, Abers et al will tell you,the only time an academic should have an opinion is whenit is non Labor. If any academic has compassionate, humanist and social justice POVs than this is just evidence of Lefty latte,tax payer funded ivory towers, Right guys and gals?”

      This is not true at all, I am not a communist, socialist or a fascist. So I have no interest in silencing those who do not think like me or share the same opinions and views.
      Also why do you assume that only Labour academics are compassionate, humanist and have social justice POV’s? You wouldn’t happen to view the world as though everyone who doesn’t think like you is incapable of having these admirable qualities do you?
      Any honest academic regardless of their views either left, right or centre should not be afraid (if they are genuinely interested in debate) of having their views held under the magnifying glass for scrutiny.

    • Shaun says:

      11:50am | 06/01/10

      Persephone, why are you framing this as an attack on Labor? It is an attack on governments of all persuasions. He is saying both sides do this. And his arguments stack up.

    • Bruce says:

      12:40pm | 06/01/10

      All governments and politicians use spin. However, some use it better than others, the issue is wade thru the BS, and to understand what politicians are really saying. In this case of Rudd he is good at spin doctoring. I take great delight in analysing what he is really saying. “Big Fun”  he good. Lots of feel good word, smile lots, little substance, but guess what ! I really believe that most uninformed voters fall for this stuff until it hits their back pocket and even then many do not even know there back pocket is disapearing. Politically, its all about jumping up and down, looking serious, but not denting the ground to much to upset mindless voters.

    • Carl Palmer says:

      12:47pm | 06/01/10

      Concentration of market players = higher prices which I end up wearing and I hear people attack the author because he is white, black, yellow, right left, centre or because he has pushed the same message over and over again. Huh?

      I have no doubt that this is occurring at the big end of town and that the dollar is king, having said that, I still believe that there should be more Frank Zumbo’s speaking out.

      Keep up the good work Frank.

      Maybe we should ask our State and federal members what they are doing about this particular “problem” before the election is called

    • persephone says:

      12:59pm | 06/01/10

      Macon

      why is it ‘nonsense’ to point out where an author is coming from? Surely it is essential to understand the content of the article to understand the context.

      As I keep saying, this is at least the second time we’ve had this author write much the same article. When someone has a bee in their bonnet to this extent, it’s important to understand why.

      Shaun - have I? I made a comment about the author’s motives. Full stop.

      It’s apparent that the article itself is so devoid of merit that no one - including myself - is actually interested in discussing it, and we have instead decided to squabble amongst ourselves.

    • Iva Tarbell says:

      01:15pm | 06/01/10

      It’s amazing that Professor Zumbo is attacked by some for being “associated” with an independent senator and putting forward proposals to benefit the “vested interests” of consumers.

      Zumbo’s position in support of consumers and taking on vested protected interests is transparent and has been consistent during the terms of both the Rudd and Howard Governments.

      Zumbo’s “vested” pro-consumer interest obviously has him marked as a “dangerous agitator” by those on various special interest gravy trains. 

      It’s also interesting that the stooges from the vested invests simply want to play the man rather than the ball. But how else can these special interest groups argue their cause ?

      A look at the facts shows that In the world’s most concentrated supermarket sector (Nth Korea excluded) Australian consumers are punished with the fastest increasing supermarket prices in the developed world. Like-for-like comparisons show that Australians pay 20% to 35% higher prices for a basket of supermarket staples than consumers pay in the UK and New Zealand.

      In banking, studies regularly show that Australian consumers pay some of the highest bank fees in the world.

      There is simply an ongoing multi-billion dollar asset transfer from the average Australian consumer to a small group with powerful invested interests that have captured and control the Labor Government.
      Krudd promised to take action to reverse this trend to protect “working families”. But once he took the reins of power “working families” have been sold out and it’s simply been more of the same, with the increasing market concentration in banking and retailing.

      So what is Krudd’s plan for his second term ?

    • persephone says:

      02:16pm | 06/01/10

      Started off well, Iva, with a bit of sanctimoniousness about playing the man not the ball…but ended with “Krudd’.

      Oh what a giveaway.

      I would point out that these vested interests obviously had control of the Howard government as well - or was he too lazy even to try and take them on?

      And please explain why pointing out who someone works with is an attack on them.

    • Wombat says:

      02:37pm | 06/01/10

      Frank Zumbo’s bio states that he was involved in the drafting of the Birdsville Amendment and the Blacktown Amendment. These link him to the National Party (via Barnaby Joyce) and to Nick Xenophon. So far no problem.
      Zumbo has written a number of articles for The Punch over the last few months on consumer affairs. In his bio there is no mention of his involvement in the Richmond Amendment. Until today he hadn’t mentioned this involvement in any of his articles either.
      A couple of Zumbo’s favourite words are ‘spin’ and ‘transparency’. Apparently he has spent several months providing us with ‘spin’ for his own product and he thinks that ‘transparency’ is a requirement only for others.
      Is it the editorial policy at The Punch to allow your writers to keep their vested interests secret?

    • Iva Tarbell says:

      04:26pm | 06/01/10

      Persephone you are absolutely right - the problem existed under Howard.

      Despite an overall increase in national prosperity during his term, Howard failed to stem the tide of rising market concentration – and it was only in the dying days of his government that Howard did anything by closing one of the loop-holes which made Australia’s laws on predatory pricing ineffective. It was too little and too late. 

      And the public had their say, and gave Howard the boot. 

      Krudd (the Prime Minister, the Hon Member for Griffith or Great Leader – take your pick) after promising to make a stand for consumers has done nothing, and we have seen a continued materially lessening of competition across all areas of the economy – wwith the average Australian family continuing to be ripped-off by the big supermarket chains, the banks, and oil companies.  All with Krudd watching on and spinning.

      And Rudd now deserves exactly the same as the public gave Howard at the last election – the boot.

      But would Tabbott (the Leader of Opposition, the Hon Member for Warringah or the buggiesmuggler – take your pick) do any different ?? Maybe, maybe not.

      And if he doesn’t and allows the continued erosion of competition across the economy – he’ll deserve to be sent packing as well.

      Bring on the election and bring on the debate about the damage the duopolies and oligopolies are doing to Australia, and what can be done about it.

      But ,queen of the underworld, what’s objectionable is your implied dismissal of the legitimacy of the Zumbo’s comments by asserting he is “associated” with an independent senator.

      A single independent senator, is hardly a special “vested interest” group.

      A “vested interest” is one where a person is one on the gravy train or payroll of a certain groups - such as the way spokeperson for Australian National Retailers Association is on the supermarket duopoly gravy train and payroll.
       
      Further, if Zumbo “has a bee in his bonnet” and “it’s important to understand why”, the fact that Zumbo is associated with an independent senator is irrelevant.

      And if he has a bee in his bonnet, that “bee” is that consumers are being ripped off, and government of all persuasions are engaged in gimmicks when there are fixes to the problem by repairing Australia’s competition laws.

      It should also be noted that Zumbo’s “anti government” article (as you describe it), if you had bothered to read carefully,  is attack on “Governments of ALL persuasions” and Zumbo criticise the WA Government over Fuelwatch, - and the last time I checked, WA had a Liberal government. 

      So keep up the good work Frank - we know where your “vested interests” are - with that of the consumer - and that obviously opens you to attacks and veiled criticism.

    • Jamers Hunter says:

      05:01pm | 06/01/10

      perseyphone , you must be a government apointed mole or something equally as useful. pray tell what is wrong with the professor wanting the welfare and rights of australians looked out for and respected? after all the big end of town have pleanty of gravey train legal parasites to do their spruking.

    • persephone says:

      05:52pm | 06/01/10

      Good lord, what am I now? Although I quite like the Queen of the Underworld moniker - I’m collecting more names here than Abbott on his drive to leadership.

      All I’ve really done is say I found it interesting who he worked with. Oh and that his article was boring.

      Again, the first isn’t a problem and not necessarily a criticism, unless X is a shadier character than I thought.

      And the article obviously is boring, or you’d all be talking about it and not me.

      So many people telling me I’m irrelevant, so little discussion of what the good professor actually wrote - who’s being dismissed here?

    • Shaun says:

      08:33am | 07/01/10

      @Persephone, yes unless the government of the country is no longer Labor, you did get cranky at him attacking the government - therefore being critical of him for attacking Labor.

      As for this - “It’s apparent that the article itself is so devoid of merit” - interesting. You are so committed to derailing debate that you say this. It’s not actually apparent that the article is devoid of merit at all. It’s actually very well written and makes a very clear point.

      OK, so you found the article boring. I didn’t. 

      So little discussion of what the good professor wrote? What planet are you on Persephone? Iva Tarbell just wrote a massive post on the detail of the article.

      There’s only one word to describe your attempt to derail debate and it starts with a ‘T”. I tend to agree with others who wonder if you are a such a Labor stooge that you want to distract people from the orginal article.

      Well in that you have failed. I for one will view every pronouncement from the government now from the prism of “is that really something that will control the big end of town, or is it just something that is created so that it give the impression that they are doing something? - Message received Frank.

    • persephone says:

      09:27am | 07/01/10

      No, Shaun, if that was my intention, it obviously succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

      It wasn’t, though.

      If the message you got was to distrust governments (and Iva also pointed out that it isn’t just Labor) then you should have got that years ago.

      You point to one post in 26 which actually discuss the article.

      The majority of posts are a response to me pointing out the very minor point of the author’s connections. I am still bewildered at the response.

      If I am a troll or an ALP plant, I’m doing a brilliant job.

    • Shaun says:

      12:39pm | 07/01/10

      Actually what happened Persephone is that you got the first post in, got a couple of responses about your post, and then kept on popping up throughout the thread proclaiming over and over (like you are still doing) that the article was so without merit and boring that people were only responding to you.

      If you’re a troll, and you pretty much are by the standard definition of trolling - a poster who writes deliberately inflammatory rhetoric with the intent of deraling debate about a topic, you have failed. Because although you have got a number of responses to you, you have failed to distract people from getting the mesage of the article.

      OK, so he helped draft amendments for an independent senator - which he disclosed. Wouldn’t you expect an law professor who is also a consumer advocate to do that? Are you saying that because he has a vested interest in consumer advocacy that invalidates everything in the article? Who do you think is going to write an article highlighting that governments perform stunts rather than doing something? A consumer advocate or a government spokesman?  It’s not as if the guy is a Liberal MP writing partisan rhetoric.

      My guess? You will respond to this in your juvenile, ha ha, I win because you responded to me. And simply because I responded to you, you will ignore that I actually debated issues about the article in my response. It’s a great way to win arguments isn’t it? Just say “it’s all about me” and be done with it.

      Well how about this? Why don’t you go through the article yourself and explain why it is without merit? Here, let me guess the response. “I would, but the article bored me so much I don’t wanna”. Lame, Lame, Lame.

    • persephone says:

      03:55pm | 07/01/10

      As I said in my first post, I critiqued this article last time he wrote it. The ony new information - and thus the only bit worth a new response - is the disclosure, which he hadn’t previously made.

      Rudd has tried to do a lot of things for consumers, nearly all of which were thwarted - in part by the Senator Zumbo works with. Fuelwatch (despite Zumbo’s claims) has worked well in WA and would work well federally. Whose interests was being supported by blocking it in the Senate? Certainly not the interests of the ordinary person.

      So Zumbo’s ‘man in the Senate’ is directly responsible for blocking direct action to take on the big boys and put pressure on petrol prices.

      At present, the laws governing consumer affairs are a mish mash, with each state and territory having their own (it being primarily a state responsbility). These are all being brought into line, a very important reform initiated by the Rudd government. No mention of that here, yet it’s a revolutionary step in protecting the rights of consumers.

      The government has also mandated unit pricing in supermarkets, allowing customers to directly compare costs on each item they purchase - again, a very important, practical reform.

      Zumbo criticises the government for lack of action on petrol prices, saying that all they have done is advise motorists to fill up before prices go up. He conveniently ignores the minister’s request to the ACCC for a report on the variances in prices, which was received by the minister only a few weeks ago.

      Zumbo then points to the big banks, and implies - no facts given in support, just a lot of innuendo - that their market share is a threat to consumers. No mention that the market share of these banks increased due to the GFC, with small mortgage firms unable to guarantee their loans. No mention that the strength of the big banks cushioned Australia from the worst of the crisis, or that the ‘freer’ market in America resulted in the dubious lending practices which saw the collapse of the housing market there.

      We have four major banks and multiple other finance suppliers, so there really is no lack of competition in this area.

      It would be helpful if Zumbo actually explained the amendments referred to in detail, instead of assuming a level of knowledge most readers don’t have.

      From what I can make out, the Birdsville amendment was passed into law by the Howard government. I can’t find any evidence that it has been withdrawn, so I’m not sure why Zumbo is concerned about it.

      The Blacktown amendment would stifle competition, by insisting that the same prices be charged within a 35 k radius - very difficult to enforce and effectively locking in the same prices across the nation. No shopping around for a better deal, and the price of bananas in Toorak would determine their price in Footscray.

    • I. Tarbell says:

      06:35pm | 07/01/10

      Well Persephone, one thought that you hath protest too much -  but your last post certainly gives your game away.

      In Persephone,  we have someone that claims to just an average punter, and someone that finds Zumbo’s article “obviously is boring” and is “so devoid of merit that no one - including [Peresphone]- is actually interested in discussing it”.

      Really ?

      Then, when pushed into a corner and labelled a stooge, in an attempt to defend his or herself, Peresphone reveals the most intimate knowledge of competition issues on which Zumbo writes.

      Persephone says of Zumbo;

      “He conveniently ignores the minister’s request to the ACCC for a report on the variances in prices, which was received by the minister only a few weeks ago.”

      Whom else but a stooge working inside the Minister office would have such intimate details ??


      Then we have Persephone referring to;

      “very important reform initiated by the Rudd government” which is claimed   as a “revolutionary step” in protecting the rights of consumers.

      Such language comes straight from text book of doublespeak of the ALP spin doctors, which are accustomed to speak of “wars and “revolutions”............note Ms Gillard’s “glorious education revolution” which is nothing other buiding school halls where we’ll all go an vote at the next election.

      One but can’t smell a stooge.

      Then Persephone reveals intimate knowledge of the “The Blacktown amendment” - a proposal that attempted to outlaw anti-competitive geographic price discrimination – and a proposal that was vigorously opposed by both the big end of town AND the Minister Emerson’s office.

      It criticizing this proposal, Persephone uses the phrase that the Blacktown amendment would; “require Toorak prices for goods sold in Footscray”.

      Now what is quite remarkable is that phrase; “require Toorak prices for goods sold in Footscray” is EXACTLY the same phrase used none other that Minister Craig Emerson in a speech in August last year.

      See: http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/currentaccount/index.php/theaustralian/comments/labor_the_competition_party/P25/

      What another remarkable co-incidence !!

      If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck - it probably is a duck.

      Jamers Hunter you had it spot-on – we’ve flushed out a government appointed mole.

      And as taxpayer, I’d be interested Persephone, if my tax dollars go pay your wages to masquerade as an average punter and write pieces attacking anyone that dares to criticise the government. 

      It’s a very, very a sad day for our democracy, to think that the Government has paid stooges monitoring websites to write blogs masquerading as the average consumer to deflect any criticism of the government. This a very slippery slope.

    • persephone says:

      06:58am | 08/01/10

      I. Tarbell

      no, not paid. Not a cent’. No, not a stooge. Just able to use google and analyse data.

      No, no intimate knowledge of the workings of the Minister’s office, go to his webpage and it’s all freely available to anyone who can ead.

      I could equally call you a stooge, if stoogeism is based on knowing the content of Emerson’s speech (which I haven’t read).

      I said consistently that the reason I didn’t want to discuss the contents of Zumbo’s posts was that I had commented on the article the last time he wrote it and didn’t want to repeat myself. This obviously indicates that I had already done some research into the issues he raises. I just did a little more, that’ all.

      All at no cost to the taxpayer; the computer and the internet service are paid for by me. And it’s holidays, so I’ve got heaps of time.

      So you can relax: democracy is safe, and the taxpayer is getting the benefit of my ability to google at no cost to themselves.

      Try again.

      PS. Once again, no analysis of what I or Zumbo have written, just an attempt to label me as something I’m not, in an attempt to dismiss my criticisms. Interesting, just what I’ve been accused of doing re Zumbo.

      So it’s OK to attack someone who supports the government but not OK to attack someone who doesn’t?

      Interesting double standards.

      PPS Wish I was a paid stooge. I’d be going for a promotion by now.

    • Carl Palmer says:

      08:42am | 08/01/10

      Simple fact is that the government made a promise (they obviously believed that there was a problem) and as yet have not delivered anything. In fact, they have wasted million + dollars of your money in a botched up ill thought out attempt to put something into place. After 2 years they have nothing to show for it. Another failure to a growing list of failures.

      Competition is been diluted and as a consequence prices go up. Not sure but I think they call it an oligopoly.

      We need more Frank Zumbo’s. Frank, please keep pushing the same message and keep it real simple because that’s they only way you have of getting through thick heads.

    • persephone says:

      12:18pm | 08/01/10

      Carl

      Zumbo is for more dilution of competition, not less. He wants more government regulation, more red tape and more bureaucracies.

      That’s what the three amendments he refers to do - place the government in control of fixing and moderating prices, removing businesses’ power to set their own in response to local conditions.

      FuelWatch and Grocery Watch merely wanted businesses to advise the government of prices, so that these could be publicised. Zumbo’s amendments want the government to ensure that prices are fixed across geographical areas.

      If you want more competition, avoid Zumbo.

    • Iva Tarbell says:

      01:50pm | 08/01/10

      Let me see if I have this right….......

      Persephone first suggests as the average punter she finds Zumbo’s articles are “boring” and of no interest. (perhaps Zumbo’s views should be just ignored - everything fine with dominance of the big supermarkets, banks and big oil companies in Australia ).

      Then later we have the admissions from Persephone that although she found the Zumbo’s articles “boring” and of no interest, - that she has actually googled extensively on the subjects that Zumbo writes.

      And finally,  she lets the cat out of the bag by confirming that she - and just co-incidentally the Government, the big end of town, Woolworths/Coles and the Competiton Minister’s office -  all disagree with Zumbo opinions.

      As the saying goes, Persephone; if you’re in hole, and trying get out - stop digging.

    • Carl Palmer says:

      02:27pm | 08/01/10

      Thanks Persephone – but isn’t that what should happen?

      If for example I buy a litre of milk from Coles in Blacktown (Syd Metro area) and the same litre from Coles at Palm Beach (Syd Metro area) shouldn’t they be the same price? The idea is to stop the big fellas from cutting prices in a particular area to eliminate the small fry in that area and to gain market share in that geographic area. Once dominance is achieved then the price of the milk is jacked up to be whatever the majors want it to be.

      These laws are, as I understand it, in place in the US, Canada and the UK. Comparisons have been made where a basket of goods in the US, Canada and the UK have risen at a lower rate (taking into account exchange rates etc) than the same basket of goods here is Aussie town. That is, food prices here are rising significantly faster than these other countries. A comparison was also made between a Woolworths in NZ and a Woolworths in Sydney – Menai I think. Again taking in exchange rates transportation costs etc into account the basket of goods in NZ was significantly lower than the same basket in Menai.

      Taking it to the extreme – if we end up with one bank and one supermarket chain then you and I would be well and truly screwed.

      It was also my understanding that if a price of a product / service was below cost then it was illegal and the ACCC had the authority to impose the appropriate fines. Not sure if this is true or not ie setting a price below cost but I did hear / read it somewhere.

      Doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me, surely you’d want to pay less for your food / fuel etc ?  : - )
      Cheers

    • persephone says:

      04:59pm | 08/01/10

      The question is whether it would reduce food prices. For a law to be effective, it must be enforced. This means that you need some kind of mechanism for not only tracking food prices but checking on them - no good rely on Woolies to tell you that they’re charging the same price all over the place.

      And a mechanism like that needs a bureaucracy to run it and people to police it. Which means (one way or another) increased costs to the consumer (probably in the guise of higher taxes). Whether those increased costs would equal the savings made by the person in Toorak buying at Footscray prices is the question.

      It also wouldn’t be as simple as proving that Woolies had charged X at this location and X + 1 at another. Woolies would come up with quite reasonable arguments why this was so (goods approaching use by date, etc) and you’d need to prove them wrong. So that involves legal action, with all the hassles that involves - and the ACCC hasn’t had a good run with those lately.

      I’m absolutely in favour of anti monopoly laws (which are in themselves an admission that capitalism is imperfect).

      It’s also hard to equate overseas prices with ours - our farmers perhaps expect a higher standard of living than those in NZ, for example. (I don’t know, pure speculation, and happy to be proven wrong there).

      And yes, I’m in favour of lower fuel prices and at one stage was a bit of an expert in the field (on an amateur basis). That’s why I liked the idea of FuelWatch, which Sen X canned (probably on the advice of Zumbo). 

      And thank you for the quality of your discourse, which at least assumes I’m a real person!

    • Carl Palmer says:

      09:14pm | 08/01/10

      Thanks Persephone enjoyed the exchange. I think we are singing from the same hymn book and seek the same outcome.
      Cheers Carl

 

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