Craig, let’s discuss your shortcomings over coffee
Federal Small Business Minister, Craig Emerson has taken the Federal Government’s spin and smear approach to policy issues to new depths. With a debate raging about the Federal Government’s failure to respond to the needs of small businesses and consumers, Craig Emerson took time out to reflect on the contribution being made to the small business and competition law debate by this author.
It’s extraordinary that a Federal Minister has the time to reflect on the contribution being made by a particular individual. Surely there are better things the Minister could be doing such as explaining why the Federal Government wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a failed GroceryChoice website.
Perhaps the Minister’s time could be better spent explaining why Australia consistently has some of the highest levels of food inflation in the developed world which is pushing up grocery prices for Aussie families.
Then, again, perhaps the Minister could explain how his various window dressing announcements on competition issues will help in real terms all those small businesses, retail tenants and franchisees who have lost their livelihood at the hands of larger businesses acting anti-competitively or unconscionably.
Anyway, the Minister obviously felt the need to spend some time on this author so let’s see what Craig Emerson had to say.
First, the Minister refers to what he describes as the “self professed competition expert Frank Zumbo.” No mention by Craig Emerson of this author’s professorial title from a leading Australian University. Perhaps an oversight as surely the Minister could not be suggesting that the University of New South Wales just hands out professorial titles. No mention, also, of this author’s numerous published articles, as well as citations of this author’s articles by the High Court, Federal Court, Supreme Courts and by numerous parliamentary and other independent reports. Perhaps another oversight?
Next, the Minister is again bursting to tell everyone that this author was “campaigning for Craig Kelly the Liberal candidate for Hughes.” Yes, this author is helping Craig Kelly not just because Kelly is a friend of this author but because Kelly is a successful small business person that would bring considerable real life experience to Federal Parliament. No mention, however, by the Minister of this author’s support for MPs across the political spectrum. No mention of this author’s work previously with Labor personalities such Chris Bowen, Stephen Conroy and now with Tony Piccolo. No mention of this author’s work with Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. Perhaps Craig Emerson should read the Punch more often where all these facts are well known to readers.
The Minister then moves on and considers that “Zumbo is the author of some of the zaniest policies ever to be considered in the Senate.” Now, that’s a bit rich given that the Senate and, ultimately, the Federal Parliament enacted the Birdsville Amendment authored by this author. Surely, the Minister is not suggesting that the Senate is zany for passing the Birdsville Amendment?
Then we see a rant about the Blacktown Amendment also authored by this author outlawing geographic price discrimination, a practice whereby retailers charge a different price for the same product in different stores the same geographic area. Now that’s where the Minister is out of step with the marketplace as ALDI, Coles and Woolworths have all moved to a national uniform pricing policy for many of their products. That’s the same price for the same product across Australia, something that goes even further than the Blacktown Amendment. So is Craig Emerson suggesting that ALDI, Coles and Woolworths are zany for implementing the fundamental principle underlying the Blacktown Amendment?
Then we have the Minister’s apparent dismissal of this author’s support for a general divestiture power that could be used to break up larger companies acting anti-competitively. That outburst is especially surprising as the United States and the United Kingdom already have that power. Surely, the Minister is not suggesting the United States and United Kingdom have got it wrong regarding a general divestiture power?
At this point one has to wonder if Craig Emerson could better spend his time reflecting and correcting his trail of misses and messes. The following is a convenient listing of some of the Minister’s misses and messes.
- GroceryChoice. This was a major debacle and Craig Emerson was responsible for stopping the re-launch of the GroceryChoice website redesigned by Consumer organisation Choice. This resulted in a waste of millions of taxpayers’ dollars and consumers continue to lack full information on grocery prices and, more dangerously, consumers continue to face higher grocery prices;
- Unfair contract terms legislation. Craig Emerson left Australian small businesses legally stranded by removing them from the legislation, contrary to a decision by fellow Labor Minister Chris Bowen and Federal Cabinet to include small business in the legislation. This denies small businesses legal rights to challenge contracts terms that are excessively one-sided and detrimental to the small business;
- Creeping acquisitions “amendments.” These were window dressing amendments that do nothing to change Australia’s weak competition laws. Craig Emerson’s “amendments” are a completely watered down version of proposals previously considered by Chris Bowen. This failure to increase the ACCC’s power means that larger businesses can continue to destroy competition by making small scale acquisitions over a period of time. Less competition means higher prices for consumers;
- Gaps in franchising regulation. A failure by Craig Emerson to impose monetary penalties for breaches of the Franchising Code of Conduct. This represents a failure to stop rogue franchisors from breaching a regulation designed to protect franchisees.
In addition to reflecting on his misses and messes, it would be great to see Craig Emerson come down from his ivory tower and meet many more of the struggling Aussie families and small businesses in the Federal Seat of Hughes. A single token visit is just not enough for all those in Hughes who want to hold the Minister accountable for his misses and messes. This author would be very happy to take Craig Emerson for a different kind of spin around the electorate to see the real issues that he should be dealing with. This author would even shout him a coffee!
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