Are the grocery juggernauts beyond control? The Australian grocery market is among the most concentrated in the Western world, with Coles and Woolworths controlling 92% of the $111 billion retail food market. With the connivance of the politicians, the chains also are acquiring larger slices of the petrol and liquor markets.
Having made a vigorous entry into the insurance industry, Coles is now teaming up with with GE Capital Australia to offer credit cards and “personal finance products” to its 8.8 million customers. In a statement announcing the joint venture, Coles said the partnership would “deliver innovative financial services to the Australian market … with the additional value and benefits of Flybuys’ award-winning loyalty program, including money off your groceries at Coles.”
As yet there has been no indication that Coles will be offering mortgages, but only the naive would assume its ambitions will see no a further expansion. Wherever the grocery giants see potential in leveraging their dominance of the grocery market to move into other areas it is a sure bet they will — unless, of course, politicians and regulators show some backbone and do their jobs.
The grocery mammoths have already used their market dominance to damage and destroy competition, and to extract near-monopoly prices from consumers and suppliers.
Let’s be very clear about what is happening. Prices paid to farmers and processors are pushed down, not to benefit consumers but to enrich the Big Two. It is elementary that, without real competition, the firms will lift consumer prices, the direct consequence being that Australian consumers pay higher prices than in most other comparable markets.
The politicians made their position very clear when, in 2006, a bill was introduced to allow shopper-docket discounts. The politicians allowed this when a retailer provides discounts to a supermarket customer for, say, petrol or liquor purchased at an outlet owned by the retailer.
The petrol discount is a sleight of hand, a confidence trick. We pay more at the grocery outlet to get discounts at the petrol station. Once the independent petrol retailers have been forced out of business, prices will go up sure as supermarket eggs.
Surely the politicians knew their decision would drive out of business independent petrol stations and liquor stores. Indeed, it is hard to believe it was designed to do precisely that? So why was it introduced and passed? Was it incompetence, or was it that our politicians wish to destroy small business?
The latest move is for Coles to use its market power to enter the financial market. Using the shopper-docket precedent, consumers will pay more for groceries to facilitate the illusion that credit cards are cheaper. Next, expect a move into home mortgages. And, once they have dealt with the competition, they’ll make sure you’ll pay more for your mortgages.
Will our politicians and regulators allow this? Past experience suggests they will — another reason to make politicians truly accountable.
[This article was first published on Quadrant Online:http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2014/07/mortgages-available-aisle-4/]
Young Australians value our constitutional monarchy - or crowned republic - for a variety of reasons.
The SMH's Peter Munro explores this in today's Good Weekend magazine. He speaks with a number of young constitutional monarchists about those aspects which are important to them.
To read the full article, click here: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/life/the-royal-we-20140602-39d0j.html
Check out this panel discussion on Studio 10 about the upcoming Royal Visit.
I note that our crowned republic is fully autonomous. Immigrants have adopted as their own our fundamental institutions and we have built a very successful nation on that basis. It would be an ill conceived proposal to simply dispense with what we've got, unless you're going to replace it with something better - and we're not seeing that coming from the republicans any time soon.
To watch the interview, please click here: http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/studio-10/extra/season-2013/3-apr--the-royals-debate
Jai Martinkovits speaks with SWR FM's Brendan Leggett about the recent appointment of Sir Peter Cosgrove as Australia's 26th Governor General and the decision again to have Australian Dames & Knights by Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Jai also speaks about the need to introduce into Australia the tools of Direct Democracy.
To hear Jai's interview, please click here.
Research indicates that the typical ABC journalist's political beliefs are well to the left of the general population. A recent survey found that over 40% support the Greens, over 30% support Labor, and just 15% support the Coalition.
Any reasonable estimation must leave Australians lamenting the way "aunty" has become so blatantly riddled with political bias - and not only in the selection of political issues, but the emphasis and persons selected to comment. Almost without exception, the ABC takes the line of the hard left.
There are numerous examples of this, including climate change, asylum seekers, same-sex marriage, and indeed almost any topic which is discussed on the farce which is Q&A. Most recently, we saw the release of information about Australia's alleged spying on Indonesia through high-profile phone tapping. Despite the fact that this was alleged to have occurred under the Rudd Government's watch, the information was released only when the newly elected Abbott Government was handling relations well with Indonesia, making significant inroads to restoring the integrity of our borders. The ABC says that it was The Guardian that sat on the information. If so, why did they chose to become the advertiser for this left-wing news outlet, giving the report the gravitas in Asia which only an official Australian TV service can?
In the case of private outlets, journalist's leanings, left or right, should not be cause for concern in itself. After all, so long as comment is clearly distinguishable from news, readers (or viewers) may, as they have done in the case of Fairfax, vote with their feet. However, Australians should be concerned that they are forced to pay in excess of $1bn for the left-wing propaganda they are being drip fed.
This, perhaps through pure desperation, has led to calls for the full privatisation of the ABC. I believe that would be a mistake. A prime reason for the existence of the ABC today should be to provide services which commercial broadcasting either does not or cannot provide - for example some regional broadcasting. And complementary doesn't mean politically complementary, as the ABC is not supposed to have any political agenda.
Instead, we must find a way to ensure strong editorial leadership. Of singular importance in achieving this is the office of Managing Director which, as the incumbent, Mark Scott, so correctly identifies, is two-facetted. The first role being CEO and the second role - the one which Mr. Scott is charged with failing to deliver - being Editor-in-Chief.
So much of the problem can be attributed to the ABC's legal and de facto structural weaknesses. All power is effectively vested in the Managing Director, with the Chairman and Board of Directors so constrained by the structural defects, they are demonstrably impotent in dealing with systemic bias. If the Managing Director prefers the advantages of a quiet life, he soon learns that his primary role is to defend and excuse the ABC in public and let the left-wing collectives run the joint.
I believe that the solution lies in democratising the ABC.
Firstly the Managing Director should be selected in the usual way, but crucially not have tenure. Instead, he or she should serve at the pleasure of a newly established Council (a group which I shall return to shortly). Just as in business.
Instead of a Board of Directors, effectively appointed by the government, we should rely on the common sense, good judgement and basic decency of the average Australian. Let's be a real democracy and let the people elect a Council of the ABC. To weed out the usual suspects and carpetbaggers, let them all be volunteers. And as all politicians should be, subject to a right of recall by the people. This Council of rank-and-file Australians would then elect a Board of Directors from amongst its members.
A public enquiry into public broadcasting could, amongst other things, determine the most appropriate way to conduct such elections. One such way would be an election of half the Council as and when a Federal election is held. This would result in approximately six-year appointments and would place little extra burden on taxpayers and electors. Alternates could also be elected to ensure casual vacancies are not treated as “jobs for the boys” as they blatantly are in the Senate.
Another significant problem any such enquiry must consider - one which is shared by other institutions such as the High Court - is that Canberra-Sydney-Melbourne centric view of our nation.
As well as democratising the ABC, it should also be federalised.
Whatever the electoral system, it should ensure the equal representation of states and not fail to neglect regional Australia. Each state could be divided into two electorates, one in the capital city agglomeration (e.g. Sydney/Wollongong/Newcastle), the second the rest.
Few would argue that the ABC - with its world view relayed through an extraordinarily vast number of outlets, stretching even into print - is not in desperate need of reform. The ABC, being responsible for the dissemination of information, is unique and should be treated as such.
Those in the government who feel this problem is best left in the too hard basket should recall G.K. Chesterton's observation that "the whole modern world has divided into conservatives and progressives. The business of the progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." This is an opportunity for Tony Abbott to demonstrate that he has the vision, foresight and fundamental strength of character to address a problem which goes to the very fabric of Australian society.
Jai Martinkovits is the author with David Flint of Give Us Back Our Country (Connor Court, 2013). You can follow Jai on Twitter at @jaimartinkovits.
[This article first appeared on www.onlineopinion.com.au and has been republished with full permission]