Federal Government working with states on grocery reform

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 17th November 2009

The Federal Government is moving with states and territories to ensure planning laws do not “unjustifiably restrict competition in grocery retailing”, Competition Minister Dr Craig Emerson has advised.

A NSW government review of anti-competitive features of its planning and zoning laws is underway and the Federal Government is looking to work with the state government on a range of measures.

In its grocery inquiry report, the ACCC found that planning and zoning legislation restricts competition in the supply and use of retail space. This finding was backed up by the Productivity Commission in its report on The Market for Retail Tenancy Leases in Australia.

“Competition in groceries is good for consumers, and more competition is better,” Dr Emerson noted.

The Federal Government’s policy paper released in September, ‘Introducing more competition and empowering consumers in grocery retailing’, noted that planning laws can particularly be a problem for independent supermarkets, with most states and territories adopting centres policies which concentrate retail activities in one location and with shopping centre owners having a strong preference to lease space to the largest retailers.

“Anti-competitive planning and zoning laws are at their most blatant where they allow incumbent businesses to object to applications so as to prevent or delay entry by rivals which may affect their commercial interests,” Dr Emerson advised.

Ensuring that planning laws do not unjustifiably restrict competition will open up land for competitors to Coles and Woolworths such as Aldi, Franklins, Foodworks and IGA stores, he contended.

The Government has referred the issue to COAG and has been working with the states and territories on a report which will be presented to COAG at its meeting in December.