Why a Symposium on Supermarket Power in Australia?
The commercial strategies being pursued by the major supermarket chains relating to acquisitions, private labels, diversification, pricing, supply chain management, advertising and packaging, attract comment and a divergence of opinion amongst the Australian community. The issues raised by such strategies are wide-ranging. They are economic, social, environmental, regulatory and political in nature and have both short-term and long-term implications for consumers, businesses, workers and communities. At the heart of these issues, however, is the notion that the major supermarket chains wield considerable power over the ways in which food is produced, distributed and consumed.
About the Symposium
This Symposium was held on 1st August 2013 at Treasury Theatre in Melbourne. It was a joint initiative of CLEN and Monash University's Centre for Regulatory Studies and was co-convened by Professor Caron Beaton-Wells, the Director of CLEN and Professor Christine Parker, of the Monash Centre.
The Symposium aimed to provide a picture of and facilitate an informed discourse about the power of supermarkets in Australian society. The first half of the Symposium focussed on the market power of the major supermarket chains, the implications for competition and consumer welfare and recent proposals for reform, drawing on related developments (a code of conduct governing retailier-supplier relations, in particular) in the United Kingdom. The second half of the Symposium focussed on the role of supermarkets as social and political actors in communities. The discussion focussed on the role and effectiveness of government in regulating supermarket behaviour and posed the question as to whether there is emerging in Australia a content between the State, the major supermarket chains and civil society for regulatory power over the food supply chain.
The Symposium sought to provide an open forum and promote a balanced and rigorous discussion, capturing a wide range of perspectives on the issues raised for debate. Speakers were assembled from industry, academia, the legal profession and government. They Symposium was attended by 260 delegates (the maximum the venue could accomodate), representing a wide and diverse range of stakeholders and interested parties.
Click to view the Supermarket Symposium programme and the Supermarket Symposium Media Release. The Symposium was covered extensively by the TV, radio and print media. The ABC Radio National Law Report's coverage of the Symposium, including interviews with several speakers is accessible here. To view the set of papers distributed to the delegates on the day click here.