Organised by Melbourne Law School, hosted by State Library of Victoria
Friday 27 October 2017
|9:00am||Registration and coffee|
Welcome and introductions
Panel 1: Competition
The debate relating to the competitiveness of grocery markets over the last decade has been an evolving one and at times has been highly charged, with a wide divergence and contest of views regarding the extent to which these markets are working as they should, to what ends, in what time frame, and in whose interests. There have been substantial concerns associated with retail concentration and market contestability; however, competition amongst retailers has intensified significantly in recent years and many predict further intensification, with some predicting disruptions to product offers, store locations and delivery methods with the entry of competitors such as AmazonFresh. At the same time, overtaking these concerns to some extent, there have been supply chain issues – vertical reverberations associated with the buyer power of the major chains and consolidation of intermediaries. This panel will trace and reflect on major developments over the past ten years and look ahead to forecast the future trajectory and nature of competition across the sector. It will highlight key trends and the forces that have shaped and will be likely to influence them in coming years, including the role played by our competition and consumer laws and by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in their enforcement.
Moderator: Professor Christopher Arup
Panel 2: Fair Trading
Competing for public attention with the debate about competition in the grocery sector has been a separate but related debate in recent years about whether trading in the sector is fair. To a significant extent, the focus has been relations between the major supermarket chains and their direct suppliers, with particular concern regarding imbalances in bargaining power. However much of the political discourse has also been preoccupied with the plight of primary producers and the implications of retail concentration for farmgate prices. In response to these various concerns, we have seen multiple inquiries, a raft of regulatory initiatives and heightened enforcement and other activity by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This panel will focus on the emergence of and role played by codes of conduct in this mix – the Horticulture Code of Conduct and the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, in particular. It will explore the economic, social and political ‘problems’ to which these instruments responded and will analyse their effectiveness in addressing those problems and incorporate insights from experience in the European Union and the United Kingdom in grappling with the challenges posed by unfair trading in grocery markets.
Moderator: Professor David Merrett
Panel 2: Fair Trading (continued)
Panel 3: Consumers as Citizens
The overarching objective of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 is the enhancement of the welfare of Australians. However, in practice, the primary focus is on consumers and consumers are intended to benefit from the well-functioning markets that competition, fair trading and consumer protection, in combination, produce. This panel will take consumers as its focus; however Australians are not just consumers and the public benefits that the law is or should be seeking ultimately to serve are broader and more multi-faceted than the concept of consumer welfare, as defined through the neo-liberal lens of economic efficiency. The discussion will provide a range of perspectives on the notion of public benefit and the regulation that is designed to achieve it in the context of the grocery sector – in particular, perspectives on public health, animal welfare, social amenity, town planning, environmental sustainability and cultural inclusiveness. It will promote critical reflection on the extent to which various regulatory schemes governing the sector, including but not confined to competition and consumer laws, are sensitive to and serve this wider set of interests important to Australian citizens, and will draw attention to proposals and initiatives by which such schemes might be strengthened or supplemented to this end.
Moderator: Associate Professor Jane Dixon, Australian National University
Wrap up and close