Project Method

In order to investigate the goals of Australian competition law and how they have influenced the approach taken to regulating competition in the retail grocery sector, the project involves critical analysis of legal sources, including parliamentary records, review submissions and reports, ACCC reports and policy documents, statutory provisions and extrinsic materials, seminal decisions of the competition Tribunal and courts, academic literature analysing legal developments, and popular commentary relating to Australian competition law.

It also involves review of scholarly works on Australia's economic and political history to ensure that the theoretical and legal analysis is informed by a thorough understanding of the broader institutional contexts in which the law has developed.

In order to understand the historical development of Australia's major supermarket chains and the role they have played in shaping the sector, the project involves extensive archival review of public company documents, including annual reports, financial statements and media material and of various trade directories, as well as a review of the considerable body of secondary literature that relates to the historical development of grocery retailing in this country.

The research also involves analysis of a range of primary documentary sources relevant to the case studies concerning supermarket site strategies and suppler relations; including submissions to and reports from public inquiries in Australia, the UK and the EU (enabling comparison of the approaches taken or proposed in these jurisdictions).

In addition, the research involves interviews with representatives from a wide range of stakeholders relevant to the research. In particular from:

  • Major supermarket chains and other grocery retailers
  • Wholesalers
  • Large and small suppliers
  • Supplier groups
  • The ACCC
  • Industry associations representing retailers and suppliers, farmers' federations and fruit and vegetable growers associations
  • Code of conduct committees
  • Politicians who have played a lead role in the supermarket debate
  • Local government agencies and shopping centre councils and developers
  • Planning courts and tribunals
  • Consumer groups
  • Small business associations
  • Community groups

These interviews allow the researchers to explore how a range of actors perceive the regulatory goals and process and their views on the issues raised by the case studies particularly, including their perspectives on the relative effectiveness of existing and proposed regulatory instruments.

The researchers have conducted interviews with policymakers, regulators and leading commentators in the UK (e.g. from the Competition and Markets Authority, the former Office of Fair Trading and Competition Commission, and the Grocery Code Adjudicator, Christine Tacon) and Brussels (e.g. from the European Commission) to understand how the issues relating to supermarket regulation are being approached in those jurisdictions.

A list of individuals who have been interviewed for the project to date is available here.