“The Commerce Commission, through the misguided policy of ‘market studies’ has just spent millions finding what we already knew,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“There is little real competition in the grocery duopoly, suppliers are treated poorly, if not wickedly, and consumers pay higher prices than they would in a more competitive market.
“The basic options are to do nothing, unbundle wholesale and retail in a move similar to the Telecom unbundling of the early 2000s, or address the wider problems of it being too difficult to do business in New Zealand.
“People won’t accept the Government doing nothing, so the likely outcome will be to make some token changes. This is what happened with the last report on fuel prices, which has made no difference to petrol prices whatsoever.
“Unbundling might have been acceptable, at a pinch, given that Telecom was the legacy of a government department, but taking private firms and trouncing their property rights would be unacceptable in a free society that wants people to invest. In the case of fibre, the Government did have to step in and invest.
“The real issue faced by the grocery sector is the one faced by the fuel sector, the agricultural sector, small business, big business, and everyone trying to do business. New Zealand’s range of resource management, employment, health and safety, and foreign investment laws make it too difficult to do business here. Resource management law reforms where the priority is to ‘give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ won’t help.
“If the Government really cared about consumers and competition, it would stop making laws that make it harder to do business in New Zealand. If we want more competition, it must be possible for investment to come into the country, sites to be developed for property, skilled people to come through the border, and new employers to employ people without endless bureaucracy, not to mention the onset of ‘fair pay’ agreements which will make competition even harder with all workers in a sector on the same contract nationwide.
“The only winner out of this report is the Commerce Commission, who successfully persuaded the Labour Government to give them a new line of work in the form of lengthy but low value ‘market studies’.”