Wednesday 24 June 2009
Legislative Council
Estimates Committee B (Singh) - Part 1

Mr FINCH - Thanks.  Fair, safe and equitable marketplace, this phrase has a nice ring about it, but the reality is that some people do not view it as fair and equitable in respect of the supermarket place.  Is there an understanding, or do you think that Tasmanian consumers are getting a fair deal in respect of the structure of our supermarket operations?

Ms SINGH - That is a fairly broad question.  Obviously we have only got two major players in Tasmania when it comes to supermarket operations.  We also have some smaller supermarket providers.  I have not received any complaint or anything about supermarkets.  Are you referring mainly to price, Mr Finch, or service?

Mr FINCH - Just a fair marketplace.  You know, maybe there is seen to be a duopoly in this State and in other places.  In Tasmania, particularly, we have strong domination here by Coles and Woolworths.  IGA is a smaller player.  So you are getting a sense that there is not consumer concern coming through the office?

[12.15 p.m.]
Ms SINGH - Not in the office.  However, I would always like to see more competition when it comes to supermarkets in Tasmania.  You are right; there is fairly much a duopoly in the marketplace in Tasmania.  I would like to see more competition come in.  I know, for example, that Aldi have been setting up in various parts all over the country, but we have not been able to have Aldi come here.  Now, I was interested to meet with Aldi, but I had discussions with the Federal minister for consumer protection at the time, which was Chris Bowen.  Unfortunately, Aldi does not seem to be interested at this point in time in setting up in Tasmania.  Now, I think that is something that consumers would welcome, so perhaps something still needs to be progressed and pursued there as to how we can encourage and hope that those other players do come to Tasmania, like Aldi, because it is only through having competition that we can break down that duopoly that we do have.

Obviously, we have now got the unit pricing, though, within our supermarkets.  You would have noticed that unit pricing expresses prices for a product as a cost per unit of a standard measurement, for example, 100 grams or per litre.  I believe that unit pricing gives shoppers a quicker and clearer picture of value for money, especially when it comes to groceries.  Unit pricing, obviously, has come in in the last year or so.  No, it will start later this year, although I have seen it already in some of the supermarkets.  It is effectively starting later this year, but I think it is already in place.  I welcome the announcement by Chris Bowen in January this year that the Australian Government will establish that unit pricing.  Obviously that is under the Trade Practices Act.  I think more competition in the marketplace when it comes to groceries is only a good thing for Tasmania.