AN independent supermarket owner has lashed out at comments from Indi candidate Cathy McGowan that the supermarket duopoly helped keep prices affordable for struggling families.
The independent candidate made the statement during a debate on food security at Charles Sturt University on Wednesday night and Wangaratta’s Steve Condon was less than impressed.
As owner of Steve and Linda’s IGA store at Wangaratta, Mr Condon said it was a “slap in the face” for those with independent supermarkets.
“Cathy McGowan is basically saying that she is happy with the enormous power of Woolworths and Coles and their ability to push the little guy out of business,” he said.
Ms McGowan elaborated yesterday, saying each link in the chain of food production had issues — from production and processing, right through to distribution and consumption.
Food affordability, she said, was just one of the concerns that needed to be balanced against retail diversity and ensuring farmers were looked after.
“That cheap food is an option is no bad thing,” she said.
“But the role of a good government is to make sure there is no anti-competitive behaviour and there is a diversity of food outlets.”
Ms McGowan, a rural consultant, believes there is room for farmers to negotiate in the market.
She pointed to the “good deal” struck in the “milk wars” where Murray Goulburn would supply Coles with homebrand milk for 10 years.
But her comments are unlikely to sway Mr Condon, who found her initial statement “incredibly disappointing”.
“I think she will have lost a lot of support over them,” he said.
“I’ve been doing this for 31 years and we’ve always had the staple items at the lowest prices anyway.
“All (the duopoly) has done is reduce the farmgate prices.”
Mr Condon said he had always received support from Indi incumbent Sophie Mirabella, and looked forward to the Coalition’s promised “root to branch” review of the chains’ duopoly if elected.