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A toothless chihuahua? : the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, neoliberalism and supermarket power in Australia

By Carol Richards, Geoffrey Lawrence, Mark Loong and David Burch


During the Senate Inquiry into 'milk price wars' in 2011, Senator Nick Xenophon accused the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) of being 'less effective than a toothless Chihuahua'. This follows the ACCC's lack of action regarding the reported abuse of market power of Australia's supermarket duopoly, where an extensive inquiry into the competitiveness of retail prices in 2008 found grocery retailing to be 'workably competitive' despite numerous claims to the contrary. How can farmers' submissions to the inquiry that cite market abuse be reconciled with the ACCC's finding that all is well in the food supply chain? Following an in-depth examination of 53 farmer submissions to the inquiry, we conclude that the findings of the ACCC are commensurate with the neoliberal economisation of the political sphere, where commercial entities 'legitimately' govern beyond their corporate boundaries, often using disciplinary measures that were once exclusive to governments. We argue that such clear structural inequalities between farmers and major corporations is reason to re-regulate markets and reinsert a stronger role for government to 'level the playing field'

Topics: Supermarkets, Farmers, ACCC, Neoliberalism, Economisation
Publisher: EContent Management Pty Ltd
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.5172/rsj.2012.21.3.250
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:68200

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