Pic source: mla.com.au
“The announcement today by the ACCC in relation to February’s Barnawartha boycott by meat buyers at the livestock exchange is highly disappointing,” Nationals Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie said.
“Whilst the ACCC was unable to find the evidence it needed to prove that there was a collective boycott, I am proud that the senate inquiry has shone a light on what remains a live concern and will be pursuing this matter further.”
Senator McKenzie said although disappointed with the ACCC’s findings, she welcomed its move to create a new unit to focus on the red meat sector.
“The ACCC is sufficiently unsettled about the boycott allegations and its findings, that it saw fit to create the new unit and provided it the information collected from the Barnawartha saga. In 2016, this newly created Agricultural Enforcement and Engagement Unit will be looking into red meat industry practices that may have competition or fair trading questions to answer,” she said.
The ACCC also noted that there was a fine line between ‘social discussions’ and ‘exchanging information’ between competitors. Evidence of a breach required the finding of competitors’ “necessary commitment” to a line such as “if you won’t go, then I won’t go either”.
“Whilst there is a legal difference between that and processors saying “we don’t like post-sale weighing, so we’re not going”, the layperson sees little difference – the end result is the same,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The sale is boycotted by all usual attendees and farmers are left in a terrible position. The farmers know this, the stock agents know this and the community knows this.
“Even though the ACCC investigation did not find a traceable agreement of collusion to satisfy itself that a breach occurred, it has rightly said that its investigation reinforced concerns about the dynamics of the red meat sector as a whole.
“It is heartening to know that the ACCC, alongside myself, will be keeping a sharp eye out on the industry into the near future. We know that there is a serious anti-competitive element within it and our strong advocacy for producers is warranted. There will be no room for a repeat of the Barnawartha event.
“Obviously, this initial problem highlighted the need for a senate inquiry to examine problems within the red meat industry more broadly. As the inquiry is still on foot, Mr Simms and all nine meat processors will be called back to appear before the Senate Inquiry in the new year to give further evidence.”