Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Point of Order: Clark has a new Bill to back up his threats to supermarkets

Who will blink first – Russian oligarchs or Kiwi duopolists?

We ask because our government has further tightened the thumbscrews on both.

It has introduced a bill to crimp the powers of the supermarkets in this country and it has imposed further sanctions to express this country’s disapproval of Russian and Belarusian military action in Ukraine.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark said the supermarket duopoly has been given plenty of warning.

“If they fail to adequately open up their wholesale market voluntarily, government will make it happen,” he said.

If Putin fails to pull out of Ukraine voluntarily, it is unlikely the Ardern government can pass a bill to make it happen.

But we are giving Putin plenty to think about by extending our sanctions to his daughters, Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova and Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova; the wife and children of Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov (already sanctioned); the Governor of the Central Bank Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina; and the wife and son of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (already sanctioned).

The sanctions involve travel bans; prohibitions on dealing with assets or services, shares or securities; and prohibitions on vessels, such as superyachts or aircraft entering this country. And the government continues to remind New Zealanders there is a ‘do not travel’ advisory in place for Russia and Ukraine

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand so far has imposed sanctions on more than 1,200 individuals and entities and put in place “unprecedented trade measures” which have resulted in a significant decline in two-way trade with Russia.

The latest round of sanctions was posted on the Beehive website under the headline –

The press statement kicks off:

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced further sanctions on members of the inner circles of governments in Russia and Belarus, as part of the ongoing response to the war in Ukraine.

Mahuta recalls that New Zealand first moved against the powerful and wealthy in Russia with sanctions on political and economic elites in March of this year, followed by further sanctions in May and September.

“Further sanctions now target 22 members of the elite who lend support to the illegal invasion of Ukraine and who have been rewarded for their loyalty with wealth and influence. Russia relies on the ongoing support of those in positions of power and influence as it continues its illegal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.” Nanaia Mahuta said.

The latest sanction targets include four entities of economic or strategic relevance to Russia in the oil and gas, steel and transport sectors, as well as radar and electronic equipment systems.

“Today’s sanctions continue to demonstrate our clear condemnation of the threats to the sovereignty of Ukraine, and the human toll of this illegal war,” says Nanaia Mahuta.

“As members of the political and economic elite these individuals enable Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. We continue to take action against those whose support facilitates the conflict, to bring pressure on Putin and other leaders driving this war.”

More information about sanctions, travel bans, and export controls against Russia and Belarus, as well as diplomatic, military and economic support to Ukraine, can be found on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website here.

While Mahuta was engaged in the new sanctions, her ministerial colleagues were –

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark announced that a Bill ready for its first reading in Parliament aims “to trigger an unprecedented shake-up of the grocery sector and deliver New Zealanders a fairer deal at the checkout and help tackle cost of living pressures…”

He recalled the Commerce Commission finding New Zealand supermarkets earn $1 million a day in excess profits because of a lack of competition and he declared the government’s intention to do something about it:

“As the global cost of living crisis continues to put pressure on families, this Bill is one way Government can tackle the root causes.”

Besides running their retail stores, supermarkets have wholesale operations and Clark is flexing his muscle:

“Earlier this year, I called on the duopoly to lock in good-faith wholesale arrangements on their own terms or risk facing regulatory intervention.

“Our plan will give a leg up to the likes of smaller retailers and new market entrants. It also means other retailers will be able to source and sell a wider range of groceries at better prices.

“If the duopoly fails to reach commercial deals, or those deals are not what we would expect in a competitive wholesale market, the Grocery Commissioner will be able to impose additional regulation and require the major retailers to provide wholesale supply on certain terms, including price and range.”

Getting to the nitty-gritty of what he can or will do, Clark said the Grocery Industry Competition Bill will legally establish a Grocery Commissioner at the Commerce Commission, to referee the sector.

The Commission will play a key role in administering the Bill once it is passed and will have access to a hefty range of enforcement and monitoring tools.

The Grocery Commissioner’s sole focus will be to keep a close eye on how the Government’s reforms are being implemented.

The Bill will also enable collective bargaining and implement a Grocery Supply Code to protect suppliers from unfair contract terms.

“This will be especially important for the small local and artisan brands vying for shelf space,” Clark said.

The legislation includes a dispute resolution scheme for suppliers and wholesale customers of the duopoly

The Grocery Industry Competition Bill was to be introduced under urgency and would be open to feedback for four months through the Select Committee process, with a view for it being in effect in mid-2023.

Sport Minister Grant Robertson announced that a public event and celebration will be held on Parliament’s lawn on December 13 to celebrate our Rugby World Cup winning Black Ferns.

The Government will partner with Wellington City Council and NZ Rugby to host the event at Parliament.

Disability Issues Minister Poto Williams welcomed the release of the latest edition of the New Zealand Autism Guideline.

The Guideline provides an opportunity to better understand and communicate best practices for supporting autistic people and their families and whānau and provides a framework for improving services, based on robust and reliable information, she said.

Associate Immigration Minister Phil Twyford addressed this “hui”, but his speech notes do not enlighten us about the exact nature and/or purpose of the occasion.

He spoke about refugee policy and about New Zealands role as “a global citizen”.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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