University of Otago politics lecturer Dr Bryce Edwards
reflects on recent public concerns. Photo by Peter
Recent claims about the activities of some
Australian-owned supermarkets on both sides of the Tasman have
struck a nationalist nerve in New Zealand.
That is the view of University of Otago politics lecturer Dr
On Wednesday, Labour MP Shane Jones used parliamentary
privilege to accuse Progressive Enterprises, which owns
Countdown, of pressure tactics, including seeking
retrospective cash payments from suppliers.
Countdown management have categorically rejected the
allegations, including of taking retrospective payments, but
have said that discussions with suppliers could be robust as
''a great price'' was sought for Kiwi customers.
The matter has been referred to the Commerce Commission.
Dr Edwards said the factual position over the allegations
remained to be clarified, but some New Zealand consumers had
already felt ''outraged'' about suggestions of pressure
And there were also concerns that some Australian
supermarkets were said to be taking some New Zealand goods
off the shelves to show support for a ''Buy Australia''
campaign. Nationalism was expressed in a more low-key way in
New Zealand than in Australia - fewer flags were displayed -
but it remained below the surface, and there was a strong
instinct to support the underdog.
Although there were limited options for consumers, some
supermarket operators could face a ''perfect storm'' of
public reaction, including concern about economics and rising
prices, as well as concerns about ''sovereignty and the
If consumers felt supermarkets were behaving unfairly,
outlets were in a potentially ''very vulnerable'' position,
He also believed the supermarket issues could become an
election issue, and that Labour could later propose more
policy action aimed at countering claimed unfair tactics in
the supermarket sector.