Countdown owner Progressive Enterprises has confirmed it
received $1 million to $2 million from a liquor company, but
denies the payment was one of those Labour MP Shane Jones has
alleged the supermarket chain demanded from its suppliers.
After Mr Jones' claims in Parliament this week, industry
sources have told the Herald payments of up to $2 million
were made to Progressive by liquor suppliers to ensure their
products remained on supermarket shelves.
Progressive's confirmation came yesterday as Prime Minister
John Key gave his backing to a Commerce Commission
investigation into Mr Jones' claims.
Mr Jones picked a fight with one of Australasia's biggest
companies, Woolworths, this week when he alleged in the House
that its subsidiary Progressive Enterprises was using
standover tactics to force retrospective payments from New
Progressive Enterprises managing director Dave Chambers, who
has rejected Mr Jones' allegations, yesterday said his
company had recently negotiated payments of $1 million to $2
million from a local alcohol supplier whom he would not name.
But the payment was "nothing about a retrospective charge ...
it was about a change in the deal".
"There was an agreed change between the two parties to the
way trade was done with an unintended consequence that
valuations as had been intended didn't come about.
"So when that was realised, that was raised between the
parties and then agreed that, okay, that wasn't in keeping
with the deal and so the deal was squared up. I'm very
comfortable with our position on that," he said.
Leading alcohol suppliers yesterday refused to comment.
Earlier, Mr Chambers said Progressive would co-operate fully
with Commerce Commission inquiries.
"If any MP or supplier has questions or concerns about our
business they are welcome to contact us directly to discuss
Mr Jones claims suppliers had told him they had been called
to meetings with the supermarket chain's managers, who
demanded recompense for losses incurred last year.
"And if they don't pay these cheques, they are being told no
shelf space into the future."
Mr Jones set out his allegations in a letter to the Commerce
Commission chairman Mark Berry said it was taking steps "to
ascertain the basis of the allegations and whether the
behaviour is a breach of the Commerce Act".
He urged anyone with information relevant to the allegations
to come forward.
Both Mr Jones and Food and Grocery Council chairman Pierre
van Heerden called for the commission to grant anonymity to
any suppliers who came forward as the commission's Australian
counterpart did when it investigated similar allegations
there last year.
The commission has yet to decide whether to start a formal
investigation but Mr Key yesterday said it would be "a good
Commerce Minister Craig Foss also effectively pressured the
commission to conduct an investigation. He had written "to
bring it to their attention so that I'm kept informed of
their activity in this space".
Mr Jones' letter of complaint to the commission was deemed so
sensitive that Parliament's Clerk of the House took the rare
step of refusing to publicly release it yesterday after it
was tabled in the House due to the risk of defamation from