Broken Promises

All the papers today are running with the story about the Rudd government breaking an election promise with the scrapping of the Grocery Watch scheme.

SMH says:

THE Rudd Government has buckled under pressure from the big supermarkets and abandoned its $13 million election promise to force grocery prices down.

The Australian says:

THE Rudd government has dumped the centrepiece of its election promise to keep down grocery prices, axing its controversial Grocery Choice website less than a week before its scheduled relaunch.

I know that some blogocrats have been discussing this in recent posts, but I think that most will realise that (rightly or wrongly) the government tried to do something. Even if GorceryWatch (like FuelWatch) have failed – the government can still say that it tried. And so I wonder if this memo of broken promise will gain traction.


102 Responses

  1. I might as well stick with my habit of quoting Milton Friedman. This one seems apt:

    One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

  2. What i find disappointing is that you people are soooo forgiving of the ALP. If this had been a John Howard program you would not be saying that at least they had a go. It would be, lying rodent, waste of space, get rid of them etc etc etc.

    I am actually glad that Howard lost the last election. It got to the point where Howard could not brush his teeth without some immoral leftoid saying he was doing something wrong.

    Rudd is a fraud. And he was voted in by fraudulent people.

  3. And so I wonder if this memo of broken promise will gain traction.

    I don’t think so. Less because of Tony’s contention that the policy should be judged on results rather than intention (though this is something that could be debated); and more because it wasn’t something people were waiting with baited breath to see implemented.

    How many people do you think were sitting around on weekend thinking about &/or discussing when the government was going to get their “Grocery Watch” website up? How many of them do you think would have made use of it had it been implemented?

    I do believe it to be a broken promise (as they could have introduced legislation to get the information they needed), but in terms of importance it rates pretty low.

    As we can see with the Turnbull implosion, having someone repeat something over & over does not guarantee that it will be carried by the populace. People need to both care about it and not have something more important on their mind. An unimplemented website is not really high on the list of most people’s minds.

  4. And he was voted in by fraudulent people.

    *laugh* That’s right. There has been an AFP leak that people voting for Labor were ‘concocted’ somewhere in the Treasury and have been found deleted from Grech’s home computer 😛

  5. Also the media are quite conveniently forgetting to mention the major supermarket chains hand in this failure. The chains refused to make prices and price movements available in a timely manner, which was the only way the website would succeed. Short of bringing in legislation to force the chains to do this, legislation that most likely would be voted down by the opposition, there was little the government could do to make it work anymore.

    Anyway the concept will become redundant as the major supermarkets will eventually have to follow Aldi’s move and have national pricing on all items along with unit pricing . It will only be a matter of time that the others will have to follow.

  6. B.Tolputt,

    How many people do you think were sitting around on weekend thinking about &/or discussing when the government was going to get their “Grocery Watch” website up? How many of them do you think would have made use of it had it been implemented?

    Are you aware the website has been up and running since last year? It’s just that it provided information that was completely useless to consumers wanting to know where to buy the cheapest groceries – something some of us went to great pains to point out back in the Blogocracy days – right from the day it was implemented.

  7. With the website I think it is a case of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). Much like my brain at times.

  8. I noted that this morning..Coles at Banora Point..that about 1/20th of items now have the per gram price on the ticket…just make sure that your bring along your magnifying glass. However, it did make interesting reading, that one item with SPECIAL written large was indeed more expensive per gram than the not on special item.

  9. Lets hear some advice from the great man himself.

  10. Actually, I think that proves my point, Tony. If this site has been around for ages without usable information – where was the uproar? Simply put, the people that will get their toilet paper at one store, their shampoo at another, and their milk & bread at another already have practices in place for this (scouring the catalogues).

    I’ve already stated I think this is a broken promise, I just never thought it was going to amount to much in the first place. Even were it successful – I’ve been doing the fortnightly grocery shop at Aldi’s for over a year now… getting the milk & bread from Franklins. Coles & Woolies are not the places to go if you’re trying to save every cent in the first place!

    And in case it looks like I’m trying to avoid the question – no, I did not know the site was up. I know a few people that are more miserly than me and never heard of them using the site or complaining about it’s lack of content. The promise itself is pretty much a non-issue.

  11. This never ceases to amaze me!

  12. @Neil:
    Oh dear, I must’ve missed that one in the election leadup… That’s got to be the worst, most stilted advertisement in an election season I’ve ever seen!

  13. But to be fair, we all have some oddity and MT was a compulsive bed wetter…I wonder if he ever grew out of it?

  14. Full of it, as usual, are the spruikers of lumpenmass deception and misdirection. The important bit of the story for effective purposes…

    Federal Labor also committed to establishing an ACCC review into grocery prices. The ACCC released the report of this inquiry in July 2008.

    “The government is currently in the process of implementing the recommendations of that review. The government has also significantly boosted the powers of the ACCC.”

    But, no, that’s the technical stuff. Better to whip up the screech-monkeys into a frenzy about the lesser thing while overlooking the exceptionally weak performance of the ACCC over the last few years. Bring back Fels, or someone like him who is interested in ‘competition’ and ‘fairness’; and get rid of Samuel, who behaves like an industry stooge, imho. Who needs an ACCC which just ticks and flicks through the increasing concentrations of power, through horizontal and vertical integration of just about everything in the wholesale-retail chain, to give Australia one of the least competitive ‘supermarket’ industries in the world?

  15. If the average shopper needs a “Grocery Watch” website, and Wayne Swan’s advice in order to do the shopping, they must consider the average shopper pretty useless.
    On the other hand I recall some old pensioner complaining to Bob Hawke years ago about how food had gotten so expensive he was reduced to eating tinned dog food. As it turned out the tinned dog food he was buying was nearly double the price of similar tinned food produced for human consumption.
    I’m not sure that Aldi is doing much to keep prices down either. There is one Aldi in each of the two locations we normally shop and rarely see more than one checkout operating. Even these days, quality seems to be more important than price for most people, and Aldi’s prices are generally in line with the quality offered. Their fresh meat in particular is generally pretty tough.

  16. Legion, on June 27th, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    That’s applying the correct amount of force and momentum to the flattened boss at the opposite end to the point!

  17. Legion, on June 27th, 2009 at 2:34 pm Said:

    get rid of Samuel, who behaves like an industry stooge,

    Look at his background and wonder why

    He was formerly a partner of Melbourne law firm Phillips Fox & Masel and an executive director of Macquarie Bank and is a former President of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    Best described as an employers’ representative. Some may recall that Costello had to heavy a number of States in order to get him appointed.

  18. @johnd:
    Well, we get most our meat from a local butcher… the mince & sausages from Aldis are decent though.

    That said, you do need to know what is worth getting at Aldis and what is worth getting elsewhere. However, you would need to know that with or without the Grocery Watch website.

    There are areas where Aldi’s national pricing make it a no-brainer (due to the local Coles/Woolies jacking up their prices to fleece the wealthier locals). This is where I think Coles & Woolies will feel the pressure.

  19. B.Tolputt, on June 27th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    What I’ve seen of different pricing in Coles/Woolies it seems to be mainly the fresh produce, and there does seem to be a difference in quality, with better quality items obviously in the more affluent areas.
    Nothing wrong with that in my opinion, each store manager should be aware of who his customers are, and what their preferences are.

  20. Ben, I just remembered, the wife told me last night that mince at Aldi was OK, Didn’t mention the sausages though, she has a favourite butcher for them.

  21. The sausages are good, but better at the local butchers. The difference being that they are MUCH better than the Coles/Woolies equivalents for the same price.

    Whether we use the butcher snags or the Aldis ones depends on if we’re entertaining or simply putting together a quick dinner.

  22. Incidental thought. For GroceryChoice to work, current data is required and that data needs to be verified (it would be very easy to skew the markets without such ongoing verification 😉 ). It has been suggested that Government could just legislate for that data transaction to occur; I’m not sure that is so, as it is commercial-proprietary information.

  23. It’s not commercially proprietary because it is available to the public – just hard to get.

    Iused to work a shelf-packing job in Coles and seen the Woolies lady come in on a weekly basis to write down the specials in her notebook. There is nothing illegal, immoral, or proprietary about what she is doing – the only thing is she must do it manually.

    The government could legislate that this informaiton be given to them no more than 24hrs post the price change and I can guarantee that what would be done is a simple report printed out (or uploaded electronically) from the supermarket computer system. The reason the supermarkets don’t wish to do this is because they like people not knowing the competition across town has their cans f baked beans 10c cheaper!

    Remember, markets work only when the consumer / investor has open information on what they can purchase / invest in. The “robber barons” (as TB likes to call them) keep the openness as limited as possible for their own benefit – not ours.

  24. B.Tolputt, on June 27th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    You don’t see any legal issues that the Big-Two might raise in their being expected to hand over the fruits of their compilation in the form in which you are suggesting they do so? I can see how it’s possible that select published information be available to general members of the public as invitees to a store and in that context; but not the database itself, or the entire body or output of that database, which is behind the publication of select parts of it by its owner and which isn’t published per se.

  25. I don’t see the legal problem in the big two handing over their price-lists (which are published, all over the store). I can see the copyright angle that you are getting at there (i.e. the use of the words “compilation” & “publish”) but I don’t think that would fly…

    Provided the law wasn’t specific to Coles & Woolies only (i.e. the government could request it from any supermarket chain) – there wouldn’t be a reasonable legal issue they could pin a challenge on. The government has the right to make laws in order to regulate trade – this would fall under that purview.

  26. Just a thought, but one thing that I would like to see is that supermarkets provide Pensioner Discounts (as per hairdressers), the reason being that the elderly do not want 6 steaks and 10 lamb chops and so are penalised via higher prices by having to buy smaller quantities. It would be an act of goodwill. This shouldn’t be too difficult for the supermarkets…if they can swipe a FlyBuy card then they can swipe a pensioner discount card.

  27. B.Tolputt, on June 27th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I’m mostly just exploring the ‘it’s not worth the trouble’ protocol apparently adopted by Government and/or Choice in relation to the Big-Two; I think it’s probably a lot more complicated than Federal Parliament just passing a law (given the possibility of impacting and/or attaching to a range of laws – legislative and common – already operative); and I’m sure that without willing compliance there could be years of fun and expense in the extraction of that compliance, even with a purposive-coercive law by Parliament, and assuming such legislation received the Senate’s imprimatur.

  28. For what it’s worth,

    I’m opposed in principle to any regulation intended to influence prices, believing instead that if government has a role at all it is to promote market conditions favourable to increased competition.

  29. I am actually glad that Howard lost the last election. It got to the point where Howard could not brush his teeth without some immoral leftoid saying he was doing something wrong.

    Rudd is a fraud. And he was voted in by fraudulent people.

    Gee tony, you must have missed this fact free zone 🙂

    Why and how are leftoids immoral neil?
    And how are people who had their names ticked on the electoral roll – fraudulent?
    Why is Rudd a fraud – do you have evidence of that?

    Even if Aldi has only one checkout open, they manage to get through the items pretty quickly. When there are a lot of customers they do open another checkout. I have noticed at my local Woolies the setting up of the ‘scan, pack & pay yourself’ system of checkouts. I do have a real problem with that because obviously they are going to employ less staff, the store prices have not reduced even though they have the customer doing all the work themselves. At least with Aldi you know the prices are cheaper because you have to load and pack yourself, but Woolies will get the customer to do everything, keep an even bigger profit for themselves and likely reduce their staffing.

  30. Kittylitter,

    Gee tony, you must have missed this fact free zone

    No Kitty, I didn’t miss it, but I’ll leave criticism of Neil’s pearls of wisdom to his ‘leftoid’ ‘fan’ base. 😉

  31. I agree Tony, plus I cannot see how a government can be an enforcer. Almost all pressure on businesses to lower their prices is via competition and/or public pressure. Aldi is providing some competition but not enough obviously to be a real concern. But imagine if say Coles decided to provide pensioner discounts (just an idea) then pensioners would shop at Coles and put pressure on Woolies to come up with an equivalent idea. But this won’t happen because the big 2 want things to stay just-the-way-they-are.

  32. I’m sure that without willing compliance there could be years of fun and expense in the extraction of that compliance

    I think you hit the nail on the head right there. Look at all the trouble the government has enforcing the legal requirements Telstra is under. There is the feeling that Coles/Woolies would simply drag their heels as much & as often as possible in much the same way Telstra does – regardless of the legal requirements. As with Telstra, there would simply be more profit lost following the letter of the law than paying the lawyers & court costs involved in continually disregarding & challenging the government. Unlike Telstra, there is not going to be a big whip a future government can pull out like the NBN; so there would be no impetus to ever cooperate.

    I’m opposed in principle to any regulation intended to influence prices, believing instead that if government has a role at all it is to promote market conditions favourable to increased competition.

    Well, ignoring the fact that nigh on every new piece of legislation affecting trade will influence prices, the GroceryWatch initiative is all about promoting increased competition. As I mentioned earlier, market forces work unhindered when there is a free flow of information. When the customer / investor is deprived of information (such as a comparison of prices across stores), the market can be (and in this case, is) tilted in favour of the incumbents.

  33. Grocery Watch was always going to be too complicated..there are hundreds of items to ‘watch’. This compares with say fuel where there is only one item to watch.

  34. the GroceryWatch initiative is all about promoting increased competition.

    It’s purported purpose was to empower consumers by providing pricing information, and it was useless at that. If anything, it gave succour to the ‘big two’, seeing as their prices for a given basket of goods were usually cheaper than the independents.

  35. Perhaps with the ETS delayed, or possibly even tossed out, the government now feels that they don’t have to be so concerned about higher food costs.

  36. Tony, on June 27th, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    That sounds fair (assuming that there is a competitive marketplace and there is nothing important involved to which all people should have access, say food, given the notion of multiple-equilibria and price-points, some capable of sustaining more monetary profits than others despite the social implications). Rationality is a core principle of efficient market operations. Information is a core component of rationality and effective competition. Competition is a core principle of competition. An effective duopoly in the retail grocery marketplace would prefer that a collateral marketplace for information about pricing was not provided with timely or complete information. This is good….for whom, or for which competitive marketplace?

  37. Min, allowing pensioners a ‘discount’ would ensure many pensioners a better future because they could (and many would) become ‘buying agents’ for their ‘family’, their ‘street’ or even their neighbourhood.

    Simply would not and should not happen.

    Grocery Watch was an extrapolation of a ‘price watch’ service Swan ran in the electorate of Lilley which was somewhat popular – much to the hatred of the stores that ran ‘last’. It depended on lots of volunteers.

    But if the powers that be didn’t want it (and they didn’t) the government chose to conserve its political capital.

  38. Tony, on June 27th, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    If I was having a guess, it wasn’t so much ‘the independents’ that the big-two were pre-emptively combatting in resisting the future success of GroceryChoice by ensuring that the initiative was still-born; it’s the opening up of the Australian market to foreign chain stores which might be able to exert sufficient economies of scale and buying power to achieve competitive prices in otherwise staked-out and captive territories in the medium-term…for all the world to see.

  39. That’s a wonderful effort by Vinnies Johnd, but unfortunately a good part of the reason for lower prices might be because of the shop being manned by volunteers.

    Agreed Tony. In some country towns there is some competition such as small grocery stores being able to buy locally grown seasonal veg and fruit..but mostly they cannot complete with say loo paper. Anyone for a bag of passionfruit for $2.00?

  40.’re probably right N5. Gangs of pensioners being employed to buy discount bananas 😉

  41. Well then, what about a pensioner coupon system?

  42. it’s the opening up of the Australian market to foreign chain stores

    That’s where I see a government role: in ensuring no protectionist-type barriers-to-entry exist, and in streamlining procedural red-tape. Other than that, if there’s a market for more players in grocery retailing, and the government has ‘built’ the conditions, ‘they will come’.

  43. Some more tips to help us save the environment

  44. what about a pensioner coupon system?

    All ‘systems’ require administration and therefore they incur a significant cost. Probably the best solution to assist pensioners is to provide sufficient funds and let them operate as they will.

    it’s the opening up of the Australian market to foreign chain stores

    The opening of an Aldi store (from Germany) in any location has a significant, positive effect on prices in that location. For many people that truth became apparent with the first initial of the Grocerywatch comparison.

    There is nothing amiss with the ‘theory’ of ‘perfect information’ to ensure a good competitive market but the provision of that information becomes problematic.

    Coles and Woolworths wipe their collective brow. Whew. That was close.

  45. Food is the essential commodity to maintain life.

    The socialist in me says “it is government responsibility to ensure that all citizens are nourished.”

    The conservative in me says “let market forces determine the pricing.”

    And the environmentalist in me says “grow your own!”

  46. More on Coles and Woolies killing off GC and the government caving into them.

    Grocery Choice project in tatters

    Coles and Woolies would not cooperate with Choice, thus making the scheme unworkable. Aldi and Foodworks were cooperating.

  47. Coles and Woolies would not cooperate with Choice, thus making the scheme unworkable.

    Indeed. Perhaps it is not a ‘loss’ for Government but a ‘loss’ for the citizens and a ‘win’ for … .

    What is almost universally true is that the rich and powerful always get the ‘poor and the powerless’ to do their fighting for them – and it matters not whether those contests are military or economic.

    Personally, I blame the ‘education system’ and those who demand a focus on the ‘basics’ while the bigger picture of ‘exploitation’ etc and what one might do about same flies completely above or below the social radar. And so it goes.

  48. What I’ve seen of different pricing in Coles/Woolies it seems to be mainly the fresh produce, and there does seem to be a difference in quality, with better quality items obviously in the more affluent areas.

    Not true! Fresh produce, that is fruit and veg, is purchased by Coles/Woolies in enormous lots while the prices are cheap both local and imported. Then it is stored in huge cold storage warehouses pumped with CO2 to displace O2 as a preservation method – microorganisms have great difficulty surviving let alone multiplying in an anoxic environment. One of these huge warehouses services x number of stores over a particular area. This how the big two operate.

    Now you know the reason that spuds have a 2-3 day use by date and that beans and celery don’t snap anymore, and produce is ready for the bin within a day or two of purchase, especially from the fresh food people.

    This was explained to me by a cousin who works in one of Woolies cold storage warehouses. From here to store display is up to 12 months after harvest. The average age of the produce at point of purchase is around 9 months.

    I do not buy from meat, fruit or vegies from supermarkets – very food unsafe.

  49. RN, on June 27th, 2009 at 11:56 pm Said:

    Given you don’t buy meat, fruit or vegies from supermarkets, then you haven’t noticed the difference between produce at different location. Sure, there are items that are common, but they are the run of the mill items. There are different grades of quality in all fresh produce and the price reflects the quality. In fruit particularly there are different varieties and a great difference in price, plus seasonal availability. Early, or out of season fruit commands a premium price and obviously appeals to those in more affluent areas. Top quality meat is the same, new seasons lamb for example, grain fed beef, organically grown food, these all cost more and sell better in more affluent areas.

  50. That is only partly true John.

    The big supermarkets insist on goods being of a certain size, shape and form, meaning tons of perfectly good produce is ditched each year. Saw a great BBC doco on this when I was living in the UK, showing how French and Spanish supermarkets didn’t insist on this aim towards perfection so marked and deformed produce, but still very edible, was on sale whilst in the UK they were not, and UK consumers had to pay a price premium for that supermarket imposed goal of perfection, as did the primary producers, who are not paid any extra to throw away good produce.

    As much as they are sensationalist, one of the things our commercial current affairs shows have done well and regularly is supermarket price comparisons of the same items across suburbs and states. It is surprising how much the price varies for exactly the same item delivered from the same distribution centre can be purely on where your supermarket is and the competition in the area. And at times distance to distribution appears to play no part in that pricing.

    Before I moved to Nowra where I lived a single Coles supermarket dominated with just one small Franklins as competition. Not knowing any different I shopped at Coles (and in between jobs was once a Coles store man for 18 months, the stories I could tell on waste…), then an Aldi opened right next to Coles and overnight the Coles prices plummeted and have been low ever since.

    If people had a way of comparing the pre-Aldi opening Coles prices to other Coles stores, or to an average, then I think many in the town would have been bitterly complaining a lot earlier at how they were being ripped off.

  51. Adrian, one thing that I have noticed in last few years and could indeed relate to what you say is some items have almost completely disappeared from the supermarket shelves. The things that come to mind are different varieties of beans eg butter beans, banana varieties..anyone else remember crab apples?

  52. joni,

    One thing in your post – I think it is a bit harsh to say that FuelWatch was a Government Failure. The scheme was voted down by the Libs and X and F in the Senate. The WA State Liberal Government remain committed to the scheme over there.

  53. Re Grocery watch, unless you are incredibly tight, I doubt many people would sit at a computer and work out where each of their shopping items is the cheapest. Most people probably quickly scan the catalogues and base their shopping on one or two items and run the gauntlet with the rest. Unit pricing is going to be (and already is in my local Woolies) much more effective for people to lower their shopping bills by choosing between brands.

    As for veg and meat quality, it is very store dependant. Our local wollies is actually pretty good for meat because they have on site butchers which also serve other Woolies Butchers in the locality. Woolworths have always had very good livestock buyers and if you can get the meat from a Woolies that butchers it themselves it is generally OK. I always compare the meat at the butchers to the meat at Woolies before buying but usually end up going with Woolies because the products (provided you are selective and KNOW what you are looking for are similar and price much better (and I have been a meat judge so I’m not talking out of my arse here). Some coles are OK but my local ones aren’t – I never get my meat from the local Coles. The sausages from Woolies and Coles are shit – end of story. Always get snags from butchers..

  54. The sausages from Woolies and Coles are shit – end of story

    And you were complaining about my Joe Hockey post!!

  55. Not that I disagree with you regarding the quality of of sausages from Woolies and Coles they are shit.

    But if you really want ‘disgusting’ try their rissoles…!!

  56. reb, I wasn’t complaining … I love a good vent.

  57. …try their rissoles…

    Actually, I meant that rhetorically. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try their rissoles. Heck I wouldn’t even feed them to the dog, or my worst enemy.

    But then, If Neil of Sydney came ’round for breakfast…who knows…?

  58. I know Dave, just havin’ a laff!

  59. reb,

    try their rissoles


    [shudder again]

  60. :mrgreen:

    I though for a moment I’d left an emoticon off my post over at your joint …

    try their rissoles

    [still shuddering]

  61. The Italian-style sausages at Safeway are not too bad. I would never – never – buy their standard mystery bags.

  62. reb, you’re too kind of heart and would ensure Victor only did his normal brilliance for Neil as he would for any of your guests.

    I suppose Victor only shops at local markets, green grocers and butchers, or does he supermarket shop as well?

  63. Actually speaking of local farmers’ markets.

    If the government were to get behind them all over the land and even bring them into city centres (as I believe Brisbane has) then you would see supermarket prices really drop.

    If anyone has ever had fresh produce from a farmers’ market they will know what I’m talking about. There is absolutely no comparison in the flavour from their produce to the blandness of supermarkets.

  64. Well it’s funny you should mention it Adrian..

    I’ve just been served up for breakfast, while sitting here typing (and reading Tim Dunlop’s Michael piece)…

    some fresh zucchini pancakes with sundried tomatoes, chives and topped with thinly sliced wedges of creamy Bruny Island brie, with an expresso flat white of Tassie roasted freshly ground coffee beans. On to my second cup now.

    He bought the ingredients yesterday at Salamanca market. Actually I think he’s put something up about it at his blog..

  65. Knew that reb, gave you an opening to advertise… 😉

  66. When a supermarket sells 40mm thick steaks, cuts rear legs of lamb into steaks and grinds rumps into mince then I might give their meat a go!

    I believe my wife only buys the basics, all bread and veg is purchased at the local bakery and fruit shop.

  67. Thanks Adrian.

    I didn’t know until I just had a look now. 🙂

    The cheese is called “Saint” made from cow’s milk, not brie as I had originally thought..

    But yeah, we do a supermarket shop for staples but tend to buy meat from the local butcher, free range eggs etc..

  68. I’ve had a read of this thread. It seems to include some most helpful observations such as-
    • When to shop at the local butchers
    • Whether people would bother to shop at different supermarkets on the basis of unit price
    • Market concentration

    I haven’t seen much of the outraged condemning of this broken election commitment.

    That this is another broken promise is not in debate, and there can only be 2 reasons for the ALP breaking the promise –
    • It was never practical to start with or
    • The government will has wilted under the power of the retailers

    If the promise was never practical, the government should be condemned for making an ill considered, poorly researched and politically driven promise – to ease the pressure on “working families” (repeat by 400).

    If the government has wilted under pressure from powerful corporations, it should be condemned also.

    So everyone should make the choice –

    On which basis should the government be condemned?

  69. Actually, I think they should be condemned for both ideas you put forward. The idea was never practical and they caved in to the power of the top grocery retailers.

    As you stated, that it is a broken promise is not in question. I just don’t think most people think that this one is that important. Call it a “non-core” promise if it helps 😛

  70. Tom,

    I don’t care about broken promises unless they represent the core of why people voted for them. (and in this case I have some sympathy for Howard’s non-core comment). If a promise represents bad policy or simply doesn’t work when implemented, I’d rather the Government (of whatever persuasion) dropped it and moved on. I think this falls into that category. Keating’s about face on the LAW tax cuts didn’t IMO.

    Howard’s about face on GST wasn’t so much a promise as a about turn on very strong language (ie, Never never). Whether he lied on this I think is irrelevant – he at least put the GST to the electorate.

  71. I have to agree with Tom that the Government has either made an ill considered promise or it has caved into to pressure from the big supermarket chains.

    GroceryChoice has been on the agenda since before the last election. It took the Government a very long time to realise that it was not feasible, if that is actually the case.

  72. No, I think they knew it was not feasible for a while now (it wouldn’t have taken long for Coles & Woolies to make their position known). My guess, the timing of this is due to Choice also being unable to make it work and the fact there was a more interesting (for the media & general public) story going on about government at the time.

  73. It was never good policy to start with and probably thought up by a person who rarely if ever did the shopping themselves. To run to Coles because onions are 20 cents cheaper and then to Safeway because baked beans are 45 cents cheaper was never going to be practical for most people.

    It also relied on people being able to access the information, therefore the people who most need cheaper prices such as poorer families and pensioners being unable to access the information anyway.

    No, per unit price probably won’t stop people from shopping at a particular supermarket but it will help stop rorting via false advertising aka ‘specials’ which aren’t so special at all. Example, buy 4 cans of baked beans for X$s = X per gram to discover that the per gram of a different brand is in fact cheaper. Also some generic brands = say $1.19 per gram, a different brand is $1.12 per gram but the generic brand is cheaper because there are less grams per can or jar.

    The above might seem obvious, but for the average busy person it has never been possible to stand and complete mathematical calculations price/volume on every item picked up off the supermarket shelves. Therefore, not only supermarkets but manufacturers have made full use of this re overpackaging and more juice less substance in products.

  74. Fair point Tom.

    Fuel Watch
    Grocery Choice
    Censoring the Intertubes

    They were all pie in the sky ideas that Labor dreamt up before the GFC came along.

    As Dave says, who in their right mind, is going to sit in front of a computer and check the price of a loaf of bread, and then dart back and forth between Woolies and Coles to save a few cents.

    It was a crap idea from the beginning.

    The world has changed a lot since these schemes were dreamt up.

    I couldn’t care less whether they fall by the wayside.

    What’s more important is how the Govt is handling and responding to the GFC I reckon at least anyway..

  75. People seem to forget that Howard said “never, ever” GST before the 96 election, he then went into the next election campaign with a specific promise to deliver one if re-elected.

    I’m not really persuaded that this particular example represents the worst of political promise breaking.

    The grocery watch type of information system is not intended to have people drive between supermarkets to save 5 cents on individual items, as Min seems to suggest. It was intended to proved information to consumers, so that they could make an informed choice about how they should direct their overall shopping budget during the week, or next few days etc.

    The government made plenty of political capital out of the various mechanisms they’d use to support “working families”, and this promise was an important part of that framework.

    Regardless of whether people now think it wasn’t particularly sensible (with their incredibly accurate hindsight) is irrelevant to the political ethics of the broken commitment.

  76. I don’t really care if the government breaks a few promises but it pisses me off to see them waste our money whilst people out there have to tighten their belts…not good leadership.

    In fact “new leadership” was one of their key promises and I really have not seen any indication as of yet, vision was another one of their catch cries and so far we’ve had half baked policy implementation and no overall plan, just shooting from the hip.

    In fact, if I was a supermarket owner or in some form of retail and the government requested me to enter my prices on their data base I would tell them to get stuffed!

  77. People seem to forget that Howard said “never, ever” GST before the 96 election

    Well that’s over ten years ago now.

    Howabout when Howard was re-elected in the election before last? He never mention anything about WorkChoices before that election but then went hellbent on a multi-million dollar taxypayer funded crusade to introduce it after he was elected.

    To me, that is a far more disgraceful and deceiptful endevour than anything like Grocery Choices or Fuel Watch…

  78. oh look.

    You can check out my breakfast and how to make it here:


  79. Tom, but it is the individual items that make up a household budget. For example, Coles might have loo paper on special but Woolies has shampoo on where do you shop?

    Some people might be very organised and know that they will need asparagus on thursday and can shop accordingly..but that’s not me..I’m more of a spontaneous sort of cook 😉

  80. Tom,

    I agree with you about the Howard GSt promise thing – we were making the same point.

    Also agree about the driving thing. I think most people would still choose the lowest over all but it would take hours a week to compare the prices and work out which was the best overall. That’s hours that I would rather be doing something more productive (like blogging and drinking beer or wine 😉 )

  81. scaper …

    I don’t really care if the government breaks a few promises but it pisses me off to see them waste our money whilst people out there have to tighten their belts…not good leadership.

    And yet you wanted a judicial inquiry into ute gate which would be a huge waste of money for absolutely no gain – at least Grocery watch and Fuel watch had an aim of improving transparency and Fuel Watch had been working (and still is) in WA for years.

  82. That’s hours that I would rather be doing something more productive (like blogging and drinking beer or wine..

    Amen to that.

  83. Scaper …

    As for new leadership, I have to disagree with you on that. While there are a lot of similarities between the parties, the new Government has shown greater leadership on climate chaneg (whether or not you agree with the CPRS), reconciliation (largely symbolic but a lot of leadership is just that), Iraq and defence generally, treatment of asylum seekers, broadband (except for that dumb censoring proposal), winding back workchoices, tax reform (or at least reviewing it for future implementation) health funding, education funding and more. Not everything they do I agree with just like there was much that the past Government did that I did agree with with, but their leadership is difference.

  84. difference = different

  85. Dave, are you saying that getting to the truth of that matter is a waste of money?

    I repeat…”if it was the last government in the position all you one eyed Labor supporters would be up in arms!”

    Maybe we will get to the truth after the investigations conclude, but I doubt it.

  86. Dave, I believe there is already a fuel monitoring site that was there before this government came into power, so why the duplication?

  87. Their leadership is different…yeah, just like the shape of my logs in the shithouse every morning…still stinks!

  88. Scaper – if you are referring to “motormouth” they only cover city & metro areas. Anyone outside about three hours drive from a capital city misses out. They cover a good portion of then population, sure, but far from everyone.

    Government is to look after all citizens which is why there is explicit regulation on Telstra in regards to non-profitable customers in the rural/outback areas. As should be pretty damn obvious, one cannot rely on private, commercial interests to provide for people that cost more than they can make.

  89. There are some who contend that Fuel Watch may have worked. Remember it was killed by the other parties, not the government.

    But before you condemn all of the government’s Watch schemes, the Government’s child care choice information site MyChild remains the model for what good can potentially be done with these sorts of activities.

    This site is getting high praise and high use by those needing the information, yet the providers supply information voluntarily so it may still go under if one or more decide they don’t want their competitors knowing their cost.

    Of course the government succeeding in something is not in the interests of most commentators and bashers.

    Meanwhile more serious things are being overlooked, like the government doing what it promised it wouldn’t in their attempts at internet censorship, which is expand the censorship into other areas, and that even before Conroy’s scheme is in place.

  90. Adrian, do you think the government abandoned this promise because it was poorly researched, never practical, and just politically expedient, or do you think they submitted to the pressure of powerful corporations?

  91. @Mobius Ecko:
    I’ve been thinking of putting an article up on Conroy’s expansion of internet censorship. I am a coder with dreams (delusions?) of releasing an indie game – so the news that the government is cracking down on this is caught my attention immediately. It is obvious that having expanded on the concepot after not even finishing the trial – the “child porn” basis is simply political cover for much worse.

    If anyone else thinks it worthwhile, I’ll sum up my thoughts on the subject and we can discuss it in a dedicated article/thread…

  92. joni/reb – if you wouldn’t mind – could you delete the first post… it is obviously a double mixup 😦


  93. Tom I think they caved into the supermarkets. The chains other than Coles and Woolworths had come onboard to make it work, especially by having national and unit pricing. This means if all supermarkets were onboard and had national+unit pricing then there could be a simple direct comparison between local outlets. That Coles and Woolies refused to cooperate meant the government would of had to legislate to force them to cooperate.

    Also the scheme was flawed in that it only took in limited outlets. My sister worked for a fruit and veg outlet that had a half dozen outlets around the city, and she said what upset her was they often sold produce at a comparable or cheaper price than the supermarkets, but people out of habit and convenience shopped at the big chains, often getting an inferior product.

    The only way that Coles and Woolies are going to be bought to heal is by the government allowing in more big overseas chains. They might have been able to use that as a threat?

  94. Tom of Melbourne, on June 28th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Whilst I applaud your attempts at agenda-setting, Tom…I must ask that you back your claim that GroceryChoice was a ‘promise’ and not an initiative in relation to a ‘promise’. If you could provide some evidence for your claim I’d be much obliged. If you find that difficult to do, as I expect you might, I might be left pondering what other initiatives fall within the rubric of the actual promise.

  95. Yes Ben, all this crap about UteGate and the other constant stream of trivialities launched against the government is allowing some major and serious stuff to go by. The reason of course is that the opposition would do no different and don’t want to bring attention to these policies, instead concentrating on smear and banalities in the hope of gaining traction.

    Having said that I can’t stand how many are saying “everything” this government is doing is a failure and terrible when nothing is further from the truth. This is like their first 6 months where they were constantly accused of doing nothing, yet any cursory examination showed there were pages of policies and actions being enacted.

    I had hoped better in some areas from Rudd, but to aver he and his government are total failures is ideological hogwash.

  96. I think that’s right Adrian.

    One of the difficulties in introducing new players relates to the whole planning, development and financing process. When a site is developed for shopping, the financing requires certainty of the underpinning lease revenue.

    As a result, part of the contractual leasing contains a guarantee that a competitor won’t be able to lease space in the centre for a specified long, long period. I think this is why many centres often have only one of the chains – Coles supermarket, Kmart, Myer etc.

    It is also the reason that Adli struggle to get a site that they don’t have to build themselves, usually in a less commercially popular location, they don’t have a powerful position in negotiating a shopping centre lease.

    Providing pricing information is important to competitive pressure, even in a concentrated market.

    I think the government has to keep trying to make good on this promise/commitment/initiative.

  97. Just another thought about the ‘cost’ of the website, which was just an interface for the rest of the monitoring and auditing work…assuming the 13 mill was a yearly expenditure (and it probably wasn’t, more likely a multi-year budget, and some of that involved with development and start-up costs) and assuming that the grocery sector is valued at somewhere around 200 billion a year, it makes that ‘gauge’ on what occurs within and across the grocery sector somewhere around the 0.0065% mark, or around a 1:15000 ratio, for an area presently unmonitored and without any particularity or certitude, even as to historical data and the patterns and trends, if any, which might become apparent within that, let alone the data value of current prices to consumers.

  98. Quick semi-offtopic: I have put up an article on Labor’s aims & tactics regarding the censorship of the Internet here.

    Back to talking about Grocery Choices…

  99. As Dave says, who in their right mind, is going to sit in front of a computer and check the price of a loaf of bread, and then dart back and forth between Woolies and Coles to save a few cents.

    You’re right reb that is just plain stupid to be doing, but I might be interested in a site that displayed which shop continually comes in cheaper over a specific time period. Even what day of the week is cheapest for shopping.

    I don’t like shopping much and tend to go about an hour before the stores shut for the night as i can’t stand crowds, marauding hordes of people and entire families wandering all over the place as an outing is not fun for me.

    I hate the checkout queues and i dislike the way Woolies (dunno about coles, it’s further away for me) has installed the customer ‘serve youself’ checkouts which are very slow if you have a large shop and a complete time waster when the prices already have checkout staff salaries and packing etc loaded into them. I am refusing to use that service on principle.

    (scaper) Their leadership is different…yeah, just like the shape of my logs in the shithouse every morning…still stinks!

    Their leadership is as different as chalk and cheese whilst the policies could be a bit more adventurous IMO. I still say that the big difference is the way that Australians can feel good about being Australian again, rather than embarrassed by the mean and nasty politics of Howard.

    It’s the ‘uniter’ Rudd that we chose to lead because we got sick and tired of the dog whistling to racism, the prejudices and the politics of hate and envy which the ‘divider’ Howard espoused.

  100. Mobius Ecko, on June 28th, 2009 at 10:59 am Said:
    “If anyone has ever had fresh produce from a farmers’ market they will know what I’m talking about. There is absolutely no comparison in the flavour from their produce to the blandness of supermarkets.”

    Mobius, perhaps you might have to eat your words instead. It may well have been supermarket produce your were actually eating.

  101. Openly walking away from poor policy prescriptions can be a mature and responsible step for government to take. Can be. It all depends upon the specific policy and the context behind a change of mind.

    I wish the ALP Government would walk away from the unaffordable tax cuts due next week – there are really strong economic and social justice arguments in favour of such a revision.

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