Editorial: Not fair, but what to do?

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014

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OPINION: Blast those Aussies. They have to go that one step too far don't they?

By all means support a Buy Australia campaign, but at least leave New Zealand products on the shelves. Or aren't their own products good enough?

So far the Woolworths and Coles supermarket chains have removed only those New Zealand products that compete with their in-house branded goods, but there are suggestions this may be extended.

The selective marketing is not fair. It may not be illegal, but it's certainly not in the spirit of Closer Economic Relations and free trade.

That said, you can see why Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has run a country mile. Why would he get involved? How would it look so early in his term if he argued against a Buy Australia campaign?

Besides, it's a commercial decision, and there is a mechanism to test its legality in the form of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

So someone should, and it's not going to be the New Zealand Government. Prime Minister John Key is in the early stages of trying to build a relationship with Mr Abbott, and there have to be better fights to pick than this one.

Presumably a New Zealand exporter then, but this isn't straightforward either. They need to stay on side with these chains, which own 80 per cent of the retail market.

Yet what happens if this campaign widens or is prolonged?

It could be disastrous for little ol' Kiwiland, and then the Government would have to get involved.

There's been talk of a protest by New Zealand shoppers in boycotting Woolworths-owned Countdown supermarkets here, but you'd imagine the effect would be pretty limited. For a start we're a small market, and not everyone is going to join in.

Oh yes, it's a good cause, but really, is it worth getting used to a whole new shop layout for? Or driving another three minutes for? Yes, we are that shallow.

The real problem is that as a country we're just too small. We can box above our weight when the playing field is about even, like 15-a-side, but a market of 23 million compared to 4.5 million ...?

Sorry, but fairness doesn't come into it.

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- The Timaru Herald

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