Reader Contribution: Aussie v NZ: The Supermarkets Saga

How did the brouhaha begin? Where has it gone? Where could it all possibly go? Check out our Timeline of keystone events.

 13 December 2013:

The NBR reports Australian supermarkets Coles and Woolworths are systematically removing NZ-produced goods from their “house-brand” labels simply for being “non-Australian”. The story goes largely unnoticed by New Zealanders.

 

24 January 2013:

NBR reports again on the issue confirming Australia’s supermarket giants are taking NZ-made products off their shelves in an aggressive effort to back the government’s “Buy Australian” campaign. The supermarkets say they are supporting the demands of the people, who want to buy Australian-made products.

 

3 Feb 2014:

Latest Public Opinion Poll has National on 44.5%, Labour 33.5%, the Greens 12.4% and NZ First 5.7%.

 

5 Feb 2014:

“Boycott Countdown”, a Facebook page calling for New Zealanders to boycott Australian-owned Countdown stores in NZ as protest against their owners ban on NZ-made products in Australia is established.

 

6 Feb 2014:

PM John Key attends a high-level meeting with Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott in Sydney. High on the agenda is the supermarkets issue. Key leaves the meeting, having received no tangible support from Abbott.

 

7 Feb 2014:

The Labour Party calls for country of origin labelling in response to the issue. And “Boycott the Boycotter Bullies: protect Countdown NZ” a page concerned for the potential social/economic impact a boycott could have on Countdown NZ workers and the economy overall is established on Facebook.

 

10 Feb 2014:

Countdown NZ Managing Director Dave Chambers releases a statement, saying Countdown are committed to supporting local NZ suppliers and media reports of a ban on NZ-made goods in Australian Woolworths stores are incorrect.

 

11 Feb 2014:

Boycott Countdown page ‘likes’ hit 1000.

 

  12 Feb 2014:

Under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege, Labour MP Shane Jones alleges New Zealand suppliers are being blackmailed into making payments to Australian owned supermarket chain Countdown to ensure their products continue to be stocked.

 Countdown NZ denies the allegations.

 Industry watchdog the Commerce Commission confirms concerns about negotiating practices have been made by several NZ producers/suppliers.

 

13 Feb 2014:

Countdown NZ Managing Director Dave Chambers and Labour MP Shane Jones appear on TV 3’s Campbell Live. Mr Chambers denies Mr Jones’ allegations, which he refuses to repeat outside of Parliament. Mr Jones calls on the Commerce Commission to investigate the allegations and to guarantee the anonymity of producers/suppliers giving testimony.

 Boycott Countdown’s people likes hit 6000.

 

14 Feb 2014:

PM John Key expresses concern that Labour MP Shane Jones’ allegations have no evidence to back them up.

 Boycott Countdown issue a statement affirming the calls for a boycott. But they make it clear they do not condone abuse or harassment of Countdown NZ staff.

 Countdown staff head online, voicing concerns that they could lose their jobs if the threatened boycott impacts on Countdown business.

 The Commerce Commission confirms whistleblowers wishing to give evidence about alleged unfair business practices by Countdown will be able to do so confidentially.

 

15 Feb 2014:

PM John Key again queries why Labour MP Shane Jones is not backing up his allegations without the protection of parliamentary privilege.

 Boycott Countdown people likes hit 8000.

 Countdown NZ Managing Director Dave Chambers, says on the day Labour MP Shane Jones made allegations about Countdown practices, he called in his senior colleagues to ensure none were making demands without his knowledge, before denying the allegations.

 

16 Feb 2014:

News reports state an Australian dairy company intends to set up business in NZ – in direct competition with NZ dairy producers.

 

 18 Feb 2014:

PM John Key goes public, saying he will not boycott Countdown NZ stores on the back of ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations. He also signals a formal inquiry by the Commerce Commission will take place.

 Boycott Countdown people likes hit 9000.

 

19 Feb 2014:

Labour MP Shane Jones makes further allegations in Parliament, accusing  Woolworths Australian chairman Ralph Waters of “leaning on” local suppliers to discourage them from taking part in a Commerce Commission inquiry into the supermarket giant’s business practices.

 Mr Waters releases a strongly worded statement, denying the allegations.

 Mr Jones also singles out a Countdown manager whom he refuses to name, accusing him of extorting cash payments from suppliers by threatening not to stock their goods.

 Countdown NZ respond, saying they are confused by the allegations regarding the manager and reject the allegations.

 The NZ Retailers Association requests Mr Jones to make his allegations without the protection afforded by Parliament but he refuses again.

 Boycott Countdown people likes hit 9000.

 

20 Feb 2014:

The Commerce Commission confirms it will formally investigate allegations of anti-competitive behavior towards suppliers by Countdown and assured anonymity for those who require it.

 Mr Jones defends his decision to raise the issue under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege, but concedes he may have used some “hyperbole” to make his point.

 

23 Feb 2014:

 Woolworths Australian chairman Ralph Waters speaks to the NZ Herald, saying he was furious at allegations his company had boycotted New Zealand products, and that its NZ subsidiary Countdown had demanded retrospective payments from suppliers under threat of being taken off the shelves.

 He also rejects Labour MP Shane Jones’ claim, made under parliamentary privilege, that he had rung suppliers telling them to not co-operate with a pending Commerce Commission inquiry or Woolworths would drop their products from Australian shelves.

 Latest Public Opinion Poll has National on 51%, Labour 34%, the Greens 8% and NZ First 3%.

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