Alan Jones Channel 9 Today Show Editorial
SMALL BUSINESS 10 November 2005

The role of small business in our country is constantly under siege.

We are told it's the engine of the economy.

We are told that small business is the architect of job creation.

Well, not to Coles and Woolworths it's not.

Put in language that we all understand, all the products that get on to the shelves at Woolworths are supplied people called suppliers.

And Woolworths and Coles will screw the suppliers' margins down as far
as they can.

Now Woolworths are making it impossible to use freight companies other than Woolworths' own freight company to handle all freight deliveries to Woolworths stores.

Apart from putting small business out of business, that is, other small freight companies, if a supplier still wanted to use a freight company other than Woolworths' own freight company, Woolworths will allocate an impossible delivery time, like 2am.

And, once Woolworths make the supplier use Woolworths' own freight company, you will find that it's 25% more expensive than other freight companies.

There are meant to be laws against this.

And how this represents fair trading, I have no idea.

Earlier this year, Coles tried the same caper with in-store demonstrators.

They wanted to use one outfit to conduct all their in-store demonstration work, whereas in-store demonstrations are currently performed by people provided by about 30 different little companies.

Had Coles won, those small businesses would have gone to the wall.

One company that wrote to me employs 200 casual employees.

It has been in the in-store demonstration business for 20 years.

Well, for the moment, at least, Coles have lost that battle.

But they were before the ACCC seeking an exemption to what are called third line forcing provisions.

Third line forcing is where an outfit like Coles and Woolworths, with all their power, say to a supplier, we will take your goods, but you are going to have to do "x" in return.

For example, use our freight company, not yours, and use our in-store demonstrators, not yours.

That is illegal under the Trade Practices Act.

And how government can stand up at election time and mouth platitudes about small business while this predatory behaviour goes on is beyond anyone's wildest imaginings.

The way we are going, we will wake up one day and small business will have been completely emasculated.

Who will look after us then?

Coles and Woolworths?

Dream on.