General News

Failure to tackle unfair contracts criticised

The state’s farmers are disappointed the federal government has failed to crack down on unfair contract terms.

A Bill aimed at delivering fairness for small business by making UCTs unlawful was introduced in early February – but has not been progressed by the federal government.
NSW Farmers President James Jackson said many farmers with perishable products were backed into a corner on their contracts, and this was the first step in protecting farmers from unfair practices.
“Farmers are at a substantial disadvantage in negotiating contracts. They are generally small businesses entering into contracts with processors and retailers that exercise significant market power,” Mr Jackson said.
“Australians need to know that there are big issues in the fresh food supply chain, and this government has failed to live up to its promise to sort it out.
“We must have robust protections in place for small businesses when they’re dealing with the big end of town.”
The federal government’s proposed changes to unfair contract legislation were welcomed when they were announced last year, but with an election just around the corner there has been no action to enact these modest changes.
“I think a lot of farmers will be demanding to know why this wasn’t done,” Mr Jackson said.
“Even the outgoing chair of the ACCC thinks the present rules are ineffective and has called for change.
“If we believe in fairness as a fundamental Australian principle, we should be demanding real reform of competition law as a major priority.”
“We want major parties to commit to meaningful reform to competition law in Australia, and making UCTs unlawful and penalising their use is an easy first step in that process,” Mr Jackson concluded.