Coalition backing the competition watchdog against Woolies is a sign of things to come

If the Coalition wins government in September’s election it’s clear Australia’s competition laws are going to get a major revamp in a move which could boost small business.

The Coalition has already promised it will conduct a “root and branch” review of competition policy if it is elected.

It’s a policy the Coalition says will ensure small businesses are given a fair go and it’s promised the review within the first 100 days of Tony Abbott being in office.

Now the shadow minister for small business, Bruce Billson, has come out in support of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s decision to block the construction of a new Woolworths store in Sydney’s west.

Billson described the watchdog’s rare decision as “sensible”.

That’s not the view of Woolworths, which claims the ACCC’s approach could jeopardise plans to open as many as 25 supermarkets a year.

The government has also moved to distance itself from the ACCC, with a spokesperson for Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury telling The Australian Financial Review the government would not support any proposals that “guarantee higher grocery prices for Australian families”.

Both the Coalition and the ACCC know that consumers and small business’ patience with the dominance of the big two supermarkets is wearing thin.

It would be pretty significant for a Coalition government to back small business over big business like Coles and Woolworths in a competition law review.

At this stage, Billson and Abbott are certainly indicating that is their intention.

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