SUBJECTS: Minister David Littleproud’s call for a consumer boycott of Coles and Aldi, Dairy crisis, David Littleproud’s declared pecuniary interests in Woolworths, mining industry.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY AND SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: You will be aware by now that earlier today Agriculture Minister David Littleproud bizarrely called on a consumer boycott of Coles and Aldi. This is an extraordinary thing in itself for a Cabinet Minister to do. The question becomes, where does this stop and where does the next boycott begin? The other point of course is that this is going to have a devastating impact on all those Australian dairy farmers who supply Coles and Aldi. That is more dairy farmers than supply Woolworths. But not only the dairy farmers, this impacts on every supplier to Coles and Aldi and every person who works in the Coles and Aldi stores. This will be the result if David Littleproud is successful.
The other point is that screaming at the retailers is no substitute for policy and this Government for the last five years now has ignored the plight of our dairy farmers. Only today we learned that we won’t have a Mandatory Code of Conduct until July 1 2020. After all this time the Government has kicked this beyond the election. But making David Littleproud’s consumer boycott call more bizarre is that it seems according to his pecuniary declarations that he is a holder of Woolworths shares giving him a direct pecuniary interest in his call for a boycott of the other large retailers. So I call upon David Littlepround to clarify his situation, to confirm his own declaration in his pecuniary interest register and if he does hold Woolworths shares to go into the House of Representatives and explain himself to the Australian people and of course explain himself to the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dairy farmers who will be adversely affected if his call for a consumer boycott is successful.
JOURNALIST: Is it fair enough for the CMFEU to call out Labor candidates? Shouldn’t MPs and candidates be speaking up for jobs as well as the environment? Isn’t it a bit rich to –
FITZGIBBON: I am very happy to make this point. I am and have always been and remain a very strong supporter of Australia’s coal mining industry and I believe our steaming coal industry and coking coal industry both have a bright future. Demand for their products will be strong internationally for many decades to come and I look forward to it continuing to be a very strong employer in the Hunter Valley and elsewhere. On the other side of course every coal mine has to be assessed on its merits and on the science (inaudible). Did someone else have another question?
JOURNALIST: What are you alleging here with regards to these shares? That he is getting richer from having these Woolworths shares?
FITZGIBBON: Well I’m not necessarily alleging anything I’m just stating the fact that today Minister Littleproud called for a consumer boycott on Coles and Aldi and that his pecuniary declaration states that he is a shareholder of Woolworths. Now you don’t have to be a financial adviser to work out that a boycott of Coles and Aldi would be a significant benefit to Woolworths, nor do you have to be a financial genius to work out that if Woolworths secures a significant advantage then all shareholders of Woolworths would also receive a significant advantage so I think David Littleproud needs to clarify whether he still owns those shares. His declaration certainly indicates that he does. Maybe he has offloaded them and he hasn’t updated his declaration. If so, well that’s fine, he needs to come into the House and clarify the situation.
JOURNALIST: There are a whole bunch of Labor MPs with Wesfarmers shares. Where do we draw the line with regards to these conflicts of interest?
FITZGIBBON: In my 23 years here I have never seen a Minister of the Crown call upon Australian consumers to boycott a particular company or business. That’s the issue here. It’s an extraordinary thing to do and it’s even more extraordinary if he stands to gain financially as a result of any boycott that might follow.