Sue Dunlevy in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph wrote a piece calling on the Federal Government to break the exclusivity pharmacists have over dispending medication. In Chemist monopoly dispenses bitter pill, Dunlevy aggressively and ignorantly dumps on Australia’s small business pharmacists.
Dunlevy claims the government “is too scared to take on one of the most privileged and protected groups of people in Australia – pharmacy owners.” She then links the pharmacy decision with the government changes on industrial relations in writing: “At the same time as it prepares to wind back workers’ conditions and flog off Telstra in the name of economic efficiency, it will continue to entrench the monopoly of a small number of wealthy pharmacy owners by maintaining rules that shut out competition from supermarket chains like Woolworths, or even rival pharmacists.”
I’d love to see Dunlevy’s notes as to her research for these and other claims just as I would like to see where the idea for the piece came from.
Dunlevy says that breaking the pharmacists monopoly could save the economy $500 million. At least she lets us know that her source for this is a study commissioned by the giant Woolworths group who desperately want to get pharmacies into supermarkets. Dunlevy seems to think that taking the dispensing of prescriptions from a trusted and respected small business channel and putting it into supermarkets will, in additional to saving money, benefit the community in other ways.
While there is an attempt to provide balance in the article, it’s poorly executed and the reader can easily see the agenda Dunlevy has. There is no consideration given to the community value of pharmacies, the working conditions pharmacists offer over Woolworths and their ilk nor the cultural and social value independent small businesses offer over the giant corporations.
Our two main retailers in the country, Coles and Woolworths wield too much market power as it is. The Woolworths mission is all about getting customers to stay in their shops for longer because that extra time is worth real money in terms of impulse buys.
Woolworths is not fair when it comes to prices. Their Big W group claims low prices every day. In many categories this is not true with independent retailers beating like for like. But since independents don’t have a matching advertising budget it’s a challenge to get that message out.
The telegraph has a responsibility for balanced coverage. This piece by Dunlevy yesterday is not balanced and pushes the Woolworths line well.
Woolworth, in my view, is a clone retailer. They are bad for our country as they stifle our own voice. They have a limited range. Their size is a barrier to new products getting to market. Independent retailers carry our stories and aspects of our culture forward. To open the prescription marketplace will see pharmacies close and or community will be the lesser for that.
The government has an obligation to support small independent retailers not only to ensure the big two don’t get bigger but also to preserve the businesses which preserve more of this country.
Newspapers are conflicted in this matter because of their reliance on companies like Woolworths for advertising dollars. They need to be especially careful to ensure that their stories on the Woolworths push are balanced.