Grocery Supermarket
IBTimes US

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday called Coalition leader Peter Dutton's divestiture policy in the supermarket chains and hardware sector "super Marxist."

"They [the Opposition] really don't want to talk about the policies that they have, which isn't surprising given that it's not so much a supermarket policy as a super Marxist policy," Albanese said during Question Time, Sky News reported.

Under the divestment policy, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can force the supermarket chain or hardware store to court to force a sale of their store. However, for the sale to be approved, it will have to meet the following criteria -- competitiveness, workforce impact and public interest.

Nationals leader David Littleproud, who had always argued for divestment in the supermarket sector, stood next to Dutton as he announced the plan.

However, the Coalition's divestment plan was met with anger from the Liberals, who said Dutton gave in to the Nationals, while ignoring Liberal values, ABC News reported.

Several Liberal MPs said they were surprised by the announcement. "It felt like an ambush," a Liberal MP said.

The dissenters pointed out that this could lead to costly and complex litigations, which will not yield any tangible benefit. In addition, it could lead to a high-handed approach or red-tapism.

The Coalition, however, was optimistic about the divestment policy, insisting that it would break the monopoly of the big players.

According to a report by The Guardian, the Coalition party room saw heated debate as Dutton briefed the members on the plan. Some of the Liberal MPs voiced concerns about unintended consequences, such as passing on the cost of the legal proceedings. They pointed out that the farmer or the consumer will have to bear the regulation cost.

A Liberal MP told Guardian Australia that it, "feels like the Nationals tail is wagging the Liberal dog, which is unhelpful for Liberals."

Littleproud acknowledged there were different views, which he said made a policy better, adding that the several safeguards in the policy addressed Liberals' concerns.

Addressing ABC TV, Littleproud said, "The divestiture power is not something that we would walk in and split up the supermarkets tomorrow. That's not going to happen. It's only if they do something wrong and they're in breach of section 46 of the Consumer and Competition Act, and then there are safeguards to make sure there aren't job losses."