ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel will soon have a tasty investigation to get his teeth into. His Canadian and United States peers are currently studying the price fixing practices of the world’s major chocolate manufacturers. Apparently these are tough times for the likes of Mars, Hershey, Cadbury and Nestle as confectionery sales stagnate with all the concern about obesity being a major health problem. The charge in North America is that collusion has replaced competition to keep profits up. Perhaps the current ACCC investigation into the supermarket industry can be extended to cover these unappetising allegations.

One of the more intriguing exercises during my former life as a lobbyist was providing advice to the Federal Health Department on the way pharmacists were paid for dispensing drugs under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. I learned of the effectiveness of The Pharmacy Guild as a lobby group as the then Government baulked at any suggestion for doing anything too drastic to curb the income of pharmacists. Many years later I better understand the reason for that influence. The Pharmacy Guild is one of the major contributors to the funding of political parties. The recently released figures by the Australian Electoral Commission show that in 2006-07 the Guild gave a total of $266,353 to the three major parties – $136,598 to the Liberals, $13,385 to the Nationals and $116,370 to Labor. And as evidence of the skill of the Pharmacists as lobbyists, the donations, which in total made them number eight ranking in the long list of contributors, were little and often in amounts small enough for them to be missed by most of the media.

There is much grumbling throughout the federal public service in Canberra about the new regime of early starts. Kevin Rudd and his crew are up and at it well before 6am and expect departments to have someone on hand at that early hour to answer any queries. Not a job that can be fobbed off to someone down the ranks either which is not amusing the Canberra fat cats. 

Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones is a man prepared to put his money where his mouth is. His private company Belford Productions Pty Limited tossed $25,000 into Liberal Party coffers last financial year.

The Pick of This Morning’s Political Coverage

Chance to shape Labor’s Agenda – Dennis Shanahan, The Australian
Rudd’s Bold Attempt to Create Vision for Australia – Michelle Grattan, The Age
Wayne Swan: We feel your pain – Rhys Haynes, Alison Rehn and Brooke Newstead, Sydney Daily Telegraph
Taught by the Criminal Classes – Carly Crawford, Melbourne Herald Sun
Fair Go: Private Schools Plea – Lucy Hood, Adelaide Advertiser

The Daily Reality Check

The newspaper headline writers and sceptical cartoonists might be loving PM Kevin Rudd’s planned venture into futurology but readers of news on Australia’s websites find the story of the Australian girl shot three times in India by a man who had raped her at gunpoint just hours earlier a far more compelling read. Of the 10 major sites in the Crikey survey, only on those of The Age and The Australian does the planned summit of the best and brightest make the top five most read list. Footballers of the Melbourne and Sydney variety behaving badly out rate political stories like Senator Bill Heffernan’s assertion that the Liberals will back saying sorry to Aborigines which did make story number twoon the ABC.