Bob Katter lashes Woolworths over Mossman’s red lights

Image: Bob Katter.

Anger over moves by retail giant Woolworths to install Queensland’s northernmost set of traffic lights at a shopping centre redevelopment in the small town of Mossman has escalated into the federal arena.

The leader of Katter’s Australian Party and Member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, has passionately backed the stand by Mossman Mayor Julia Leu to oppose the installation of the traffic signals, comparing the behaviour of Woolworths and its rival Coles in the region to the “Norman conquests” in terms of their ambitions to commercially dominate small communities.

“What you are looking is the complete destruction of the ambience of small towns,” Mr Katter said, referring to the way large supermarket chains try to set up visually prominent shopping precincts.

He said that Mossman was the latest extension of “economic mayhem” that had already been committed on Queensland towns including Mission Beach and Tully by the creation of “giant and extraordinarily ugly” retail developments that ultimately forced the closure of small family business which could not compete against the market power of supermarket chains.

Mr Katter said that push to install traffic lights in Mossman was about more than traffic management.

“It’s a sign that we’re here and we’ve taken over,” Mr Katter said of Woolworths’ ambitions. “They’re in there to take the bloody lot.

“I think the Mayor [Julia Leu] and the [Douglas Shire] Council are heroes for standing up. It’s David and Goliath.”

Woolworths has still not offered a comment on the issue. A Woolworths spokesperson said staff had been in meetings.

Mr Katter’s vehement opposition to the growth of major supermarkets in regional areas at the expense of smaller businesses is well known.

Mr Katter told Government News that the big supermarkets had tried to electorally destroy “me and my party” during the last federal election campaign and had spent millions trying to counter his stand against them

Mr Katter said that the influence of the supermarket “oligopoly” was now so entrenched that they got both federal and state governments “to do their bidding”.

“They’re their handmaidens,” Mr Katter said, equating the effect of government trying to curb supermarkets’ ambitions as “a slap on the wrist with a wet piece of lettuce.”

The latest danger for towns with small businesses competing against Coles and Woolworths was the big retailers’ efforts to move into new product categories.

This included office supplies, newspapers, books, liquor, meat and autoparts.

“That’s the local newsagent gone, the local butcher gone,” Mr Katter said, adding that local pubs, hotels and mechanics would be next.

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