Labour MP Shane Jones renewed his attacks on Countdown supermarkets and their Australian owners, Woolworths, yesterday likening them to the Mongrel Mob and saying New Zealand suppliers were fearful of speaking out over anti-competitive behaviour in case they were blacklisted across the Tasman.
Mr Jones claimed last week that Countdown was demanding retrospective payments from local suppliers for historic losses on the sale of their products or face having goods removed from shelves.
The Commerce Commission is assessing the complaint from Mr Jones and is allowing suppliers to come forward anonymously with information as it considers launching a formal inquiry.
Yesterday, again under parliamentary privilege, Mr Jones asked Commerce Minister Craig Foss if he was concerned New Zealand suppliers "are fearful what they tell the regulator could be passed on to the Australian Woolworths supermarket chain and they could end up being blacklisted off Australian supermarket shelves".
Countdown managing director Dave Chambers said his company was "disappointed that Parliament has been used to raise very serious and unsubstantiated accusations".
"We are deeply disappointed that our team on the frontline has been impacted by these broad and unsubstantiated allegations."
A Countdown spokeswoman said staff were facing comments from customers such as "You guys are all bullies" and "Is what Shane Jones says about you true?". Mr Chambers rejected Mr Jones' allegations and urged any MPs or suppliers with concerns about Countdown's business to contact the company directly.
Mr Jones' parliamentary question followed his successful bid to have Parliament authorise the public release of his letter of complaint to the commission. The letter was tabled in Parliament last week but Clerk of the House Mary Harris deemed the risk of defamation action against her office too great to release it widely.
Mr Jones told Parliament if MPs didn't stand up to threats of defamation, "I fear it will be no different to the Mongrel Mob mayhem on Manchester St".