Wesfarmers defends imports at AGM

Wesfarmers’ leadership has fielded questions about sourcing of imported products during a virtual AGM on Thursday.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Wesfarmers — one of the biggest ASX-listed companies and owner of chains including Bunnings, Officeworks and Kmart — was asked by shareholders why it didn’t offer more locally-made goods.

CEO Rob Scott said low-cost imports were good for Australian families.

“Particularly families that are doing it tough financially benefit from having access to products from all over the world and to limit our options too much would result in very significant increases in prices that are at a significant burden on many Australian families,” Scott told shareholders.

Depending on the category, between 20 and 70 per cent of Wesfarmers’ goods are Chinese-made.

Sourcing for low-wage countries was also defended, with chairman Michael Chaney citing its global audit of factories, with 2,600 sites checked last year, and low-paid production jobs lifting workers out of poverty in developing nations.

Sentiment for Australian products has risen since the pandemic. The year has seen caused pressure on Australian companies and interrupted supply chains, and the value of buying locally has come into focus.

“By calling on Australians to buy Australian right now, not only will we get products made to some of the highest quality and safety standards in the world, we can create local jobs and economic activity that will aid in the recovery process, while also strengthening our local manufacturing capabilities.” Australian Made CEO Ben Lazzaro said in May.

“Now more than ever it’s important we all support Australian-made products where we can,” said industry minister Karen Andrews the same month.

New online portals have responded to the increased demand, such as the launch of Buy Aussie Now in September.

Picture: Rinson Chory/Unsplash

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