Federal Nationals Leader David Littleproud has revealed he offered the Albanese Labor Government support to bring forward its Grocery Code of Conduct Review by 12 months, but was rejected because Labor could not see the urgency in taking action.
Mr Littleproud wrote to Assistant Minister for Competition Andrew Leigh in December 2022, encouraging and offering The Nationals’ support to bring forward the Grocery Code of Conduct Review by one year.
His offer was rejected by Mr Leigh, who instead opted for a review scheduled for October 2023, but this was further delayed 100 days by the Albanese Labor Government.
“It was obvious the cost-of-living crisis families have been feeling for the last 18 months was not the priority of the Albanese government, which was instead focused on its failed $450 million referendum and missed the opportunity to make sure there was fair, transparent pricing from the farmgate to Australian plates,” Mr Littleproud said.
“In July 2022 I provided the Assistant Minister for Competition with an offer for support on legislative reforms of the Code of Conduct that the Reviewer, Dr Craig Emerson, has now been charged to undertake.”
Mr Littleproud said The Nationals made it clear to the government back then that the Code should be made mandatory, that penalties should be increased – starting at $10 million, and that there should be scaling to divestiture powers if pricing was not adjusted to reflect substantial changes in cost of production, dishonesty, or not-in-good faith distorted or manipulated grocery prices.
“The Albanese government was also given a warning in May 2023 when former ACCC Chair Rod Sims said the supermarkets had likely used their market power to increase prices higher than necessary during a cost-of-living crisis and that the government could implement an ACCC-led inquiry that has information gathering powers.”
Mr Littleproud said the Albanese Government failed to use the ACCC in May and then again in November when The Nationals called for an inquiry into meat and fresh produce pricing.
“I’m not sure if the government has only just realised but they’ve had the tools and the support to put downward pressure on grocery bills for well over 12 months but haven’t understood the scale or gravity of the pressure families are facing.”