Federal Nationals Leader David Littleproud says the Labor Government has been shamed into considering an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) supermarket price inquiry to stamp out price gouging.
Mr Littleproud said The Nationals had been calling for the independent watchdog, armed with tough powers, to be directed to investigate the supermarkets since November 2023, to deal with the spiralling cost-of-living crisis that was being felt by Australians at the supermarket checkouts.
“Under section 95, the Treasurer has the legislated power to direct the ACCC and give it strong powers to compel witnesses and recommend harsher penalties,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The Nationals wanted this investigation urgently before Christmas, but Labor is simply too slow to act. They are only now realising these powers exist, but promised Australians the two inquiries they announced would yield results.
“We need an inquiry into disparities between farmgate and retail food pricing. A Senate inquiry this year won’t go far enough, while a review into the Food and Grocery Code wasted almost 100 days to even start its investigation.
“The ACCC has the powers to properly investigate as part of a dedicated inquiry to ensure fairness for farmers and consumers and it’s baffling it has taken the government so long to realise.”
Mr Littleproud has already written to the ACCC, urging it to undertake an inquiry.
“The Nationals and Australia cannot continue to wait for Labor’s delays. As a result, I have also taken the step of writing directly to the ACCC on behalf of The Nationals to request them to undertake a public inquiry into these matters.
“I am pleased Treasurer Chalmers is now open to an ACCC inquiry into pricing practices and is expected to announce it shortly. It took The Nationals’ calling out of Labor’s gross failure to act, highlighting it had been almost 100 days for Labor to be shamed into action and finally appointing a Reviewer into the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct Review, which won’t go far enough.”
Mr Littleproud pointed out the supermarkets’ claims of lowering prices by 20 per cent this week had been nothing more than a PR stunt and proved an ACCC inquiry was needed.
Mr Littleproud said most beef and lamb prices were still exactly the same as early November and the giant supermarkets were once again treating the public like mugs.
Mr Littleproud said on November 11, 2023, shoppers were paying $36 per kilo for grass-fed beef rump steak, $25 per kilo for beef rump roast, and $19 for a kilo of humble grass-fed beef mince.
Families were also paying $27 for a kilo of grass-fed graze lamb boneless shoulder roast, $18 for one kilo of lamb loin chops and $8 per kilo of lamb leg roast.
Mr Littleproud said it was misleading for Coles to claim, on January 10, that it had dropped beef and lamb prices by 20 per cent.
He said shoppers are still paying $36 per kilo for grass-fed steak and $25 per kilo for beef rump roast, while grass-fed mince had actually increased by $1 to $20 per kilo.
One kilo of lamb leg roast also increased, from $8 to $10.
“Since The Nationals’ price investigation in early November, two meat items have increased in price, just two items have decreased in price, and the other items are the same,” Mr Littleproud said.
“This is a stitch-up and quite frankly, Australians deserve better than more lies from the big supermarkets.
“The Labor Government is now trying to claim credit for lower prices at Coles and Woolworths.
“If they actually cared about prices and the cost-of-living crisis, Labor would have realised that the 20 per cent price drop claim is nothing but more lies, which only the ACCC can get to the bottom of.”