Nationals’ leader David Littleproud has welcomed the announcement of an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) supermarket inquiry into price gouging, but says the Albanese Labor Government had to be shamed into calling it.
Mr Littleproud had been calling for the ACCC to be directed to investigate the clear evidence of meat and fresh produce price disparity between the farmgate and the checkout prices since November 2023 and offered the government support to introduce big stick legislation as early as December 2022.
“Labor could have started the ACCC investigation before Christmas but didn’t understand the scale nor severity of their cost-of-living crisis,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The ACCC has the powers to properly investigate as part of a dedicated inquiry to ensure fairness for farmers and consumers and it’s only because they’ve been shamed into action that the government has acted.
“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.
“While Labor spent last year distracted on a $450 million failed Voice Referendum, price disparity between the farmgate and the supermarket checkout was allowed to escalate out of control.”
Mr Littleproud said Labor was simply too slow to act.
“It’s unfortunate it took Labor so long to realise that these powers exist, after previously promising Australians that two other inquiries they announced would yield results,” he said.
Mr Littleproud said he had already written to the ACCC, urging it to undertake an inquiry.
It comes on top of the Food and Grocery Code Review being conducted more than one year after The Nationals urged Labor to bring the review forward.
Mr Littleproud wrote to Assistant Minister for Competition Andrew Leigh in December 2022, requesting to bring forward the Food and Grocery Code review from October last year but was ignored.
Mr Leigh rejected the request, writing in correspondence, “it remains appropriate the review of the remaining provisions takes place in October 2023.”
“The Nationals tried to bring forward the much-needed review more than a year ago and support big stick legislation that included increased penalties and divestiture powers back in 2022, but we were ignored,” Mr Littleproud said.
“It was obvious there was a cost-of-living crisis in 2022, when I requested that Mr Leigh commence the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, it’s just that Labor didn’t realise it.
“The review could have been done and dusted, with decisions already implemented, to help farmers and families and try to stop them from being ripped off over Christmas last year.”
Mr Littleproud added even once finally announced, it still took Labor almost 100 days to appoint a Reviewer, Dr Craig Emerson.
“Labor is now treating this issue as a cynical PR management exercise in 2024 and shows a lack of competence to fix the problem.
“This is the most important issue facing families, yet Labor simply ignored warnings and have been flat footed. Labor must now get cracking and give farmers and families the answers they need and deserve.”