Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Labor are now flagging they will direct the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to conduct a supermarket price inquiry to eradicate price gouging.
The Nationals leader David Littleproud said his party had, since last year, called for the ACCC – armed with tough powers – to investigate and deal with the spiralling cost-of-living crisis Australians are feeling at the checkout.
“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 take action. 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 said the supermarkets’ claims they had lowered prices by 20 per cent last week was 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 fools.
Mr Littleproud issued a press release on November 11, 2023, saying beef and lamb prices were far too high at supermarkets, with shoppers at the time paying $36 per kilogram for grass-fed beef rump steak, $25/kg for beef rump roast and $19/kg of humble grass-fed beef mince.
Families on November 11 were also paying $27/kg of grass-fed graze lamb boneless shoulder roast, $18 for one kilogram of lamb loin chops and $8/kg of lamb leg roast.
He said Coles claims it had dropped beef and lamb prices by 20 per cent on January 10 was misleading, false and wrong.
Shoppers are still paying $36/kg for grass-fed steak and $25/kg for beef rump roast.
Grass-fed mince has actually increased by $1/kg, to $20/kg.
A kilogram of lamb leg roast has also increased from $8/kg to $10/kg, while grass-fed graze lamb boneless shoulder roast has decreased to $22/kg and lamb loin chops are down to $16/kg.
“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 20pc price drop claim is nothing but more lies, which only the ACCC can get to the bottom of.”