House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Cost of Living

10:24 am

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

The multiple inquiries into Australia's duopoly supermarket model have begun receiving submissions and taking evidence. It's the start of really putting a spotlight on why prices are so high at the checkout at the same time as farmers are being squeezed. Labor knows that cost-of-living pressures, especially the cost of groceries, are affecting people. The Albanese government has commissioned an ACCC review of supermarket pricing, an independent review of the food and grocery code and ongoing updates from Choice to help consumers make informed decisions about where they shop.

In its submission to the ACCC inquiry, Choice has argued the two main supermarket chains routinely manipulate prices to the detriment of customers. It says the 'complex pricing methodologies lack both transparency and accountability'. We know that Choice is firmly on the shopper's side, and we're providing Choice with a million dollars so they can give price transparency and comparison reports on a quarterly basis for the next three years. This will start from this current quarter and will provide shoppers with increased transparency, comparing a basket of goods at various retailers to help Australians be really informed about where they shop.

There's no question that you see higher profit levels for supermarkets in Australia than you do for supermarkets in many other countries. That market power is an issue for both suppliers and consumers. That's why we're talking about better prices. We want to make sure that if prices are dropping at the farm gate they're also dropping at the checkout and that there's a clear flow through for customers. If farmers aren't getting as much for their products, consumers shouldn't be paying as much for those very same products.

The ACCC inquiry will examine the competitiveness of retail prices for everyday groceries. The 12-month inquiry will look at the current structure of the supermarket industry at the supply, wholesale and retail levels. It'll consider competition in the industry and how it's changed since 2008, including the growth of online shopping, and the competitiveness of small and independent retailers, including in regional and remote areas. The pricing practices of supermarkets and factors impacting competition and influencing prices along the supply chain, including the difference between farm gate and supermarket prices, will be looked at as well. The ACCC released their issues paper last month, and submissions to the inquiry and a consumer survey are now open. I'd encourage people to have their say.

Dr Craig Emerson, former competition minister, is also reviewing the food and grocery code, which regulates business dealings between farmers, suppliers, wholesalers and supermarkets and addresses harmful practices in the grocery sector that stem from that imbalance of bargaining power—the big guys versus the little guys. The review will test whether the code is effectively contributing to the food and grocery industry as intended, including whether the code should be mandatory rather than voluntary and whether it should have appropriate penalties.

We also have the benefit of the inquiry into price gouging and unfair pricing practices the ACTU commissioned, which found that corporate profits have added significantly to inflation, that many businesses are resorting to dodgy price practices and that a range of sectors are insufficiently competitive or regulated, leading to poor consumer outcomes and higher prices. The report will be considered as part of the ACCC inquiry, and I congratulate the ACTU on shining a light on pricing practices that rip off customers.

In the meantime, I'd really urge shoppers in my community to look to local growers, either at the growers' market, where you know that the price you pay is going directly to the producer, or the longstanding businesses like Sciberras, Todarellos and IGAs, who are part of their local communities. And of course Aldi is accessible in some parts of the electorate. Depending on your commute, it might be easy to swing by Riverview Produce at Agnes Banks, Enniskillen Orchard or the Local Farm Shop in Windsor Mall, one of the newer entrants. I've always urged people to shop local in the mountains and at Hawkesbury, and new shops like Sangkap International Grocer in Springwood and Hartleys Fruit and Vegetable Specialty Grocer in Richmond are a great reminder to try your local shops first. That also means buying products that are made locally, whether it's our local wines, beers and gins or Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh. Our region's a source of great local produce and goods, and you know what you're spending is going right back into your community.


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