House debates

Monday, 12 February 2024

Private Members' Business

Cost of Living

11:22 am

Photo of Matt BurnellMatt Burnell (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges that cost of living pressures, including the cost of groceries, are putting Australians under the pump;

(2) notes that to ensure that Australian consumers and suppliers are getting a fair deal, the Government has:

(a) directed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to conduct a pricing inquiry into the competitiveness of retail prices and allegations of price gouging in the supermarket sector;

(b) commenced an independent review of the Food and Grocery Code led by Dr Craig Emerson, which will examine whether the code is effective in ensuring Australian suppliers and farmers are getting a fair go; and

(c) partnered with consumer advocacy group CHOICE to regularly provide shoppers with better information on the comparative costs of grocery goods at different retailers; and

(3) recognises these measures are further examples of the Government ensuring everyone is doing their bit when it comes to easing the cost of living crisis.

The rising cost of living is something that the Albanese Labor government takes extremely seriously. There are many aspects to the rising cost of living involving the bare necessities—the cost of keeping a roof over your head, the cost of keeping the lights on, the cost of feeding yourself or your family. Buying groceries recently has been an experience in which all but the wealthiest among us would have noticed the cost of our weekly shops going up and the quantities in our trolleys going down.

This is a crisis that affects everyone, no matter where you are in the country, but it is certainly something that regional communities and those already doing it tough are feeling the hardest. My home state of South Australia, in particular, is hardest experiencing these rising costs at the check-out. In fact, between 2021 and 2023, Adelaide grocery prices experienced a cumulative increase of 16.4 per cent, a steep increase compared to the 14.8 per cent increase in Sydney.

In the 2022-23 financial year, only 18 per cent of the food and grocery sector market share went outside the four biggest players in that market, with 10 per cent going to Aldi and seven per cent going to Metcash, who owns stores such as IGA and Foodland. This means that a whopping 28 per cent of the market share went to Coles and 37 per cent went to Woolworths. With 65 per cent of the market concentrated between two players, you would be forgiven for using the term 'duopoly' to accurately describe the state of play in the food and grocery sector. This is contrasted against the UK, where the big two, Sainsbury's and Tesco, account for 42 per cent of the food and grocery sector.

These findings go hand in hand with those of the UBS Evidence Lab, who tracked online prices of around 60,000 grocery items at Coles and Woolies over the last financial year. Across those 60,000 items, it was noted that prices increased by 9.6 per cent during that time—a time when CPI figures for food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 7.9 per cent.

This is just one of the symptoms of a highly concentrated grocery market, with many more negative impacts being felt all the way down the line from farm gate to dinner plate—impacts like families relying on charity for their household groceries and food banks noticing an increase in families using their services on a more regular basis from households with one or two incomes. This has meant that families have been resorting to buying and making do with less after many have already sacrificed fresh protein, fruit and vegetables due to the prohibitive costs compared to just a few years ago. This is in stark contrast to what is experienced by many in the agricultural sector who are not seeing the price increases experienced by consumers correlate to anywhere near the price they are taking from their biggest customers. 'The price they are taking' is an apt phrase indeed, as many farmers, some more quietly than others, are relegated to being price takers in a market that is as concentrated as it currently is.

As a member of the House Standing Committee on Agriculture, I was proud to have been part of the inquiry on food security. The committee's reported entitled Australian food story: feeding the nation and beyond touches on food security through a number of lenses, from health all the way through our national security. It also emphasises the impacts of food insecurity. It speaks to the impacts of losing Australia's agricultural industry, which supports thousands of jobs nationwide beyond the 1,700 direct jobs the industry supports in my electorate of Spence. I would also direct members to read the Inquiry into price gouging and unfair pricing practices final report, launched by Professor Allan Fels AO, for further commentary on the impacts of our food and grocery market. That forms a part of his report. Also, I would direct members to the ongoing inquiry being undertaken by the Senate Select Committee on Supermarket Prices.

Some of the issues relating to supermarket pricing, the structure of the market and the impact on the cost of living are systemic and structural. This is why the Albanese Labor government appointed Dr Craig Emerson to lead the government's 2023-24 Review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct. This is coupled with an additional $1.1 million in funding to consumer group Choice to provide price transparency within the sector and provide much-needed pricing information for consumers so they can make better informed choices while this report and others are ongoing.

In closing, I would encourage as many stakeholders as possible to engage with the consultation process and to be part of a solution that positively impacts on producers and consumers alike.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

11:27 am

Photo of Aaron VioliAaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to start by commending the member for Spence. I'm lucky enough to serve on the Agriculture Committee with him. We spent some time together on that inquiry into food security. I know his words and his passion for this industry are heartfelt, so I want to commend him for that. We do have a lot of back and forth in this house, but I think it's important that, when we are bipartisan, we should acknowledge that. This is a complicated and challenging issue that we need to address for consumers and for suppliers and farmers.

It would be remiss of me if, at the first time I've had this year to speak about farmers and suppliers to Woolworths and Coles, I didn't mention and acknowledge the passing last week of Bill Montague at the age of 97. Bill Montague started helping his father with fruit through his primary school years. He started his own company in 1948 at 22 years of age, and he planted that first orchard in Narre Warren North, in my electorate, in 1950. If anyone in this House or at home—or yourself, Deputy Speaker—has eaten a Jazz apple, that's a Montague's apple. The Montague family brought the Jazz apple into this country in about 2003, I believe it was. It's an example of why we need to support farmers and small businesses when they start back in the fifties and grow through to the Jazz apple.

Bill and the Montague family have had a huge impact on agriculture in Casey and across Australia. That was recognised when Bill received the Order of Australia medal, the OAM, for his services to the fruit industry in 2006. He was a man of character, a man of business and definitely a man of good judgement. That good judgement was demonstrated through his successful businesses but also through his love of the Collingwood Football Club. He clearly had great character. I know that for Bill and the family it did mean a lot that Collingwood won the premiership this year. I know the member for Spence is a good Collingwood man as well. It genuinely meant a lot to Bill that he was able to see that last premiership. I want to acknowledge Bill Montague. Vale Bill.

The reason I wanted to share Bill's story was because these are the challenges that we are trying to address. We need to make sure in the future other young farmers and other entrepreneurs can start an orchard and then 70 or 80 years later it become a successful, thriving, family business that feeds the nation. That is the challenge that we face. It is under pressure, as the member for Spence said, due to the size of Woolworths and Coles.

I spent over a decade working in food manufacturing, supplying products to Woolworths and Coles, so I have seen first-hand the tactics that they use to put pressure on suppliers and on farmers and, in many cases, it is unconscionable and unacceptable. We also need to recognise that it is the supplier in most cases who feels the brunt of that. We saw today in media reports that Coles are putting pressure on to suppliers to drop their prices so that they can pass it on to consumers. Without looking at the details, I can guarantee that Coles will not be dropping the margin that they take home; they will make sure they deliver their profitability at an executive level to get their bonuses.

What is happening as we speak is a buyer from Coles is going to a small business and there is a strong chance that Coles makes up about 50 to 60, maybe 70, per cent of that business's sales. The buyer is saying to that business owner who has taken a risk, invested millions of dollars of capital into the family business today and last week and in the weeks to come, and saying, 'You need to make a decision. You need to drop your price. I don't care what your unit cost is. I don't care if it profitable or not. You need to drop your price so we can pass it on to the consumer.' The business has to decide: do they die a death by 1,000 cuts and deliver an unprofitable product? Because if they do not give it to the Coles buyer today, they might not get delisted today, but, we all know in the industry that in six months time when the range review comes around, they will cop it in the neck. That is the reality of what happens when you have a duopoly controlling the market. It is a complicated, challenging issue, but we need to do everything we can to make sure we protect farmers, suppliers and small businesses.

11:32 am

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Spence for moving this motion and for highlighting the importance of ensuring a competitive and robust marketplace for both consumers and suppliers. There is no better example of the impact that anticompetitive practices can have on people in my community than at the supermarket checkout. We saw this last week when the ACTU released the report from its inquiry into price gouging and unfair pricing practices led by Professor Alan Fels, which documented many examples of uncompetitive behaviour experienced by Australians at our supermarkets. For example, one consumer, John, submitted to the Fels inquiry the following: 'Up until August 2022, Coles and Woolies sold 200 grams of Robert Timms coffee for eight bucks, or $4 when on special. In early August, Coles increased the shelf price to $12.70 per jar. However, a couple of weeks later, the price was reduced to $10.70 per jar, with a shelf tag saying the price was now down, down.' Practices like this, where retailers advertise 30 per cent price increases as discounts, are unfairly and deceptively punishing consumers at a time when cost-of-living pressures are already putting Australians under the pump. That is why the Albanese Labor government has committed to an ACCC review of supermarket pricing to examine the competitiveness of retail prices that Australians are paying for everyday groceries. This comprehensive inquiry will consider the structure of the supermarket industry right up and down the supply chain to ensure that all factors influencing prices are considered and that Australians do get a fair deal.

The Albanese Labor government is also partnering with the respected consumer group Choice to provide price transparency and comparison reports on supermarkets to better equip Australians to make informed decisions about where they shop. It is a basic economic principle that giving buyers more information about pricing will boost the efficiency of markets and ultimately give consumers a better deal. The Choice reports will do exactly that by providing better information on the comparative costs of grocery goods at different retailers, highlighting those charging the most as well as those charging the least.

The Albanese Labor government is also committed to ensuring that supermarket suppliers get a fair deal—that the Aussie farmers and producers stocking our shelves right around the country are getting a reasonable price for their produce. That's why we have commenced an independent review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, led by Dr Craig Emerson, to look at whether the code is effective in improving the conduct of supermarkets towards their suppliers. We know that there is an enormous imbalance of bargaining power between farmers and our major supermarkets, which can result in harmful practices and poor business behaviour at the supermarket end. For example, the Fels inquiry found that power imbalances in the grocery sector often result in farmers being forced to accept prices that don't cover their costs or reflect the fair value of their labour and investment. Given that our supermarkets are enjoying record profit margins while consumers and suppliers alike battle with rising costs, these reviews are essential to ensure that the sector gives all Australians a fair deal.

This is just another example of how the Albanese Labor government's focus on the cost of living, wages, jobs and competition is ensuring that everyone does their bit to provide much-needed relief to taxpayers and consumers. That's why we've introduced tax cuts for every single Australian taxpayer from 1 July. It's why we're delivering $23 billion in targeted cost-of-living relief. We're making medicines cheaper, delivering cheaper child care, providing electricity bill relief, expanding paid parental leave, providing more fee-free TAFE places and seeing wages rise at the fastest rate in a decade. We've done this while delivering the first budget surplus in 15 years—the first surplus since Labor was last in government. After nearly a decade of Liberal economic mismanagement that left us with flatlining wages, the worst productivity figures for 50 years and $1 trillion of Liberal debt, the Albanese Labor government is getting on with building a stronger and more competitive economy that works for Australians.

11:38 am

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (Monash, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

It's great to hear this. I commend the member for Spence for bringing this motion forward. However, I've been around long enough to have heard a lot of these discussions before. I take you back to the Rudd-Gillard government. In the run-up to the 2007 election, the person who was to become the Prime Minister said: 'We're going to drive down your grocery prices and your fuel prices. We're going to have an inquiry, and then we're going to have GroceryWatch and FuelWatch.' The minister charged with that responsibility during that government was Minister Chris Bowen, who is now the energy minister. The minister who then took over from Chris Bowen was a minister named Craig Emerson, who saw the farce of GroceryWatch and FuelWatch and knew that it wasn't working at all, and he just dropped it and wiped it away.

So it is rather interesting to consider. I have the greatest respect for the minister and Craig Emerson in his capacity and appointment. He certainly has the ability to come up with a very good inquiry. But I think also that, deep in his heart of hearts, he knows that he will not be able to make any difference whatsoever, as my mother used to say, to the price of paint. You won't make any difference to the price of groceries.

What we have is a market in Australia dominated by two main players. No government—not this government, not the three governments we had, under three different prime ministers, while we were in government, or before that the two governments, under two different prime ministers, on the Labor side—have made any difference to grocery prices. No. They just keep going up and up and up. And the sizes of the products—as the shoppers who are watching this debate will know—get smaller and smaller and smaller. My wife happens to like a certain brand of marmalade, and the jar used to be about that big. Then it went to that big and got dearer. Now it's down to that big, and it's dearer again. So we're losing at both ends. We're not only seeing the prices increasing, but the size of the product and the volume are decreasing.

After all the fine speeches here today around reducing prices at the supermarket, with investment by government to do that—so we will direct—I put it to you that not one thing will change with regard to the structure of the grocery industry in Australia. Things will only change when the buyer, the shopper, decides to be very clear and concise about their shopping and, rather than taking the convenient Woolies store or the Coles store—

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Go to Dandenong Market!

Photo of Russell BroadbentRussell Broadbent (Monash, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

goes to Dandenong Market or perhaps Aldi for this, Woolworths for that, Coles for that and IGA for something else. Me, I'm a shocker. I like to go to IGA because they're not owned by the big guys. They're not owned by the internationals. They're just us, and there are good local people working down there. I love going to IGA. This, to me, just reeks of a government saying: 'The cost of living is high. Look at us. Look at us. We're doing something about it.' No, they're not. Don't be hoodwinked. This is just all froth and bubble and will continue to be. In two years time, when this report finally comes through from Craig Emerson, and all the recommendations are there about what they might do—it is the same report that the Rudd government worked on before. I think Mr Emerson could walk into the room, write the report and walk out—just change the date. It won't make any difference until you completely deregulate.

I'll leave you with this. I spoke with an independent grocer the other day, and he said, 'There's the real price of the product, and here's the majors' price of the product—'

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! I thank the honourable member for Monash. I call the honourable member for Hasluck.

11:43 am

Photo of Tania LawrenceTania Lawrence (Hasluck, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It would be difficult to find anyone in Lesmurdie, Midland or Ellenbrook—anyone across the suburbs of Hasluck—who hasn't noticed the increase in the cost of the weekly grocery shop. There are many factors that feed into increased costs at the supermarket. They include fuel and other transport costs and supply issues. It is, however, a good time to ask questions about competition in the sector and whether the settings and regulation are right for the time. Unlike the member for Monash, this government is not defeatist, and we will investigate and look into where there may be unfair behaviour or price gouging occurring in the supermarket sector, because it affects every Australian, at a time when making ends meet is difficult.

The Albanese government has already acted to assist with the cost of living. We have delivered an array of cost-of-living measures, including electricity bill relief, making medicines cheaper by reducing the maximum cost of a prescription and allowing 60-day dispensing. We've done the largest investment in bulk-billing in Medicare's 40-year history, with bulk-billed urgent-care clinics opening up across the nation, including in Midland, in Hasluck; cheaper child care; expanded parental leave; fee-free TAFE; support for real wage increases; and, of course, now tax cuts for every working Australian.

The supermarket inquiry needs to be viewed in this light because it's another way that the government can take action to ensure there are no extra or unnecessary pressures on the household budget, because grocery retail is big business. In Australia our supermarket system is dominated by two large players, and questions over healthy competition need to be directed towards them in the first instance. When it comes to the range of supermarkets, Australian consumers basically do not have much choice when they purchase their daily necessities. Growers are also hostage to the lack of choice.

For each product we buy at the shops there is often a multitude of primary producers who labour to create the products that we eventually buy. Unfortunately, it is always going to be easier for a large supermarket to deal with a much smaller number of distributors, and easier still to deal with just one. This, however, can become a choke point insofar as competition goes. A sole distributor—even in one state or region—can wield much greater power than a single small grower or producer. An example of this sort of choke point has arisen recently in Hasluck, where local Swan Valley table grape growers are having difficulty moving product because of the actions of a distributor and the attitude of the large supermarket chains. I've referred the matter to the ACCC for investigation and hope for a speedy resolution of these immediate issues, but it is an example of why it is useful to have this inquiry and why we need to address competition issues in every sector from time to time. It is a moving feast. When we feel or suspect that our local growers—some of whom have carried on family businesses in our local areas for generations—are being exploited by big business, then we are compelled to investigate and to take action.

Relationships within the supermarket sector are governed in part by the Competition and Consumer (Industry Codes—Food and Grocery) Regulation 2015. Division 4 provides for certain notice periods and reasons to be provided when a retailer decides to delist a product. The reasons for these provisions are fairness and predictability. When there are grapes on the vine or a perishable product in cold storage or goods in transit and contracts precedent in place for products or their component ingredients, then proper periods of notice are required for forward planning. It must be made clear to retail giants and distributors that hold great market power in a particular region that the provisions of the code are not optional extras but are to be enforced strictly. We need to keep in mind who is actually creating the products in the first place.

The seriousness of the government's approach is exemplified by the fact that we are not sitting on our hands or relying on one measure. The ACCC is charged with a review of competition in the sector, and former government minister Dr Emerson is conducting an independent review into the efficacy of the code. The government is partnering with CHOICE, an independent source that I trust and that I know has the trust of many Australian consumers to help keep an eye on prices and price movements. Consumers and local growers only have power when they have choice. The government has a role to play in ensuring that competition is fair and rules are enforced. The Swan Valley growers and all of the primary producers in Hasluck and across this nation can know that I have their back in ensuring that the framework they work within is fair to all players and is not biased towards the big end of town.

11:48 am

Photo of Sophie ScampsSophie Scamps (Mackellar, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Spence for his important motion today. There's no doubt that cost-of-living pressures are a critical issue for Australians across the country right now. The high inflation rate has triggered 13 interest rate rises and increases in energy, petrol and grocery prices. On top of that, the housing shortage crisis has seen rents soar. Australians are doing it tough.

Although I acknowledge these inflationary pressures are largely the result of global events out of the government's control, there is still much the government can do. As recently as last week, an inquiry commissioned by the ACTU and conducted by Professor Allan Fels found that some of the highest price increases have occurred in sectors where a few players have disproportionate market power over consumers, supply chains and their workforce. The inquiry also found that the surge in corporate profits after the initial stage of the pandemic could not be explained by increasing sales or output. The supermarket sector, where there is an effective duopoly of market share, is one such example, so I very much welcomed the government's January announcement of the ACCC investigation into pricing practices of supermarkets and the relationship between wholesale, farm gate and retail prices. In other words, are the big supermarkets engaging in anticompetitive behaviour and price gouging? This is a start.

But, critically, Professor Fels found that it was not just in the supermarkets where these price increases have been the sharpest. Other sectors where just a few players enjoy a large share of the market, including banks, airlines and electricity providers, were also named as having potential for anticompetitive behaviour. Supermarkets are, indeed, an important place to start, because grocery prices affect us all, but every Australian also needs banks and electricity, so these, too, must become the focus of the government's attention.

I'd like to talk specifically about the electricity providers and energy prices today, because last month we learned that, due to the growing proportion of renewable energy supplying the sector, wholesale energy prices across Australia's main electricity market had almost halved in 2023 when compared to the previous year. This resulted in a drop of 24 per cent in the prices paid by retail customers. This is, indeed, wonderful news. But, unfortunately, these lower wholesale prices have yet to be translated into lower household energy bills.

We know that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy and that transforming Australia into a renewable energy superpower will be an enormous win for consumers, as cheaper energy means that cheaper prices will flow through not only to electricity bills but also to every sector of our society as it becomes cheaper to run businesses and to transport goods. The use of electric vehicles powered by renewable energy will eventually eradicate petrol bills. It is critical, however, that we ensure these lower wholesale energy prices are not gobbled up as profits by energy provider companies but, instead, flow through as savings to households and businesses so we can see lower prices on our power bills. The government must also pay close attention to this space.

On 1 July the Default Market Offer will set the annual price cap. This is the default safety net price for consumers. It is a price cap on how much energy retailers can charge electricity consumers on default plans. This is when we will see whether the lower wholesale energy prices are being passed on to Australian businesses and households.

While I very much welcome the government's announcement of the ACCC inquiry into supermarket competition and prices, more needs to be done in other critical sectors as well, to identify and stamp out the potential for anticompetitive behaviour by energy providers, airlines and banks. Most pressing, I believe, is ensuring the reduction in wholesale electricity prices is passed on to our households and our businesses. This must be a priority for government.

11:53 am

Photo of Louise Miller-FrostLouise Miller-Frost (Boothby, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor knows that cost-of-living pressures and, especially, the cost of groceries are putting Australians under the pump. Last year, this government put in measure after measure to provide cost-of-living relief: cheaper medicines, power bill supplements, cheaper child care, fee-free TAFE, a tripling of the bulk-billing supplement and much more. But, while Australians tightened their belts and this government worked to control inflation, it turns out that not everyone was on the same side. The two major supermarket chains in Australia, Coles and Woolworths, reported record profits. Coles' profit was up $1.098 billion, or 5.3 per cent, on the previous year and Woolworths' was up $1.62 billion, or 4.6 per cent, on its previous.

To be clear, this is profit. This doesn't reflect an increase in the cost of goods sold. It's not flowing through to the farm gate. The money isn't going to farmers or food producers. The money isn't going to freight or packaging. This is their profit after all the cost of goods sold is already taken into account. So where did the profit come from? Most Australian shoppers will be unsurprised to hear that this profit increase reflects grocery price increases. When the government is working to contain inflation and when Australians are tightening their belts to get inflation under control, these supermarket giants are fuelling inflation by putting up prices.

The recent Inquiry into Price Gouging and Unfair Pricing Practices, commissioned by the ACTU and undertaken by Professor Allan Fels, received 325 submissions on the subject of supermarket pricing, more than twice the number of submissions received for any other sector. Australians know about this issue and they care. Australia has a highly concentrated supermarket sector, with Woolworths and Coles accounting for around 65 per cent of the market, and this duopoly has meant limited competition and given them significant power not to reduce prices. The ACTU inquiry found that supermarkets were very quick to pass on any increase in their costs but very slow to pass on savings. An example given was that it took six months for the falling cost of lamb to be passed on to the consumer, and then it was positioned as a Christmas gift from Woolworths to shoppers, whereas in reality it reflected the lower cost of goods sold. If it was a gift from anyone, it was a gift from the farmers who were being paid less for their lamb. The supermarket had been enjoying the higher profit margin for the last six months.

The Albanese government has commissioned an ACCC review on supermarket pricing, an independent review of the food and grocery code. The ACCC inquiry will examine the competitiveness of retail prices for everyday groceries. The 12-month inquiry will consider the current structure of the supermarket industry at the supply, wholesale and retail levels; competition in the industry and how it's changed since 2008, including online shopping; the competitiveness of small and independent retailers, including in regional and remote areas; the pricing practices of supermarkets; factors influencing prices along the supply chain, and any impediments to competitive pricing along the supply chain; and other factors impacting competition, including loyalty programs and third-party discounts. The ACCC will provide their findings and recommendations to the government in early 2025, and we will work with them to ensure that shoppers are getting a fair deal.

The food and grocery code regulates business dealings between farmers, suppliers, wholesalers and supermarkets and addresses harmful practices in the grocery sector stemming from an imbalance of bargaining power between these groups. Through protecting suppliers against business behaviour that affects the growth and sustainability of the grocery industry, the code is intended to prevent harms being passed on through the supply chain to Australian consumers. Importantly for consumers, we are also providing choice, with $1.1 million to provide price transparency and comparison reports on a quarterly basis for three years so consumers can have clear information on the best place for them to buy their groceries. This will start from the second quarter of 2024 and provide shoppers with increased transparency on comparative costs of a basket of goods at different retailers. It will give Australians better information to make informed choices about where they shop. Groceries are a vital part of expenditure for every Australian household. I commend the government for commissioning the ACCC inquiry, and I'm sure all Australian shoppers will be very interested in the findings.

11:58 am

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a bit like the arsonist calling the fire brigade: start the fire and then expect help when the fire is out of control.

You're out of your seat, so you can't actually say anything, Member for Lyons. Before the members for Hasluck and Spence start, I'll give them the same little reminder—

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is true!

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

I shouldn't overrule the Deputy Speaker. The fact remains: Labor has been dragged kicking and screaming to ask for a review into pricing in supermarkets and an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry. It is too little, too late. This problem has been going on under your watch and you did nothing about it. When everybody was going absolutely berserk about the cost of living, Labor finally listened to the National Party, who had been calling for this, along with the rest of the coalition, for 12 long months, if not longer. We were calling for an ACCC inquiry. What did Labor say? Nothing. They just let people pay more and more every time they went to the supermarket, and, quite frankly, every time they went to the petrol browser—every time they went anywhere. What did Labor do? They just towed the line of their union mates, because that's what Labor always does. Now, when the cost of living is a fire raging out of control, Labor says, 'We need an ACCC inquiry.'

You should have listened to the Nationals. You should have listened to the coalition a long time ago and done something about it then. But, when it's all too little and all too late, Labor come to the table and say, 'Look at us!' They puff their chests out and say: 'Aren't we good? We're going to have an inquiry. We're going to have Dr Emerson.' I like Dr Emerson. He's a good man. He was a good minister.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Riverina will resume his seat. The debate is interrupted and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.