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Supermarket pricing Op-Ed By David Littleproud

The cost-of-living crisis is the biggest issue facing Australian families in 2024. Any visit to the
supermarket often comes with the shock of the checkout bill and how high grocery prices
have risen since Labor won government.
Despite Prime Minister Anthony Albanese declaring his government would do ‘whatever
necessary’ to lower food prices, it has now been revealed the Labor Government was
offered support to bring forward its Grocery Code of Conduct Review 12 months earlier but
rejected the idea, all because Labor could not see the urgency in taking action.
I wrote to Assistant Minister for Competition Andrew Leigh in December 2022, encouraging
and offering The Nationals’ support to bring forward the Grocery Code of Conduct Review
by one year.
The Assistant Minister instead opted for the scheduled review in October 2023, which was
then further delayed by 100 days by the Labor Government.
It was obvious the cost-of-living crisis that families have been feeling for the last 18 months
was not the priority of the Albanese government, which instead spent 2023 focused on its
failed $450 million Referendum.
Labor simply missed the opportunity to make sure there was fair, transparent pricing from
the farmgate to Australian plates when help was needed.
I also provided the Assistant Minister for Competition with an offer for support on legislative
reforms of the Code of Conduct in July, 2022, that the Reviewer Dr Craig Emerson has now
been charged to undertake.
The Nationals made it clear to the government, even back then, that the Code should be
made mandatory, penalties should be increased, starting at $10 million, and scaling to
divestiture powers if they failed to adjust pricing.
This was to reflect substantial changes in the cost of production, dishonesty, or not in good
faith distorted or manipulated grocery prices.
The Albanese government was also given a warning in May 2023, when former ACCC Chair
Rod Sims said that the supermarkets had likely used their market power to increase prices
higher than necessary during a cost-of-living crisis and that the government could
implement an ACCC-led inquiry that has information gathering powers.
The Albanese Government again failed to use the ACCC in May and then again in November
2023, when The Nationals called for one into meat and fresh produce pricing.
I’m not sure if the government has only just realised but they’ve had the tools and the
support to put downward pressure on grocery bills for well over 12 months but haven’t
understood the scale or gravity of the pressure families are facing.
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.
Labor is now treating this issue as a cynical PR management exercise in 2024 and shows a
lack of competence to fix the problem. It must now get cracking and give farmers and
families the answers they need and deserve.

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