Labor has been accused of dragging its feet on a review of Australia’s food and grocery code as the opposition sounds the alarm on supermarket price gouging.
A review of the code to determine whether an overhaul was required to better improve the relationship between grocery retailers, wholesalers and suppliers was announced last October.
But nearly 100 days later nobody has been appointed to examine the code.
Nationals leader David Littleproud criticised the government for “talking tough” but not acting to ensure farmers and customers were being treated fairly by supermarkets.
“They’ve been dragging their feet … They said that the way that they’re going to sort out the supermarkets was to have a broader competition review and they were going to actually make sure they got underneath the bottom of this,” he said.
“But they haven’t even announced the Reviewer of this, a hundred days on, and they want to be able to come back by June.”
The government has said a reviewer would be appointed in due course.
Food inflation eased over 2023 to 4.8 per cent in the September quarter, down from its 9.2 per cent peak in December 2022.
But as many Australians continue to grapple with cost of living pressures, politicians have jumped at the chance to lash out at the big supermarkets amid concerns of profiteering.
Mr Littleproud noted the government could have ordered a short Australian Competition and Consumer Commission prior to Christmas to look into prices.
“The cost-of-living crisis was before Christmas … We could have changed the course of Christmas for so many Australian families,” Mr Littleproud said.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers said that if supermarkets were buying food from farmers at a reduced rate they should pass that onto consumers.
“I’m in regular contact with the ACCC chair (Gina Cass-Gottlieb) about these sorts of issues, and if further steps are necessary, we will obviously consider them,” he said on Monday.
But Mr Littleproud insisted he wanted to see parliament get “underneath the supermarkets’ skin” and pass new laws to increase penalties for those not treating farmers or consumers fairly.
“There’s no way in the world that the mark-up that the supermarket is charging is fair, where they’re trading in a commodity that underpins all life – food,” the Nationals leader said.
“If we don’t have food, we don’t survive. I’m not against making profits, but it has to be transparent and has to be fair.”