A review of Australia’s food and grocery code will be headed by former Labor minister Craig Emerson after the government was accused of dragging its feet on claims of profiteering by the major supermarkets.
The review of the code, set 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 since the announced review, nobody had been appointed to examine the code, sparking condemnation from Nationals leader David Littleproud on Tuesday who accused the government for “talking tough” but not acting to ensure farmers and customers were being treated fairly.
“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 on Tuesday.
“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.”
Just hours after Mr Littleproud’s comments, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced Dr Emerson’s appointment.
He promised “all available levers” would be used to ensure falling costs for business were passed through to the final prices consumers paid.
“We have been clear – if the price for meat and fruit and vegetables is going down at the farm gate then families should be seeing cheaper prices on supermarket shelves too,” Mr Albanese said.
“Supermarkets have a duty to make sure they’re providing affordable options for all Australians, especially when they’re making savings on their own costs.”
Responding to Dr Emerson’s appointment, Mr Littleproud said it was disappointing the government had been “shamed” into announcing its decision on a reviewer.
“They have been caught asleep at the wheel,” Mr Littleproud said.
“It has taken The Nationals’ calling out of Labor’s gross failure to get this going today, highlighting it has been almost 100 days, for Labor to finally appoint Dr Emerson.”
Dr Emerson, who previously served as trade minister during the Gillard government, was previously appointed in 2022 to head a federal review into the payment times reporting scheme, which required large businesses to disclose the time they took to pay smaller firms.
A separate Senate inquiry, established by the Greens, is also set to probe allegations of price gouging by the major supermarkets.
While still high, food inflation has eased in recent quarters, decelerating to 4.8 per cent in the year to September, down from its 9.2 per cent peak in December 2022.