Government puts supermarkets on notice against profiting from struggling Aussies this Christmas

Dec 05, 2023
Hands off Christmas ham prices! Government cracks down on potential Christmas price hikes. Source: Getty Images.

In a bold move to protect the hip pockets of Australians during the festive season, Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has issued a stern warning to the nation’s supermarkets, urging them not to profit off families in the lead-up to Christmas.

Minister Watt, known for his successful October campaign that led Coles and Woolworths to cut meat prices by up to 36 per cent, is once again taking the big retailers to task ahead of the holiday season. His focus this time: ensuring a freeze on the price of the quintessential Christmas leg ham.

“The traditional ham is a staple of any Christmas lunch in Australia,” he said.

“And we know families are doing it tough at the moment and the cost of a lot of things is going up.

“It’s time for supermarkets to do their part and say one thing we won’t put up is the price of a Christmas ham.

“Guaranteeing a price freeze on ham would allow families to budget in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

“Farmers also need certainty that they’ll get a fair price from supermarkets.”

Watt stressed the importance of providing certainty to families by guaranteeing a price freeze on ham, allowing them to budget in the weeks leading up to the holiday.

“Presents for the kids, fuel to get to the other side of town to see your parents, fresh seafood as well as drinks, the cost of Christmas can really add up,” he said.

“Anything that can be done to give families a hand during this time would really be beneficial.

“And those with the most to give should be the first to help.”

Highlighting the contrast between household struggles and corporate profits, Watt pointed out that supermarkets had been experiencing increased growth in revenue and profits while households were feeling the financial pinch.

“For the average Aussie, it doesn’t make sense that the price on the bottom of their docket is going up while these companies are recording massive profits,” he said.

“The government is doing our bit to help with cost-of-living pressures, now it’s time for the business community to also do their part.”

Calls for a price freeze on the beloved Christmas favourite come as major supermarkets prepare to face a comprehensive Senate inquiry into allegations of “price gouging”.

The inquiry, announced by the Australian Green’s party, aims to investigate whether major supermarket chains have been hiking grocery prices as Australians stare down the barrel of a cost of living crisis.

Announcing the inquiry, Greens Economic Justice Spokesperson Senator Nick McKim accused both Coles and Woolworths of “making billions in profits by price gouging in a cost of living crisis.”

“For too long the big supermarkets have had too much market power. This allows them to dictate prices and terms that are hitting people hard,” McKim said.

“It’s time to smash the duopoly.

“Coles and Woolworths are making billions in profits because they feel that they can overcharge people without repercussions. It needs to end.

“We want the CEOs to justify their decisions in a public hearing.

“This inquiry is a critical step toward dismantling the market concentration that’s led to unfair pricing and stifled competition.

“We’ll find a way to dismantle their power and bring grocery prices down.

“It is about ensuring that Australians can afford to eat without being exploited, and that suppliers are treated fairly.”

The Senate inquiry will focus on major supermarkets’ pricing practices and market influence, specifically examining:

  • The impact of market concentration and corporate power on food and grocery prices.
  • The pricing strategies employed by the two leading supermarket chains.
  • The surge in supermarket profits and significant price hikes for essential items.
  • Instances of opportunistic pricing, misleading discounts, and inflated mark-ups.
  • The role of store-brand products in consolidating corporate power.
  • The utilisation of technology and automation for cost-cutting, affecting consumers and employees.
  • Proposed enhancements to regulatory frameworks to ensure lower prices for food and groceries.
  • Safeguards for suppliers dealing with major supermarkets.
  • Any other relevant issues connected to the investigation.

The hearings are expected to commence in early 2024.

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