Supermarket Inquiry Will Make No Difference

12 February, 2024

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—

Mr Hill: Go to Dandenong Market!

Mr BROADBENT: 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—'

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Russell Broadbent MP
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