Parliament stunt exposes ‘piggy’ supermarket profits

Feb 28, 2024

Kennedy MP Bob Katter and Clark MP Andrew Wilkie dressed as pigs and walked the halls of Federal Parliament on Wednesday to resemble the supermarkets with their “snouts in the trough” – allegedly underpaying their producers and price gouging off their consumers.

Mr Katter said it should be noted that he and his crossbench colleague Mr Wilkie, ten years ago, called on the government to support a Bill that would have reduced the powers of the big supermarket giants. Ignored at the time, sadly now Australians face a cost-of-living crisis where they’re cutting staple foods from their diets to manage tight household budgets. [1]

The two independents anticipate reintroducing their Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill in March to Parliament.

In summary, the legislation would:

  • Force divestiture of the supermarkets and their market power in the grocery sector to a maximum of 20 per cent within five years.
  • Provide for a Commissioner for Food Retailing with functions that stop price gouging and other anti-competitive behaviours and requires the publication of information on what is being paid to the farmer and by the consumer, as well as regulate 100 per cent mark up on prices paid to producers, to then what is charged to consumers.
  • Scrapping the ‘food and grocery code of conduct’ noting it fails to address power imbalances and instead provides a mechanism by which supermarkets control suppliers and producers.

Mr Katter used the example of potatoes to highlight the disparity between what is paid to a producer, compared to what is paid by the consumer.

“It’s about $3.60 per kg for the potatoes that customers pay for at the supermarket, and they pay the farmer, about 99 per kg,” Mr Katter said.

“But it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about bananas, eggs, milk, sugar or avocados, it’s the same.

“I mean are we just going to let them continue screwing the farmers down through the floor and charging the consumers a ‘squillion’ dollars.

“There will be big moves now on Woolworths and Coles,” Mr Katter said, coinciding with Woolworths’ Wednesday announcement of it “dropping prices on more than 400 items.” [2]

Mr Wilkie said he congratulated “the member for Kennedy for bringing this bill to parliament… for a second time.”

“The fact that it was brought to the parliament ten years ago, and nothing happened, and here we are ten years later and we’re looking at price markups like this potato example – 99c to $3.90,” Mr Wilkie said.

“This bill has a number of components – the key component I think is compulsory divestiture.

“That each year for five years, both Woolworths and Coles would have to divest themselves of 5 per cent of their market share; that’s 10 per cent in total of the big two. So over five years, Woolies and Coles will go from around 70 per cent down to about 20 per cent.

“And that would bring Australia into line with similar countries around the world; nowhere in the world is there such a duopoly of supermarkets.”

Photo: Kennedy MP Bob Katter and Clark MP Andrew Wilkie with their Reducing Supermarket Dominance Bill.

[1] Rising food costs cause people to skip meals, avoid dairy, alcohol, meat to cope financially – ABC News

[2] Woolworths announces massive price drop, effective immediately | The Courier Mail