Coles, Woolies prices: Anthony Albanese’s stern message to supermarkets amid cost-of-living crisis

Anthony Albanese says he’s not buying the supermarket giants’ price justification as the government weighs up whether to force the companies to expose any discrepancy.

The Prime Minister vented his frustration at the big supermarkets as he hit the airwaves on Monday to convince voters the cost-of-living crisis was his main priority.

“I think the problem for the big supermarket chains is that when people look at the prices that they’re paying off the farmers, and then look at what the prices they’re charging, is that people can see there’s a discrepancy there,” he said.

“People look at the profits the supermarkets are making, people know there is effectively a big duopoly who have considerable market power.”

Coles and Woolworths have repeatedly denied it has engaged in price gouging. Both companies have been contacted for comment.

Asked directly if he would say whether or not he believed the supermarkets’ justifications, Mr Albanese said it was clear.

“I think there is a discrepancy there. Simple as that,” the Prime Minister said.

Coles made a profit of more than $1bn during the last financial year. Woolworths reported a $1.6bn profit during the same period.

Mr Albanese met with Craig Emerson and Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Monday morning to discuss the direction of an inquiry into the food and grocery code.

Currently, the code is voluntary and it governs how Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and Metcash (which owns IGA) interact with suppliers and customers.

Dr Chalmers is also considering whether to pull the trigger on price inquiry to be run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

A competition watchdog inquiry would grant the commission the power to compel the supermarkets to reveal what they pay for produce.

The supermarket giants have been warned the review could consider making the code mandatory and government intervention is an option should they not pass on lower prices.

A separate Senate inquiry, established by the Greens, is also set to probe allegations of price gouging by the major supermarkets.

It comes as the government is under pressure to do more to ease cost-of-living pressures on Australians despite concerns any relief could exacerbate inflation.

Mr Albanese noted Cabinet was meeting on Monday to discuss the issue which would spill over into the coming weeks and further meetings of the budget razor gang.

Treasury and Finance have been tasked with finding a way to deliver relief in line with the government’s priority to “fight inflation”.

“We know that the cost of living pressures are there and we know that the fight against inflation is not over,” he said.

“We’ll continue to look for targeted cost of living relief, how we can make a difference for people without adding to inflation.”

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