Treasurer Jim Chalmers refuses to answer question every Australian wants to know about supermarket prices

Caleb Taylor
New penalties for supermarkets caught doing wrong thing.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has refused to say how much difference a government crackdown on supermarkets will make as skyrocketing prices continue to hit household budgets across the country.

The federal government has pledged to accept all recommendations of a recent review into The Food and Grocery Code of Conduct and will tackle anti-competitive behaviour in the industry.

WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Government tackling anti-competitive behaviour in the supermarket sector.

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Despite the government being set to introduce hefty fines for non-complying supermarkets, Chalmers struggled to answer what the change would mean for the average family at the checkout.

Grilled by Nat Barr on Sunrise on Monday, Chalmers refused to put on a number on how the reforms would affect prices.

“That remains to be seen, Nat,” Chalmers said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers joined Nat Barr on Sunrise on Monday, refusing to say how the family budget will be impacted by making the supermarket code of conduct mandatory.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers joined Nat Barr on Sunrise on Monday, refusing to say how the family budget will be impacted by making the supermarket code of conduct mandatory. Credit: Seven

“We’ve got to legislate these changes, but we believe by making these supermarkets more competitive in a bunch of ways, not just this way, that we can put downward pressure on prices.”

“We’ve empowered the ACCC and have made prices more transparent by funding the consumer group Choice, we’re making The Food and Grocery Code mandatory.

“This is about making our supermarkets more competitive because if they are, we get the downward prices we want to see (for shoppers and families).”

Despite being pressed by Barr, Chalmers refused to give numbers from government modelling but said the government did a “bunch of analysis” before the announcement.

“I’m a lover of numbers, but I don’t make those kinds of predictions — my job is to make the sector as competitive as it can be, and this is an important part of that,” Chalmers said.

“If it is more competitive, more transparent and people are getting a fair go, better outcomes will be seen at the supermarket checkout.”

The federal government will accept all recommendations of a recent probe into the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct.

The inquiry found the voluntary code was failing to address the imbalance of bargaining power between supermarkets and their suppliers, including farmers.

Suppliers fear retribution from supermarkets if they raise concerns or exercise their rights under the code, according to the findings from the review.

The code is an agreement which aims to improve business behaviour across the grocery sector, particularly relating to the relationships between retailers, wholesalers, and suppliers.

Suppliers are automatically covered by the code, but it is voluntary for supermarkets and industry giants Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and IGA are each signed up.

The review by former Labor minister Craig Emerson recommended making the code mandatory for all supermarkets with an annual revenue of more than $5 billion.

It will also introduce penalties for the most serious breaches of the code.

This maximum punishment would be the greatest of $10 million, three times the benefit gained from the contravening conduct or 10 per cent of turnover in the previous 12 months.

Other recommendations include strengthening dispute resolutions, improving outcomes for suppliers of fresh produce, and putting a greater emphasis on addressing fear of retribution.

— With AAP

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