‘Cartel’: Jacqui unleashes on Coles, Woolies

The supermarket giants have been put on notice not to hike up the price of a leg of Christmas ham ahead of the festive season.
The supermarket giants have been put on notice not to hike up the price of a leg of Christmas ham ahead of the festive season.

Coles and Woolworths have been accused of operating “like a bloody cartel” and ripping customers off ahead of the festive season.

The supermarket giants look set to be ordered to front up to a senate inquiry examining whether they are price gouging to get record profits amid a cost of living crisis.

But Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie said an inquiry alone simply didn’t cut it and suggested Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had gone missing in action on the issue.

“Let’s be honest, they are like a bloody cartel,” she told Sky News on Monday.

“I think what I find really shameful … is that we’ve got to run another inquiry to tell us the same thing, when we know very well that if we bulked up the (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) and gave it more powers they could actually fix this.

“Where is the prime minister? Where is he?”

The Tasmanian senator fired up at the supermarket giants. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The competition watchdog requires a referral from the Treasurer before it can launch an inquiry.

The Greens will this week move to establish an inquiry to scrutinise the impact of market concentration on food prices and the pattern of pricing strategies employed by Woolworths and Coles.

It comes as the Agriculture Minister Murray Watt also put the supermarket chains on notice to freeze the price of a leg of Christmas ham.

“We know families are doing it tough at the moment and the cost of a lot of things is going up,” the Queensland senator said.

Senator Watt doesn’t want to see families ripped off this Christmas. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

He said guaranteeing the price of ham would allow families to carve up their budgets in the weeks, not days leading up to the holiday.

Coles and Woolworths have both insisted they will not be looking to hike up prices as it gets closer to the silly season.

In a statement, Woolworths noted their prices had lowered to $8kg — the lowest since 2014.

Managing Director Natalie Dav said it would help “budgets go further this year”.

Coles has also dropped the price of its Christmas ham to $8, with a spokesman saying Coles has “worked hard to ensure it delivers great value on Christmas favourites”.

Both supermarkets have also committed to dropping their prices on several staple items, including sausages and chicken wings – though neither has committed to freezing the price of a Christmas ham.

But Senator Watt acknowledged it was going to be a tough time for many families.

“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.”

Santa piggy bank
Christmas is set to be a tough time for those struggling with the cost of living.

The call comes as the rising cost of living has many Australians turning to credit cards to finance Christmas with many racking up debts they can’t pay back.

More than one in 10 (11 per cent) of Aussies will turn to plastic this year while 7 per cent of cash strapped shoppers will turn to buy now pay later services, according to Finder.

The research suggests the average Australian is expected to spend $1,479 this Christmas on presents, food, alcohol, eating out and travel.

Half of consumers (49 per cent) will dip into their savings account to fund Christmas, while almost 1 in 3 Aussies (27 per cent) don’t plan on buying anything this holiday season.