The final hearing for the Inquiry into price gouging and unfair pricing practices – chaired by Professor Allan Fels AO – wrapped up in Canberra yesterday, with the Inquiry report to be released later this year.
Since kicking off in Melbourne on 22 September, there have been hearings across the country in regional centres and major cities, including Cairns, Adelaide, Sydney and Canberra. So far, the Inquiry has seen over 600 submissions pour in nation-wide, from everyday people bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis, as well as from academics, not-for-profit organisations and think-tanks.
The shocking stories that have emerged paint a stark picture of Australians struggling to make ends meet, shedding light on the direct effects of corporate price gouging on people’s daily lives.
Would you pay almost $100 for a leg of ham?
It has to be seen to be believed.
Cape York residents are already used to sky-high prices – often paying triple what people pay in urban centres – but the Cairns hearing heard from locals who are paying $19 per kilogram for mince, nearly $100 for a leg of ham and $2.87 a litre for diesel.
Meanwhile, Coles and Woolworths posted profits of $1.098 billion and $1.62 billion respectively, earning themselves a shared top spot in this year’s Shonky Award by Choice, for cashing in during a cost-of-living crisis.
Similar experiences have emerged all across the country. One such story involved a grandfather in a remote area trying to buy his granddaughter a Kinder Surprise, but finding the cost had risen to an absurd $15.
It’s not just supermarkets who are cashing in
Passing on exorbitant prices to consumers is especially acute in industries where powerful monopolistic companies have a chokehold on the competition.
During the Sydney hearing, we heard a story of a South Australian pensioner who spoke about needing to sell off his possessions just to afford to keep the lights on.
This is hardly surprising when we know big energy companies are hiking prices and making substantial profits. Take Origin Energy, for example, which posted an annual profit of well over $1 billion in the recent financial year.
Not to mention the big banks, who are on track for another bumper year of profits in 2024 – with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia announcing a net profit of $2.5 billion in the first quarter of this financial year alone.
Meanwhile, workers and their families are struggling to keep up with growing mortgages and rental prices.
Research has shown time and time again that corporate price-gouging fuels inflation and exacerbates the cost-of-living crisis. This trend has become more noticeable over the past decade with profit growth outpacing wages growth at an exponential rate.
The way forward – Australians need a pay rise
It’s time to act – and the best way to help Australians struggling in the cost-of-living crisis is to pass the Albanese government’s Closing Loopholes Bill.
The commonsense changes in the Bill will help get wages moving again.
Lend your voice to the call for politicians to pass the Bill urgently. Because every day we wait is another day everyday Australians are falling further and further behind.