Interview with Jayne Azzopardi & Clint Stanaway, Weekend Today
22 April 2023
JAYNE AZZOPARDI: New data has confirmed what any supermarket shopper has already been experiencing. Food inflation has doubled compared to this time last year.
CLINT STANAWAY: That's right. We're also being warned prices won't cool anytime soon. For more let's bring in Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume in Melbourne. She's heading a Senate inquiry into a cost of living crisis. Jane, good morning. It's no secret the families out there they're doing it really tough at the moment. What does this data tell us when it comes to the cost of fresh food?
JANE HUME: The data is telling us that it's not just the cost of fresh food that's going up but also the cost of canned food and frozen food as well. You know, Australians are really feeling the pinch right now. And supermarkets are really where it's all at. They're now doing what they can do to help alleviate the cost of living by keeping prices as low as they can on certain goods and services. But, you know, let's face it, they're facing their own pressures, whether it be freight costs, the cost of supplies because of weather events around the country, making some fruit and vegetables in particular scarce, and also the cost of energy and the cost of labour. All of that is forcing supermarkets to raise their prices and that feeds into Australians hip pocket.
JAYNE AZZOPARDI: So when we see the prices of fresh food and canned food going out is that because of those pressures that you mentioned that the transport costs and the energy costs of the supermarket's having to pass on.
JANE HUME: There's hardly a sector in Australia right now that isn't feeling the pressure of price rises, and it does seem to be coming from all different directions. Labour costs are going up. There's labour shortages. It's hard to get people to come and work for your organisation, so you have to pay them more. We want to see wages rise, that's a good thing, but it does pass through to the costs of goods and services. electricity costs have gone through the roof and freight costs because of fuel and other factors have also been pushing all those prices to continually increase. What we want to see is the government do something right now to help people alleviate their cost of living crisis because it's manifesting at home people having to choose between heating or eating and we want to see more done by this government.
JAYNE AZZOPARDI: But what I mean what more can they do, Jane? I mean, a lot of the reasoning behind high fuel prices and energy prices is the war in Ukraine, for example. The government's already done things like put a cap on gas and coal. They provided some electricity bill relief. What are you suggesting they should be doing?
JANE HUME: Well, that's one of the reasons why we established the Cost of Living Committee in conjunction between the Coalition and the Greens because we don't feel that the government is making the right decisions and prioritising the right policies to help genuinely alleviate the cost of living. In fact, potentially that can be making it worse. The Cost of Living Committee is traveling right around the country, hearing from ordinary Australians as well as industries and peak bodies to find out how the cost of living is manifesting there, how people are coping with it, and also what solutions they might have that can help alleviate that cost of living pressure right now. We've heard from you know, the big supermarkets for instance, the sort of things that they're doing things like increasing their food donations to places like Foodbank, and Secondbite. They're also having programs to keep prices down. But there's more things we can do. We can increase competition, we can cut red tape, and there's been some amazing ideas that have come out of that committee. What we really want to see now is, is your viewers involved themselves in that committee. There's a website that they can go to ‘yourcostofliving.au’ and they can do a five minute survey to tell us exactly how the cost of living pressures are biting them and what ideas they might have that government can implement. Simple practical solutions, that government can implement right now to help the cost of living crisis.
CLINT STANAWAY: Hey Jane I want ask you about supermarkets. You spoke about the big supermarkets just then. Their net profits are rising all the time. Are they doing enough to help alleviate the pressures?
JANE HUME: Well, they’re certainly do what they can, as I said, they've seen more requests, for instance, has seen the demand for food donations increase 20% over the last year or so, the IGA is getting out there and doing their bit to help with community groups, whether it be Scout groups or charities, or sausage sizzles, whatever it might be. But certainly they have their own pressures to face. They want to make sure that they can continue to employ people. They employ thousands of Australians. They're a really important part of the supply chain. So they're doing their bit. We want to see the government do theres.
CLINT STANAWAY: Jane, thanks so much for your time.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you guys.