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Wednesday, 28 February 2001
Page: 24702

Mr SWAN (9:55 AM) —Despite Minister Hockey's mud-slinging in parliament recently about grocery prices, a survey has shown 22 of 28 food items surveyed have increased in price since the GST was introduced. If Minister Hockey spent more time sitting at the kitchen table than he does sitting at the boardroom table, he would understand how Australians are being hit with GST-inflated price rises at the supermarket. Yesterday Minister Hockey deliberately misled the House about the results of my Lilley Pricewatch survey.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! The member for Lilley will withdraw that statement.

Mr SWAN —I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. The government, through the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, predicted before the GST was introduced that 24 of 28 food types in the Lilley Pricewatch team survey would fall in price. Only four food items surveyed have fallen in price since June 2000; 20 items did not. Nearly all of these 20 food items have risen in price despite the fact that they do not attract a GST. The introduction of the GST and the removal of embedded wholesale sales taxes have not produced the falls predicted by Mr Hockey. The nearest Minister Hockey has been to a supermarket is in a plane flying over the Marrickville Metro when coming in to land in Sydney. Sure, the battlers are better off with the GST if they live on tomato sauce, pasta, sweet biscuits, tinned tomatoes and then go partying with Coca-Cola.

The government said it would take six months for prices to stabilise after the GST was introduced and for embedded wholesale sales tax savings to flow through. Six months are up and prices have moved—in some cases savagely upwards. For example, the Lilley Pricewatch team found that Vegemite, which was expected to fall by approximately 3c, has risen by 10c and bread, which was expected to fall in price by 2c, has risen by 9c. These price increases all add up. Women are also feeling the GST. Women are now paying 46c more for tampons than they were six months ago. Already we have seen essential services rise in price above 10 per cent, including gas and electricity. Any compensation that families, pensioners and self-funded retirees have received has already been gobbled up. We think these price rises are the tip of the iceberg. Our survey shows there are more price rises in the pipeline. This hard data shows how consumers have been dudded by the Howard government, just as they were on petrol. All these price increases may seem small to the government, but pensioners and families are feeling it at the checkout.

I have written to Minister Hockey and the ACCC with the Lilley Pricewatch team's findings and my concerns about the impact these price hikes are having on shoppers. Estimates of price changes were an important factor in the government's determination of compensation to families when the GST was implemented. Our survey shows prices on basic groceries have risen more than expected, eroding the compensation. The GST is hurting families and people on low and fixed incomes. The government made a lot of promises about how people on lower incomes would be better off under the GST, but they have not delivered on these claims. It is just over six months since the GST was introduced and already our average basket price is well above pre-GST levels. Consumers watch out! There is sure to be more to come with Hockey and his hogwash.