Supermarket giant Woolworths has engaged the services of a powerful Canberra lobbying firm ahead of the company’s appearance at a Senate inquiry into grocery prices.
Woolies has taken on the services of TG Public Affairs – a company headed by former Labor heavyweights Stephen Conroy and Kim Beazley – in order to prepare for the government investigation into grocery prices and the market power of the big players, The Australian is reporting.
It’s understood the firm has been employed to help coach Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci before his grilling at the inquiry in coming months.
TG Public Affairs was also used by Optus to coach its CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin before she appeared before senators after the hacking scandal last November.
Woolworths and its CEO have been under fire over decisions relating to Australia Day merchandise, and the company appears reluctant to make the situation any worse.
“TP were engaged in December after the Senate inquiry was announced,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
“They will assist with preparation for that inquiry as well as two inquiries being undertaken in the Queensland and Victorian parliaments.”
Why are the supermarkets being investigated?
The Senate inquiry was initiated in December last year, after the Albanese government agreed to terms of reference set by the Greens.
Executives from Woolworths and Coles will be questioned on their pricing strategies, price increases on essential items and the impact of the ‘duopoly’ on food prices.
The inquiry will also look at whether the supermarkets are engaging in opportunistic pricing and excessive mark-ups.
When the inquiry was first announced, Mr Banducci said Woolworths welcomed the opportunity to lift the lid on how its prices are set.
“We are very aware of the pressures facing many Australian families,” he said.
“We welcome the opportunity to explain to the Senate how we are working to balance the needs of our customers, our team and our suppliers in the context of economy-wide inflationary pressure.”
Coles has confirmed its CEO, Leah Weckert, will also appear before senators and says the company has nothing to hide when it comes to its pricing policies.
“We know cost-of-living pressures are front-of-mind for many Australians and we are working hard to keep prices affordable for Australian households,” Ms Weckert says.
“We have worked collaboratively with previous inquiries and are ready to work with the committee and engage in an informed discussion on the factors that influence supermarket pricing.”
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