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Cheaper mortgages, tamed inflation and even higher home prices: how 29 forecasters see Australia’s economic recovery in 2024-25

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>Australia’s top economic forecasters expect the Reserve Bank to start cutting interest rates by March next year, taking 0.35 points of its cash rate by June.</p> <p>If passed on in full, the cut would take $125 off the monthly cost of servicing a $600,000 variable-rate mortgage, with more to come.</p> <p>The panel of 29 forecasters assembled by The Conversation expects a further cut of 0.3 points by the end of 2025. This would take the cash rate down from the current 4.35% to 3.75% and produce a total cut in monthly payments on a $600,000 mortgage of $335.</p> <p>The forecasts were produced <em>after</em> last week’s news of a higher than expected <a href="https://theconversation.com/australias-inflation-rate-jumps-to-4-putting-an-rba-rate-rise-back-on-the-agenda-233331">monthly consumers price index</a>.</p> <p>Several of those surveyed revised up their predictions for interest rates in the year ahead, while continuing to predict cuts by mid next year.</p> <p>Only two expect higher rates by mid next year. Only four expect no change.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="6eIe8" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/6eIe8/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Now in its sixth year, The Conversation survey draws on the expertise of leading forecasters in 22 Australian universities, think tanks and financial institutions – among them economic modellers, former Treasury and Reserve Bank officials and a former member of the Reserve Bank board.</p> <p>Eight of the 29 expect the first cut to come this year, by either November or December.</p> <p>One of them is Luci Ellis, who was until recently assistant governor (economic) at the Reserve Bank and is now at Westpac. She and her team are forecasting three interest rate cuts by the middle of next year, taking the cash rate from 4.35% to 3.6%.</p> <h2>Reserve Bank a ‘reluctant hiker’</h2> <p>Ellis says inflation isn’t falling fast enough for the bank to be confident of being able to cut before November. But after that, even if inflation isn’t completely back within the bank’s target band but is merely moving towards it, a “forward-looking” board would want to start easing interest rates.</p> <p>Another forecaster, Su-Lin Ong of RBC Capital Markets, says in her view the bank should hike at its next board meeting in August after the release of figures likely to show inflation is still too high. But she says the bank is a “reluctant hiker” and keen to keep unemployment low.</p> <p>Although several panellists expect the Reserve Bank to hike rates in the months ahead, almost all expect rates to be lower in a year’s time than they are today.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="2xF3M" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/2xF3M/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The panel expects inflation to be back within the Reserve Bank’s 2-3% target band by June next year, and to be close to it (3.3%) by the end of this year.</p> <p>Twelve of the panel expect inflation to climb further when the official figures are released at the end of this month, but none expect it to climb further beyond that. And all expect inflation to be lower by the end of the financial year than it is today.</p> <p>One, Percy Allan, a former head of the NSW Treasury, cautions that the tax cuts and other government support measures due to start this month run the risk of boosting spending and falling progress on inflation.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="LGJa7" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/LGJa7/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The panel expects wages growth to fall from 4% to 3.5% over the year ahead, contributing to downward pressure on inflation, but to remain higher than prices growth, producing gains in so-called <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/realincome.asp">real wages</a>.</p> <p>It expects wages growth to moderate further, to 3.2%, in 2025-26.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="iV7mZ" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/iV7mZ/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Consumer spending is expected to remain unusually weak, growing by only 1.7% in real terms over the next 12 months, up from 1.3% in the latest national accounts.</p> <p>Mala Raghavan, from the University of Tasmania, said even though inflation was falling, previous price rises meant the prices of essentials remained high. AMP chief economist Shane Oliver expected the boost from the <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/tax-cuts">Stage 3 tax cuts</a> to be offset by the depressing effect of a weaker labour market.</p> <h2>Unemployment to climb modestly</h2> <p>The panel expects Australia’s unemployment rate to climb steadily from its present historically low 4% to 4.4%.</p> <p>Moodys Analytics economist Harry Murphy Cruise said although the increase wasn’t big, the effect on pay packets would be bigger. Employers were shaving hours and easing back on hiring rather than letting go of workers.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="SM8PI" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/SM8PI/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Panellists expect China’s economic growth to slip from 5.3% to 5% and US growth to slip from 2.9% to 2.4%.</p> <p>Australia’s economic growth is expected to climb from the present very low 1.1% to 1.3% by the end of this year and to 2% by the end of next year. Although none of the panel are forecasting a recession, most of those who offered an opinion said if there was a recession, it would start this year when the economy was weak.</p> <p>Some said we might later discover that we have been in a recession if the very weak economic growth of 0.1% recorded in the March quarter is revised and turns negative when updated figures are released in September.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="3I49o" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/3I49o/1/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Home prices are expected to continue to climb notwithstanding economic weakness. Sydney prices are expected to increase a further 5% in the year ahead after climbing 7.4% in the year to May. Melbourne prices are expected to rise a further 2.8% after climbing 1.8% in the year to May.</p> <p>Percy Allan said Sydney had fewer homes available than Melbourne, and Victoria’s decisions to extend land tax and boost rights for tenants had upset landlords, many of whom were offloading their holdings.</p> <h2>Home prices to climb further</h2> <p>Julie Toth, chief economist at property information firm PEXA, said rapid population growth was colliding with an ongoing decline in household size since COVID. At the same time, fewer new homes were being commissioned and long delays and high construction costs were also keeping supply tight.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="JzLaY" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/JzLaY/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>The panel expects non-mining business investment to continue to climb in the year ahead, by 5.2%, down from 6.9%.</p> <p>It expects the Australian share market to climb by a further 5.6%</p> <p><strong>Read the answers on <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3350/2024-25_The_Conversation_AU_Forecasting_Survey.pdf">PDF</a>, download as <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3351/2024-25_The_Conversation_AU_forecasting_survey.xlsx?1719478737">XLS</a></strong></p> <hr /> <h2>The Conversation’s Economic Panel</h2> <p><em>Click on economist to see full profile.</em></p> <p><iframe id="tc-infographic-1066" class="tc-infographic" style="border: none;" src="https://cdn.theconversation.com/infographics/1066/93fb29ba32e178ec2dcda111f014a50cf7ea1f49/site/index.html" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe><!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/233244/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, Visiting Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/cheaper-mortgages-tamed-inflation-and-even-higher-home-prices-how-29-forecasters-see-australias-economic-recovery-in-2024-25-233244">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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How would a switch to nuclear affect electricity prices for households and industry?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/roger-dargaville-1832">Roger Dargaville</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Peter Dutton has announced that under a Coalition government, seven nuclear power stations would be built around the country over the next 15 years.</p> <p>Experts have declared nuclear power would be <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-06-20/power-prices-wont-fall-with-nuclear/103998172">expensive</a> and <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/nuclear-to-cost-17b-and-take-until-2040-to-build-csiro-20240521-p5jfaj#:%7E:text=Nuclear%20could%20cost%20up%20to,until%202040%20to%20build%3A%20CSIRO&amp;text=Peter%20Dutton's%20nuclear%20energy%20plans,operational%20until%20at%20least%202040.">slow to build</a>.</p> <p>But what might happen to energy prices if the Coalition were to win government and implement this plan?</p> <h2>How might we estimate the cost of nuclear?</h2> <p>By 2035, 50–60% of the existing coal-fired fleet will very likely <a href="https://aemo.com.au/-/media/files/stakeholder_consultation/consultations/nem-consultations/2023/draft-2024-isp-consultation/draft-2024-isp.pdf">have been retired</a>, including Vales Point B, Gladstone, Yallourn, Bayswater and Eraring – all of which will have passed 50 years old.</p> <p>These five generators contribute just over 10 gigawatts of capacity. It’s probably not a coincidence that the seven nuclear plants proposed by Dutton would also contribute roughly 10 gigawatts in total if built.</p> <p>Neither my team at Monash University nor the Australian Energy Market Operator has run modelling scenarios to delve into the details of what might happen to electricity prices under a high-uptake nuclear scenario such as the one proposed by the Coalition. That said, we can make some broad assumptions based on a metric known as the “levelised cost of electricity”.</p> <p>This value takes into account:</p> <ul> <li> <p>how much it costs to build a particular technology</p> </li> <li> <p>how long it takes to build</p> </li> <li> <p>the cost to operate the plant</p> </li> <li> <p>its lifetime</p> </li> <li> <p>and very importantly, its capacity factor.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Capacity factor is how much electricity a technology produces in real life, compared with its theoretical maximum output.</p> <p>For example, a nuclear power station would likely run at 90–95% of its full capacity. A solar farm, on the other hand, will run at just 20–25% of its maximum, primarily because it’s night for half of the time, and cloudy some of the time.</p> <p>CSIRO recently published its <a href="https://www.csiro.au/en/research/technology-space/energy/gencost">GenCost</a> report, which outlines the current and projected build and operational costs for a range of energy technologies.</p> <p>It reports that large-scale nuclear generated electricity would cost between A$155 and $252 per megawatt-hour, falling to between $136 and $226 per megawatt-hour by 2040.</p> <p>The report bases these costs on recent projects in South Korea, but doesn’t consider some other cases where costs have blown out dramatically.</p> <p>The most obvious case is that of <a href="https://www.edf.fr/en/the-edf-group/dedicated-sections/journalists/all-press-releases/hinkley-point-c-update-1">Hinkley Point C nuclear plant</a> in the United Kingdom. This <a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/edfs-nuclear-project-britain-pushed-back-2029-may-cost-up-34-bln-2024-01-23/">3.2GW</a> plant, which is being built by French company EDF, was recently <a href="https://www.edf.fr/en/the-edf-group/dedicated-sections/journalists/all-press-releases/hinkley-point-c-update-1">reported</a> to be now costing around £34 billion (about A$65 billion). That’s about A$20,000 per kilowatt.</p> <p>CSIRO’s GenCost report assumed a value of $8,655 per kilowatt for nuclear, so the true levelised cost of electricity of nuclear power in Australia may end up being twice as expensive as CSIRO has calculated.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="Aryx7" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Aryx7/4/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>Other factors play a role, too</h2> <p>Another factor not accounted for in the GenCost assumptions is that Australia does not have a nuclear industry. Virtually all the niche expertise would need to be imported.</p> <p>And very large infrastructure projects have a nasty habit of <a href="https://www.cis.org.au/publication/bungles-blowouts-and-boondoggles-why-australias-infrastructure-projects-cost-more-than-they-should/">blowing out in cost</a> – think of Snowy 2.0, Sydney’s light rail project, and the West Gate Tunnel in Victoria.</p> <p>Reasons include higher local wages, regulations and standards plus aversion from lenders to risk that increases cost of capital. These factors would not bode well for nuclear.</p> <p>In CSIRO’s GenCost report, the levelised cost of electricity produced from coal is $100–200 per megawatt-hour, and for gas it’s $120–160 per megawatt-hour. Solar and wind energy work out to be approximately $60 and $90 per megawatt-hour, respectively. But it’s not a fair comparison, as wind and solar are not “dispatchable” but are dependent on the availability of the resource.</p> <p>When you combine the cost of a mix of wind and solar energy and storage, along with the cost of getting the renewable energy into the grid, renewables end up costing $100–120 per megawatt-hour, similar to coal.</p> <p>If we were to have a nuclear-based system (supplemented by gas to meet the higher demands in the mornings and evenings), the costs would likely be much higher – potentially as much as three to four times if cost blowouts similar to Hinkley Point C were to occur (assuming costs were passed on to electricity consumers. Otherwise, taxpayers in general would bear the burden. Either way, it’s more or less the same people).</p> <h2>But what about the impact on your household energy bill?</h2> <p>Well, here the news is marginally better.</p> <p>Typical retail tariffs are 25-30 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is $250–300 per megawatt-hour. The largest component of your energy bill is not the cost of generation of the electricity; rather, it’s the cost of getting the power from the power stations to your home or business.</p> <p>In very approximate terms, this is made up of the market average costs of generation, transmission and distribution, as well as retailer margin and other minor costs.</p> <p>The transmission and distribution costs will not be significantly different under the nuclear scenario compared with the current system. And the additional transmission costs associated with the more distributed nature of renewables (meaning these renewable projects are all over the country) is included in the estimate.</p> <p>According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, your retail tariff under the nuclear scenario could be 40–50c per kilowatt-hour.</p> <p>But if you are a large energy consumer such as an aluminium smelter, you pay considerably less per kilowatt-hour as you don’t incur the same network or retailer costs (but the cost of generating electricity in the first place makes up a much bigger proportion of the total cost).</p> <p>So if the cost of electricity generation soars, this hypothetical aluminium smelter’s energy costs will soar too.</p> <p>This would be a severe cost burden on Australian industry that has traditionally relied on cheap electricity (although it’s been a while since electricity could be described as cheap).</p> <h2>A likely increase in energy costs</h2> <p>In summary, in a free market, it is very unlikely nuclear could be competitive.</p> <p>But if a future Coalition government were to bring nuclear into the mix, energy costs for residential and especially industrial customers would very likely increase.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232913/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/roger-dargaville-1832">Roger Dargaville</a>, Director Monash Energy Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-would-a-switch-to-nuclear-affect-electricity-prices-for-households-and-industry-232913">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Steve Price fires up over Dan Andrews' special honour

<p>Steve Price has sparked a bitter row on-air with his co-hosts of <em>The Project</em>, as he spoke out against former premier Dan Andrews being named on the King’s Honours list this year.</p> <p>Andrews, the former premier of Victoria who saw the state through the Covid pandemic, has been recognised on the prestigious list for his “eminent service to the people and parliament of Victoria, to public health, to policy and regulatory reform, and to infrastructure development”.</p> <p>After the announcement of Andrews' upcoming recognition, Price let loose on <em>The Project </em>as he condemned the former premier. </p> <p>“It’s got to be some sort of sick joke,” he said as he began his rant.</p> <p>“Who would expect Daniel Andrews would get the highest honour that you can possibly get from the King? It’s the equivalent of a Knighthood! This is a bloke who locked Victoria up longer than anywhere else in the word. Apart from Covid, this bloke wasted 600 million dollars not holding the Commonwealth Games.”</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C8B5Ft8Pe0k/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C8B5Ft8Pe0k/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by The Project (@theprojecttv)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>He continued, “Every infrastructure project he’s [Andrews] ticked off on is either over budget or over time. And we give him an award? I mean it is pathetic!”</p> <p>“I have never heard people today so angry about something like this. Daniel Andrews should be run out of the State, not given an award. It’s pathetic!”</p> <p>As co-host Waleed Aly began to share his own thoughts on the matter, Price butted in to ask, “You’re not going to defend Andrews are you?”</p> <p>“Will you let me say something?” replied Aly awkwardly, as Price nodded his head.</p> <p>“Premiers usually get these awards, but they don’t usually get them this quickly,” continued Aly.</p> <p>“And the weird thing about this is that it isn’t for services to the State, it’s for services to health. And that makes it about the pandemic disproportionately. If this was happening in a few years, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation.”</p> <p>Despite Price's claims that many were angry with the decision to award Andrews with the honour, it turns out most of the outrage was directed towards Price himself as many condemned his "embarrassing" rant. </p> <p>“What criteria is <em>The Project</em> applying to Steve Prices opinion? The short man is a self serving blowhard that has no credible platform for his opinions. Surely in 2024 there are better options in Australia,” ranted one annoyed viewer.</p> <p>A second person commented, “If it makes Steve Price mad then it’s a great decision!!” with another replying, “Like anybody should give credibility to anything Steve Price says”. </p> <p>The onslaught of remarks didn’t end there, with another firing back, “Steve Price is jealous and miserable,” while a similarly annoyed viewer wrote, “Dan living rent free in Price’s head, embarrassing”.</p> <p><em>Image credits: The Project / AMES ROSS/EPA-EFE / Shutterstock Editorial </em></p>

TV

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Yes, Australia’s big supermarkets have been price gouging. But fixing the problem won’t be easy

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bree-hurst-174985">Bree Hurst</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carol-richards-153226">Carol Richards</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hope-johnson-125018">Hope Johnson</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rudolf-messner-1373038">Rudolf Messner</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p>A much-awaited report into Coles and Woolworths has found what many customers have long believed – Australia’s big supermarkets engage in price gouging.</p> <p>What <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Supermarket_Prices/SupermarketPrices/Terms_of_Reference">started</a> as a simple Senate inquiry into grocery prices and supermarket power has delivered a lengthy 195-page-long <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Supermarket_Prices/SupermarketPrices/Supermarket_Prices">report</a> spanning supermarket pricing’s impact on customers, food waste, relationships with suppliers, employee wages and conditions, excessive profitability, company mergers and land banking.</p> <p>The report makes some major recommendations, including giving courts the power to break up anti-competitive businesses, and strengthening the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).</p> <p>It also recommends making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory for supermarket chains. This code governs how they should deal with suppliers. The government’s recent <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2024-510813">Independent Review of the Food and Grocery Code</a> also recommended making it mandatory for the supermarket giants.</p> <p>But at this point it’s hard to say what, if anything, the recommendations will mean for everyday Australians and the prices they actually pay.</p> <h2>Price gouging isn’t illegal</h2> <p>At the heart of the Senate inquiry was the question of whether Australian supermarkets were price gouging. According to the committee, the answer is a “resounding yes”, despite the evidence presented by supermarkets to the contrary.</p> <p>Price gouging is when businesses exploit a lack of competition by setting prices well above cost price. But the practice is <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/pricing/setting-prices-whats-allowed">not explicitly illegal</a>.</p> <p>The committee put forward a number of recommendations that could help reduce price gouging. These include making it an offence to charge excess prices and establishing a new “Commission on Prices and Competition” to examine price setting practices in different sectors.</p> <p>The committee also wants the ACCC to be given enhanced powers to investigate and prosecute unfair trading practices, and to be better funded and resourced.</p> <p>The committee says supermarket claims that price gouging does not exist should mean the giants have nothing to fear under tougher legislation. However, it says:</p> <blockquote> <p>the evidence brought forward by people willing to speak out about the business practices of Coles and Woolworths suggests that maintaining margins and increasing margin growth is occurring at the expense of suppliers, consumers, and best business practices, and without proper justification.</p> </blockquote> <h2>It’s unlikely we’ll see relief anytime soon</h2> <p>Will these recommendations actually deliver any relief on prices? It’s hard to say at this point. The recommendations put forward are comprehensive, but they’re unlikely to result in any short-term change for consumers.</p> <p>At any rate, the Albanese government does not support many of them. In the report’s additional commentary, Labor senators argue that Australian competition law already addresses excessive pricing by prohibiting misleading and deceptive conduct. They also don’t support establishing a new commission to examine prices.</p> <p>Rather, the report calls for a dramatic overhaul of current regulatory settings, which it says are “not appropriate or fit for purpose”. This is not going to be an easy or fast process.</p> <h2>What does the report mean for the Greens’ divestiture bill?</h2> <p>While the inquiry was underway, the Greens <a href="https://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;page=0;query=BillId%3As1413%20Recstruct%3Abillhome">introduced a bill</a> which would give courts “divestiture powers”. This means a corporation could be ordered to sell some of its assets to reduce its market power.</p> <p>While the bill lacks support from the major parties, the committee suggested that such divestiture powers should be introduced specifically for the supermarket sector. Where abuse of market power was able to be proven, supermarkets could be forced to sell certain stores.</p> <p>While Australia does not have divestiture powers in this context, some other countries do. In New Zealand, the UK and the US, courts can force corporations that are abusing their market power to sell components of their business. Such powers are very rarely used, but the deterrent they impose can be <a href="https://theconversation.com/its-time-to-give-australian-courts-the-power-to-break-up-big-firms-that-behave-badly-226726">highly influential</a> on corporate behaviour.</p> <p>Labor rejects creating any forms of divestiture power in the report’s additional commentary. But the Coalition isn’t entirely against the idea, noting that it “does not believe the committee has persuasively found that divestiture powers should not be pursued at all” and that “divestiture powers should be targeted to sectors of concern”.</p> <h2>What’s next?</h2> <p>At this stage, the report suggests there’s only one action all political parties agree on at this stage: making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory and ensuring its full enforcement. We’re unlikely to see much unity on the other recommendations.</p> <p>In a scathing commentary, the Coalition argues the report represents “a missed opportunity to address some of the structural imbalances in our supermarket sector that are impacting Australia’s growers, farmers, small businesses, and ultimately consumers”.</p> <p>While this is a harsh assessment, the reality is that unless these structural imbalances in our food system are addressed, we’re unlikely to see meaningful change.</p> <p>The report draws on substantial evidence to paint a troubling picture of the food system in Australia – in particular, how growers and consumers are struggling. The task for regulators is working out what mechanisms can be used to address the imbalance of power in the market, in a way that doesn’t force growers or Australian consumers to bear the cost.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/229602/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bree-hurst-174985">Bree Hurst</a>, Associate Professor, Faculty of Business and Law, QUT, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/carol-richards-153226">Carol Richards</a>, Professor, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/hope-johnson-125018">Hope Johnson</a>, ARC DECRA Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/rudolf-messner-1373038">Rudolf Messner</a>, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/queensland-university-of-technology-847">Queensland University of Technology</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/yes-australias-big-supermarkets-have-been-price-gouging-but-fixing-the-problem-wont-be-easy-229602">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Adorable Collie sells for world record-breaking price

<p>A border collie has been sold for a world record-breaking amount at the Ray White Rockhampton Working Dog Sale and Trial.</p> <p>Helen and James Parker paid $40,000 for Liz, a border collie who they describe as the "whole package". </p> <p>The couple, who run a wagyu cattle farm in Monto, Queensland are keen to welcome the pup who will help them muster cattle as part of the day-to-day running of the farm. </p> <p>"We leave in the morning early, they might do three to four hours mustering in the morning, then we get the cattle to the yard and then in the afternoon we'll walk them away," Helen said.</p> <p>"Our mustering round's about a week, so all day for a week, so some big days and it's hot up here in summer so they need to be able to travel and follow us on a horse and big days in hot conditions so we can't do the job without them."</p> <p>Liz, who was raised by Joe Leven, is the second dog the couple have purchased from Joe, and they say the price was worth it. </p> <p>"We weren't planning on breaking records but we're happy to have her," Helen told 2GB's Ben Fordham.</p> <p>"She's the whole package, she's got breeding behind her, she has all herding ability, natural instinct. I just think she's a great asset to our team."</p> <p>Although Liz is an unusual name for a cattle dog, it is actually a tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth.</p> <p>"Joe named them and there's a bit of a story behind how Liz got her name. She was born the year that Queen Elizabeth passed away, so she's really upheld her name, she's the queen," Helen explained.</p> <p>The Rockhampton Working Dog trial and Sale was a success for Joe and Cabra Glebe Working Dogs, who managed to sell another dog, Jenny for $38,000. </p> <p><em>Image: Ray White Working dog sale Facebook</em></p> <p> </p>

Family & Pets

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"You will be a massive failure": Steve Price unleashes on Kyle Sandilands

<p>The feud between Steve Price and Kyle Sandilands has taken a new turn, as Price unleashed on Sandilands over the launch of The <em>Kyle and Jackie O Show</em> in Melbourne. </p> <p><em>The Project</em> panel were discussing the show's first episode in the Victorian capital which was met with a mixed reception, given the use of coarse language. </p> <p>Price took the discussion to the next level as he made it clear he is not a fan of the KIISFM show or its host. </p> <p>“Kyle, last time I mentioned you on this program I called you a grubby buffoon. That was a compliment in hindsight,” Price said on Monday night's episode of <em>The Project</em>. </p> <p>“That garbage you put to air this morning, sexualised rubbish, toxic, nobody should listen to it and you will be a massive failure in Melbourne.”</p> <p>Price continued his tirade, accusing Sandilands of sending him a “threatening message” last November after his “grubby buffoon” comments, and he dared the KIIS FM star to “do it again”.</p> <p>He ended the spray by saying, “I do note that you didn’t have the guts to sit down and do an interview with me to talk about your new radio show, perhaps because you’ve got the intellect of a cumquat”.</p> <p>Sandilands responded to Price's comments live on air on Tuesday morning, taking aim at the co-host and the show at large. </p> <p>“[<em>The Project</em>] is no good,” he said about the Channel 10 program. “It’s a piece of s**t”.</p> <p>“No one watches it, and they don’t like us.”</p> <p>As for Price's claims, Sandilands accused the fellow broadcaster of being “fake”, and claimed that Price sent a revealing note to his manager last month.</p> <p>The note allegedly said, “I’m very aware Kyle and I have had some interesting whacks at each other over the years but as we know, it’s all part of the game.”</p> <p>“See, I’m right, it is feigned outrage,” Sandilands said.</p> <p>“Does he mean what he says or is he just full of s**t?”</p> <p>Kyle and Jackie O tried to call Price on Tuesday morning to address their ongoing feud, but he didn’t answer.</p> <p><em>Image credits: The Project / Instagram </em></p>

TV

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Loyalty programs may limit competition, and they could be pushing prices up for everyone

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alexandru-nichifor-1342216">Alexandru Nichifor</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-duke-kominers-1494057">Scott Duke Kominers</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/harvard-university-1306">Harvard University</a></em></p> <p>Loyalty programs enable firms to offer significantly lower prices to some of their customers. You’d think this would encourage strong competition.</p> <p>But that isn’t always what actually happens. <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4377561">New research</a> shows that paradoxically, by changing the way companies target customers, loyalty programs can sometimes reduce price competition. The research also points to solutions.</p> <h2>A win-win proposition?</h2> <p>Joining a loyalty program is supposed to be a win-win. You – the customer – get to enjoy perks and discounts, while the company gains useful commercial insights and builds brand allegiance.</p> <p>For example, a hotel chain loyalty program might reward travellers for frequent stays, with points redeemable for future bookings, upgrades or other benefits. The hotel chain, in turn, records and analyses how you spend money and encourages you to stay with them again.</p> <p>Such programs are commonplace across many industries – appearing everywhere from travel and accommodation to supermarket or petrol retailing. But they are increasingly coming under scrutiny.</p> <p>In 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/about-us/publications/customer-loyalty-schemes-final-report">cautioned</a> consumers about the sheer volume of personal data collected when participating in a loyalty program, and what companies can do with it.</p> <p>Hidden costs – such as having to pay a redemption fee on rewards or losing benefits when points expire – are another way these schemes can harm consumers.</p> <p>But a larger question – how loyalty programs impact consumers overall – remains difficult to settle, because their effect on competitiveness is unclear. As the ACCC’s <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/about-us/publications/customer-loyalty-schemes-final-report">final report</a> notes, on the one hand: "Loyalty schemes can have pro-competitive effects and intensify competition between rivals leading to competing loyalty discounts and lower prices for consumers."</p> <p>But on the other hand: "Loyalty schemes can also reduce the flexibility of consumers’ buying patterns and responsiveness to competing offers, which may reduce competition."</p> <h2>How a two-speed price system can hurt everyone</h2> <p>A new economic theory research <a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4377561">working paper</a>, coauthored by one of us (Kominers), suggests that on competitive grounds alone, loyalty programs can sometimes harm <em>all</em> consumers – both ordinary shoppers and the program’s own members.</p> <p>It’s easy to see how the ordinary shopper can be worse off. Since a firm’s loyalty program enables it to offer discounted prices to its members, the firm can raise the base prices it offers to everyone else. Those not participating in the program pay more than they otherwise would have, and the firm can respond by saying “join our program!” instead of having to lower its price.</p> <p>But sometimes, even the program’s own members can end up worse off.</p> <p>When a given customer’s loyalty status is not visible to a firm’s competitors – as is the case in many loyalty programs today – it’s hard for those competitors to identify them and entice them to switch.</p> <p>The main way to compete for those customers becomes to lower the base price for everyone, but this means missing out on the high base margins achieved through the existence of your own loyalty program – remember, having a loyalty program means you can charge non-members more.</p> <p>It’s often more profitable for firms to just maintain high base prices. This, in turn, reduces overall price competition for loyal customers, so firms can raise prices for them, too.</p> <h2>What’s the solution?</h2> <p>Despite these effects on competition, loyalty programs still offer benefits for consumers and an opportunity for brands to form closer relationships with them.</p> <p>So, how do we preserve these benefits while enabling price competition? The research suggests an answer: making a customer’s loyalty status verifiable, transparent and portable across firms. This would make it possible for firms to tailor offers for their competitors’ loyal customers.</p> <p>This is already happening in the market for retail electricity. While there aren’t loyalty programs there per se, a consumer’s energy consumption profile, which could be used by a competitor to calibrate a personalised offer, is known only to their current electricity supplier.</p> <p>To address this, in 2015, the Victorian government launched a <a href="https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au">program</a> encouraging households to compare energy offers. This process involved first revealing a customer’s energy consumption profile to the market, and then asking retailers to compete via personalised offers.</p> <p>By opening information that might have otherwise been hidden to the broader market, this approach enabled firms to compete for each other’s top customers, in a way that could be emulated for loyalty programs.</p> <p>Such systems in the private sector could build upon “<a href="https://thepointsguy.com/guide/airline-status-matches-challenges/">status match</a>” policies at airlines. These allow direct transfer of loyalty status, but currently rely on a lengthy, individual-level verification process.</p> <p>For example, a design paradigm known as “<a href="https://hbr.org/2022/05/what-is-web3">Web3</a>” – where customer transactions and loyalty statuses are recorded on public, shared blockchain ledgers – offers a way to make loyalty transparent across the market.</p> <p>This would enable an enhanced, decentralised version of status match: a firm could use blockchain records to verifiably identify who its competitors’ loyal customers are, and directly incentivise them to switch.</p> <p>Both startups and established firms have experimented with building such systems.</p> <h2>What next?</h2> <p>New academic research helps us model and better understand when loyalty programs could be weakening supply side competition and undermining consumer welfare.</p> <p>A neat universal solution may prove elusive. But targeted government or industry interventions – centred on increasing the transparency of a customer’s loyalty status and letting them move it between firms – could help level the playing field between firms and consumers.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/220669/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alexandru-nichifor-1342216"><em>Alexandru Nichifor</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/scott-duke-kominers-1494057">Scott Duke Kominers</a>, Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/harvard-university-1306">Harvard University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/loyalty-programs-may-limit-competition-and-they-could-be-pushing-prices-up-for-everyone-220669">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Think $5.50 is too much for a flat white? Actually it’s too cheap, and our world-famous cafes are paying the price

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-felton-143029">Emma Felton</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p>Even in a stubborn cost-of-living crisis, it seems there’s one luxury most Australians <a href="https://www.comparethemarket.com.au/news/what-australians-wont-give-up-cost-of-living-crisis-report/">won’t sacrifice</a> – their daily cup of coffee.</p> <p>Coffee sales have largely <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/866543/australia-domestic-consumption-of-coffee/">remained stable</a>, even as financial pressures have bitten over the past few years.</p> <p>So too have prices. Though many of us became upset when prices began to creep up last year, they’ve since largely settled in the range between $4.00 and $5.50 for a basic drink.</p> <p>But this could soon have to change. By international standards, Australian coffee prices are low.</p> <p>No one wants to pay more for essentials, least of all right now. But our independent cafes are struggling.</p> <p>By not valuing coffee properly, we risk losing the <a href="https://bizcup.com.au/australian-coffee-culture/">internationally renowned</a> coffee culture we’ve worked so hard to create, and the phenomenal quality of cup we enjoy.</p> <h2>Coffee is relatively cheap in Australia</h2> <p>Our recent survey of Australian capital cities found the average price of a small takeaway flat white at speciality venues is A$4.78.</p> <p>But in <a href="https://pabloandrustys.com.au/blogs/drinkbettercoffee/global-coffee-prices">some international capitals</a>, it’s almost double this, even after adjusting for local <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/updates/purchasing-power-parity-ppp/">purchasing power parity</a>.</p> <p><iframe id="gaplH" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/gaplH/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>In London, a small flat white costs about A$6.96. Singapore, A$8.42. In Athens, as much as A$9.95.</p> <h2>The cafe business is getting harder</h2> <p>Over the past few decades, coffee prices haven’t kept pace with input costs. In the early 2000s, after wages, food costs, utilities and rent, many cafes <a href="https://www.coffeecommune.com.au/blog-why-are-cafes-so-expensive/">earned healthy profit margins</a> as high as 20%.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.ibisworld.com/au/industry/cafes-coffee-shops/2015/">most recent data from IBISWorld</a> show that while Australian cafe net profits have recovered from a drop in 2020, at 7.6%, they remain much lower than the Australian <a href="https://www.money.com.au/research/australian-business-statistics">average business profit margin of 13.3%</a>.</p> <p>For an independent owner operating a cafe with the <a href="https://www.ibisworld.com/au/industry/cafes-coffee-shops/2015/">average turnover of A$300,000</a>, this would amount to a meagre A$22,800 annual net profit after all the bills are paid.</p> <h2>What goes into a cup?</h2> <p>Just looking at the cost of raw inputs – milk, beans, a cup and a lid – might make the margin seem lucrative. But they don’t paint the whole picture.</p> <figure class="align-center "><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=600&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=600&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=600&amp;h=600&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=45&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=754&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=30&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=754&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/584949/original/file-20240328-24-rlngpk.jpg?ixlib=rb-1.1.0&amp;q=15&amp;auto=format&amp;w=754&amp;h=754&amp;fit=crop&amp;dpr=3 2262w" alt="A takeaway coffee cup showing the price inputs, with wages and operation costs making up over 65% of the cost of a coffee" /><figcaption><span class="caption">Chart: The Conversation.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://pabloandrustys.com.au/blogs/drinkbettercoffee/whats-in-the-cost-of-coffee">Data: Pablo and Rusty's Coffee Roasters</a>, <a class="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>Over the past few years, renting the building, keeping the lights on and paying staff have all become <a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/ground-down-australia-coffee-shops-an-early-inflation-casualty-2023-07-10/">much bigger factors</a> in the equation for coffee shop owners, and many of these pressures aren’t easing.</p> <p><strong>1. Green coffee price</strong></p> <p>Increasingly <a href="https://www.aa.com.tr/en/environment/brewing-crisis-how-climate-change-is-reshaping-coffee-production/3113886">subject to the effects</a> of climate change, the baseline commodity price of green (unroasted) coffee is <a href="https://perfectdailygrind.com/2024/02/demand-for-robusta-prices-record-high/">going up</a>.</p> <p>Arabica – the higher quality bean you’re most likely drinking at specialty cafes – is a more expensive raw product. Despite levelling off from post-pandemic highs, its price is still trending up. In 2018, it <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/675807/average-prices-arabica-and-robusta-coffee-worldwide/">sold</a> for US$2.93 per kilogram, which is projected to increase to US$4.38 dollars in 2025.</p> <p>Robusta coffee is cheaper, and is the type <a href="https://www.lavazza.com.au/en/coffee-secrets/difference-type-arabica-robusta-coffee">typically used to make instant coffee</a>. But serious drought in Vietnam has just pushed the price of robusta to an <a href="https://www.barchart.com/story/news/25094367/coffee-rallies-with-robusta-at-a-record-high-on-shrinking-coffee-output-in-vietnam">all-time high</a>, putting pressure on the cost of coffee more broadly.</p> <p><strong>2. Milk prices</strong></p> <p>The price of fresh milk has risen by <a href="https://cdn-prod.dairyaustralia.com.au/-/media/project/dairy-australia-sites/national-home/resources/reports/situation-and-outlook/situation-and-outlook-report-march-2024.pdf?rev=b0222df4b01b40d0ae36cf8ac7b01bc0">more than 20%</a> over the past two years, and remains at a peak. This has put sustained cost pressure on the production of our <a href="https://gitnux.org/australian-coffee-consumption-statistics/#:%7E:text=Coffee%20is%20a%20beloved%20beverage,approximately%206%20billion%20cups%20annually.">most popular drink orders</a>: cappuccinos and flat whites.</p> <p><strong>3. Wages and utilities</strong></p> <p>Over the past year, Australian wages have grown at their <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/jim-chalmers-2022/media-releases/real-wages-growth-back">fastest rate</a> since 2009, which is welcome news for cafe staff, but tough on operators in a sector with low margins.</p> <p>Electricity prices remain elevated after significant inflation, but could <a href="https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/heres-how-much-your-energy-bills-might-go-down-by-and-when/k8g00jheg">begin to fall mid-year</a>.</p> <h2>Specialty vs. commodity coffee: why price expectations create an industry divide</h2> <p>One of the key factors keeping prices low in Australia is consumer expectation.</p> <p>For many people coffee is a fundamental part of everyday life, a marker of livability. Unlike wine or other alcohol, coffee is not considered a luxury or even a treat, where one might expect to pay a little more, or reduce consumption when times are economically tough. We anchor on familiar prices.</p> <p><iframe id="oDbah" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/oDbah/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Because of this, it really hurts cafe owners to put their prices up. In touch with their customer base almost every day, they’re acutely aware of how much inflation can hurt.</p> <p>But in Australia, a huge proportion of coffee companies are also passionate about creating a world-class product by only using “<a href="https://medium.com/@samandsunrise/why-is-specialty-coffee-so-expensive-6cf298935e4b#:%7E:text=Specialty%20Shops%20Feature%20High%20Grade%20Coffees&amp;text=Their%20coffees%20are%20hand%2Dpicked,even%20on%20the%20same%20tree.">specialty coffee</a>”. Ranked at least 80 on a quality scale, specialty beans cost significant more than commodity grade, but their production offers better working conditions for farmers and encourages more sustainable growing practices.</p> <p>Although not commensurate with the wine industry, there are similarities. Single origin, high quality beans are often sourced from one farm and demand higher prices than commodity grade coffee, where cheaper sourced beans are often combined in a blend.</p> <p>Running a specialty cafe can also mean roasting your own beans, which requires a big investment in expertise and equipment.</p> <p>It’s an obvious example of doing the right thing by your suppliers and customers. But specialty cafes face much higher operating costs, and when they’re next to a commodity-grade competitor, customers are typically unwillingly to pay the difference.</p> <h2>Approach price rises with curiosity, not defensiveness</h2> <p>When cafe owners put up their prices, we often rush to accuse them of selfishness or profiteering. But they’re often just trying to survive.</p> <p>Given the quality of our coffee and its global reputation, it shouldn’t surprise us if we’re soon asked to pay a little bit more for our daily brew.</p> <p>If we are, we should afford the people who create one of our most important “<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-cafes-bars-gyms-barbershops-and-other-third-places-create-our-social-fabric-135530">third spaces</a>” kindness and curiosity as to why. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/226015/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emma-felton-143029"><em>Emma Felton</em></a><em>, Adjunct Senior Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-south-australia-1180">University of South Australia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/think-5-50-is-too-much-for-a-flat-white-actually-its-too-cheap-and-our-world-famous-cafes-are-paying-the-price-226015">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Worried about price gouging? For banks, there’s a simple solution

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>Does it feel like you’re being charged more for all sorts of things these days, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/supermarkets-airlines-and-power-companies-are-charging-exploitative-prices-despite-reaping-record-profits-222755#:%7E:text=According%20to%20the%20inquiry%2C%20the,dairy%20products%20and%20breakfast%20cereals.&amp;text=Farmers%20recently%20accused%20supermarkets%20of%20making%20too%20much%20profit%20from%20their%20crops.">groceries</a> to <a href="https://theconversation.com/see-when-australias-biggest-banks-stopped-paying-proper-interest-on-your-savings-and-what-you-can-do-about-it-200265">banking</a>? Turns out, you’re right.</p> <p>While we might be more likely to remember prices that go up than prices that go down, the very best evidence – assembled by Australia’s <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-11/competition-review-mergers-background-note.pdf">Treasury</a>, the federal government’s lead economic adviser – says your suspicions are right. We really are being charged more than we used to be two decades ago.</p> <p>Coupled with the latest profit reports from Australia’s biggest supermarkets and banks, including Tuesday’s half-year results from Coles, it suggests we are contributing more to company profits than we used to.</p> <h2>Climbing price markups</h2> <p>The Treasury estimates show in the 13 years between 2003-04 and 2016-17, the average price markup – the difference between the cost of a product and its selling price – across all Australian industries climbed 6%.</p> <p>That’s extra profit, taken from your wallet, going to the people selling you things.</p> <p>Those Treasury estimates are contained in a background paper prepared for the competition <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/review/competition-review-2023">inquiry</a> being undertaken by a panel including Productivity Commission chair Danielle Wood, former Competition and Consumer Commission chief Rod Sims, and business leader David Gonski.</p> <p>At the same time, the average share of each industry held by its biggest four firms edged up from 41% to 43%.</p> <p>Profit margins are also higher here than in more competitive markets overseas.</p> <p>This is true in banking, where the big four have taken over St George, BankWest, and the Bank of Melbourne – and are about to take over <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/australian-competition-tribunal-authorises-anz%E2%80%99s-proposed-acquisition-of-suncorp-bank">Suncorp</a>.</p> <p>It’s also true in supermarkets, where the big two, Woolworths and Coles, have taken over or seen off Franklins, Bi-Lo and Safeway.</p> <h2>Bigger profit margins than overseas</h2> <p>Coles supermarkets reported earnings <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/ebitda.asp#:%7E:text=EBITDA%2C%20or%20earnings%20before%20interest,generated%20by%20the%20company's%20operations.">before adjustments</a> of <a href="https://cdn-api.markitdigital.com/apiman-gateway/ASX/asx-research/1.0/file/2924-02777616-3A637432">A$1.73 billion</a> on sales of $19.778 billion in the half year to December – a profit margin of 8.7%.</p> <p>Last week, Woolworths supermarkets reported earnings of <a href="https://cdn-api.markitdigital.com/apiman-gateway/ASX/asx-research/1.0/file/2924-02774826-2A1506104">$2.45 billion</a> on sales of $25.648 billion – a margin of 9.6%.</p> <p>By way of comparison, the dominant UK supermarket group, Sainsbury’s, has a profit margin of <a href="https://stockanalysis.com/quote/lon/SBRY/statistics/">6.13%</a>.</p> <p>In banking, the Commonwealth Bank has just reported a return on equity (profit as a proportion of shareholders’ funds) of <a href="https://cdn-api.markitdigital.com/apiman-gateway/ASX/asx-research/1.0/file/2924-02772167-2A1504649">13.8%</a>. National Australia Bank reported <a href="https://www.nab.com.au/content/dam/nab/documents/reports/corporate/2023-full-year-results.pdf">12.9%</a>.</p> <p>While on a par with the big banks overseas, those recent returns are a good deal higher than CommBank’s <a href="https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/commbank-assets/about-us/2021-08/2021-annual-report_spreads.pdf">11.5%</a> and NAB’s <a href="https://www.nab.com.au/content/dam/nab/documents/reports/corporate/2021-full-year-results-management-discussion-and-analysis.pdf">10.7%</a> reported two years ago.</p> <h2>Little hope for groceries</h2> <p>For supermarkets, there’s not a lot the government can do, apart from launching an <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/inquiries-and-consultations/supermarkets-inquiry-2024-25">inquiry</a>, and perhaps giving Australian authorities the power to <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/break-up-firms-that-abuse-market-power-says-former-competition-tsar-20230709-p5dmtq">break up</a> firms that abuse their market power.</p> <p>But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said he isn’t keen on giving Australian authorities the sort of powers available to authorities in the United States and the United Kingdom, saying (incongruously) Australia is “<a href="https://www.pm.gov.au/media/radio-interview-abc-radio-brisbane-mornings">not the old Soviet Union</a>”.</p> <p>And doing anything short of that would be unlikely to have much effect. Australia’s two supermarket giants have invested a fortune in high-tech <a href="https://theconversation.com/coles-and-woolworths-are-moving-to-robot-warehouses-and-on-demand-labour-as-home-deliveries-soar-166556">warehouses and distribution systems</a>, which new rivals would be hard-pressed to match.</p> <h2>Hope for more competitive banking</h2> <p>But for banks it’s altogether different. Richard Denniss of the Australia Institute has come up with the idea, and it’s a beauty.</p> <p>It’s for the government to provide a low-cost banking service – expanding on services it already offers.</p> <p>The costs would be so low, other banks might decide to add features and resell them in the same way as resellers sell <a href="https://www.whistleout.com.au/MobilePhones/Guides/Telstra-network-coverage-vs-ALDI-Woolworths-Belong-Boost">mobile phone</a> and <a href="https://www.nbnco.com.au/residential/service-providers">NBN</a> services.</p> <p>The primary function of any bank is to provide a numbered account into which Australians can deposit and withdraw funds.</p> <p>The Australian Tax Office does this already, at an incredibly low cost.</p> <p>The tax office gives every working Australian a <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/tax-file-number">tax file number</a>. Employers deposit money into these accounts, and – should the tax office owe a refund – taxpayers withdraw them.</p> <p>Some taxpayers ensure their tax is <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/businesses-and-organisations/international-tax-for-business/in-detail/income/refund-of-over-withheld-withholding-how-to-apply">overpaid</a>, so they withdraw later.</p> <p>Denniss describes it as a bank account with the world’s clumsiest interface.</p> <h2>The government could offer bank loans</h2> <p>It wouldn’t be much of a stretch from improving that interface to offering government loans.</p> <p>In fact, government loans are already provided in some circumstances: such as to retirees with home equity through the <a href="https://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/seniors/benefits-payments/home-equity-access-scheme">home equity access scheme</a>, and to Centrelink recipients through <a href="https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/centrelink-online-account-help-apply-for-advance-payment">advance payments</a>.</p> <p>It woudn’t be much more of stretch to provide loans more broadly, at an incredibly low administrative cost. The government already lends against the <a href="https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/who-can-get-loan-under-home-equity-access-scheme">value of homes</a>.</p> <p>Back in the days when the federal government owned the <a href="https://www.commbank.com.au/about-us/our-company/history.html">Commonwealth Bank</a>, it had to cover the high costs of running bricks and mortar branches.</p> <p>Freed from those costs, the government could now offer a low-cost, technology-enabled basic banking service that would tempt us away from the big four banks – unless they offered better value.</p> <p>Of course it would cost money, although a lot of it has already been spent setting up the system of tax file numbers and accounts. And of course the banks would hate the idea. That would be the point.</p> <p>But doing what we can to stop Australians being overcharged is important, not only for wage earners but also for businesses.</p> <p>The <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/review/competition-review-2023">competition inquiry</a> the government has launched is a good start. It shouldn’t be frightened about where it might lead.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223821/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709"><em>Peter Martin</em></a><em>, Visiting Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image </em><em>credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/worried-about-price-gouging-for-banks-theres-a-simple-solution-223821">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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"Pretty brutal": Peter Garrett slams Taylor Swift for price gouging tickets

<p>Peter Garrett has taken aim at Taylor Swift, calling out her extrationate ticket prices for a place at the Eras Tour. </p> <p>The Midnight Oil frontman  joined <em>107.1 SAFM’s Bec & Soda</em> radio show on Friday when he was informed that he was co-host Mark “Soda” Soderstrom’s favourite artist, or in other words, “his Taylor Swift.”</p> <p>Garrett didn't take too kindly to the comparison, and launched into a rant about the price of Swift's concert tickets. </p> <p>“I’m not price gouging like Taylor, to be blunt,” he began.</p> <p>The radio hosts reminisced about attending a Midnight Oil concert in 1985 when tickets were just $15.90, compared to Swifts forking out hundreds of dollars for the highly anticipated Eras Tour. </p> <p>Tickets for Swift’s Australian tour ranged from $79.90 for G-reserve tickets to $379.90 for A-reserve ticket, while also offering fans multiple VIP packages, reaching an eye-watering $1249.90 for a single ticket. </p> <p>Some diehard fans were quick to complain about the lack of added value in the packages, which included premium seats with add-ons such as a tote bags, collectable pins, stickers and postcards.</p> <p>Garrett continued, “I wouldn’t begrudge anyone’s success, that’s the first thing to say."</p> <p>"She’s obviously touching a chord with masses of people, particularly people of a certain age group who have experienced growing up at a certain time, and what she’s singing and talking about is really ringing true with them.” </p> <p>However, he also said that “the dollar end of it having looked at it from a distance, having been in this business forever, is pretty brutal.”</p> <p>Garrett continued to share his disapproval of Swift's Australian domination, complaining about how five of her albums dominated the ARIA charts, booting Aussie artists off the ladder. </p> <p>“She is so pervasive, she has become such a phenomenon, that she is displacing artists left right and centre. In our ARIA top 100 chart – that’s the Australian record industry chart – I think at one point in the last week or two, we only had three Australian artists in that top 100,” Garrett said. </p> <p>“Not good enough! And that’s not me crying about it, I’ve had an incredible run. But I think about the younger artists coming through and it’s extremely hard for them now.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Mission: Impossible Sydney mansion sells for eye-watering price

<p>One of Sydney's most iconic properties, known as the Boomerang in Elizabeth Bay, has sold for $80 million. </p> <p>The mansion is featured in the second instalment in the <em>Mission: Impossible</em> franchise, with the 2000 movie starring Tom Cruise being set and filmed in Sydney.</p> <p>It was the first house to officially sell for above $1 million in 1978, before setting another record in 2002 when it fetched $20.7 million.</p> <p>Now, multiple sources have confirmed it has been snapped up by a purchaser, originally from Asia, for four times what it last sold for. </p> <p>The property has long been rated as one of Sydney’s Top 50 homes, and has been in the name of Katrina Fox, the daughter of Melbourne-based billionaire trucking magnate Lindsay Fox, since 2005. </p> <p>The impressive home was put up for sale by Ray White in 2017 with hopes of selling for $60 million and then again with Brad Pillinger of Pillinger for $80 million in 2021 — the last agent to have it listed.</p> <p>Pillinger couldn’t be contacted ahead of publication, but other sources have confirmed the property has sold for the $80m asking price, while speculation from other sources that the result was $105 million have been dismissed.</p> <p>Boomerang sits on 4233 square metres of waterfront land, and features 25 rooms including a private cinema modelled on the State Theatre.</p> <p><em>Image credits: realestate.com.au / Paramount Pictures</em></p>

Real Estate

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Why prices are so high – 8 ways retail pricing algorithms gouge consumers

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-tuffley-13731">David Tuffley</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p>The just-released report of the inquiry into <a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/">price gouging and unfair pricing</a> conducted by Allan Fels for the Australian Council of Trades Unions does more than identify the likely offenders.</p> <p>It finds the biggest are supermarkets, banks, airlines and electricity companies.</p> <p>It’s not enough to know their tricks. Fels wants to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission more power to investigate and more power to prohibit mergers.</p> <p>But it helps to know how they try to trick us, and how technology has enabled them to get better at it. After reading the report, I’ve identified eight key maneuvers.</p> <h2>1. Asymmetric price movements</h2> <p>Otherwise known as <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/25593733">Rocket and Feather</a>, this is where businesses push up prices quickly when costs rise, but cut them slowly or late after costs fall.</p> <p>It seems to happen for <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140988323002074">petrol</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S105905601730240X">mortgage rates</a>, and the Fels inquiry was presented with evidence suggesting it happens in supermarkets.</p> <p>Brendan O’Keeffe from NSW Farmers told the inquiry wholesale lamb prices had been falling for six months before six Woolworths announced a cut in the prices of lamb it was selling as a “<a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">Christmas gift</a>”.</p> <h2>2. Punishment for loyal customers</h2> <p>A <a href="https://theconversation.com/simple-fixes-could-help-save-australian-consumers-from-up-to-3-6-billion-in-loyalty-taxes-119978">loyalty tax</a> is what happens when a business imposes higher charges on customers who have been with it for a long time, on the assumption that they won’t move.</p> <p>The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has alleged a big <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-qantas-might-have-done-all-australians-a-favour-by-making-refunds-so-hard-to-get-213346">insurer</a> does it, setting premiums not only on the basis of risk, but also on the basis of what a computer model tells them about the likelihood of each customer tolerating a price hike. The insurer disputes the claim.</p> <p>It’s often done by offering discounts or new products to new customers and leaving existing customers on old or discontinued products.</p> <p>It happens a lot in the <a href="https://www.finder.com.au/utilities-loyalty-costing-australians-billions-2024">electricity industry</a>. The plans look good at first, and then less good as providers bank on customers not making the effort to shop around.</p> <p>Loyalty taxes appear to be less common among mobile phone providers. Australian laws make it easy to switch <a href="https://www.reviews.org/au/mobile/how-to-switch-mobile-carriers-and-keep-your-number/">and keep your number</a>.</p> <h2>3. Loyalty schemes that provide little value</h2> <p>Fels says loyalty schemes can be a “low-cost means of retaining and exploiting consumers by providing them with low-value rewards of dubious benefit”.</p> <p>Their purpose is to lock in (or at least bias) customers to choices already made.</p> <p>Examples include airline frequent flyer points, cafe cards that give you your tenth coffee free, and supermarket points programs. The purpose is to lock in (or at least bias) consumers to products already chosen.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/advertising-and-promotions/customer-loyalty-schemes">Australian Competition and Consumer Commission</a> has found many require users to spend a lot of money or time to earn enough points for a reward.</p> <p>Others allow points to expire or rules to change without notice or offer rewards that are not worth the effort to redeem.</p> <p>They also enable businesses to collect data on spending habits, preferences, locations, and personal information that can be used to construct customer profiles that allow them to target advertising and offers and high prices to some customers and not others.</p> <h2>4. Drip pricing that hides true costs</h2> <p>The Competition and Consumer Commission describes <a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">drip pricing</a> as “when a price is advertised at the beginning of an online purchase, but then extra fees and charges (such as booking and service fees) are gradually added during the purchase process”.</p> <p>The extras can add up quickly and make final bills much higher than expected.</p> <p>Airlines are among the best-known users of the strategy. They often offer initially attractive base fares, but then add charges for baggage, seat selection, in-flight meals and other extras.</p> <h2>5. Confusion pricing</h2> <p>Related to drip pricing is <a href="https://www.x-mol.net/paper/article/1402386414932836352">confusion pricing</a> where a provider offers a range of plans, discounts and fees so complex they are overwhelming.</p> <p>Financial products like insurance have convoluted fee structures, as do electricity providers. Supermarkets do it by bombarding shoppers with “specials” and “sales”.</p> <p>When prices change frequently and without notice, it adds to the confusion.</p> <h2>6. Algorithmic pricing</h2> <p><a href="https://pricegouginginquiry.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web.pdf">Algorithmic pricing</a> is the practice of using algorithms to set prices automatically taking into account competitor responses, which is something akin to computers talking to each other.</p> <p>When computers get together in this way they can <a href="https://www.x-mol.net/paper/article/1402386414932836352">act as it they are colluding</a> even if the humans involved in running the businesses never talk to each other.</p> <p>It can act even more this way when multiple competitors use the same third-party pricing algorithm, effectively allowing a single company to influence prices.</p> <h2>7. Price discrimination</h2> <p>Price discrimination involves charging different customers different prices for the same product, setting each price in accordance with how much each customer is prepared to pay.</p> <p>Banks do it when they offer better rates to customers likely to leave them, electricity companies do it when they offer better prices for business customers than households, and medical specialists do it when they offer vastly different prices for the same service to consumers with different incomes.</p> <p>It is made easier by digital technology and data collection. While it can make prices lower for some customers, it can make prices much more expensive to customers in a hurry or in urgent need of something.</p> <h2>8. Excuse-flation</h2> <p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-03-09/how-excuseflation-is-keeping-prices-and-corporate-profits-high">Excuse-flation</a> is where general inflation provides “cover” for businesses to raise prices without justification, blaming nothing other than general inflation.</p> <p>It means that in times of general high inflation businesses can increase their prices even if their costs haven’t increased by as much.</p> <p>On Thursday Reserve Bank Governor <a href="https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/inflation-is-cover-for-pricing-gouging-rba-boss-says-20240215-p5f58d">Michele Bullock</a> seemed to confirm that she though some firms were doing this saying that when inflation had been brought back to the Bank’s target, it would be "much more difficult, I think, for firms to use high inflation as cover for this sort of putting up their prices."</p> <h2>A political solution is needed</h2> <p>Ultimately, our own vigilance won’t be enough. We will need political help. The government’s recently announced <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/review/competition-review-2023">competition review</a> might be a step in this direction.</p> <p>The legislative changes should police business practices and prioritise fairness. Only then can we create a marketplace where ethics and competition align, ensuring both business prosperity and consumer wellbeing.</p> <p>This isn’t just about economics, it’s about building a fairer, more sustainable Australia.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/223310/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/david-tuffley-13731"><em>David Tuffley</em></a><em>, Senior Lecturer in Applied Ethics &amp; CyberSecurity, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/griffith-university-828">Griffith University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-prices-are-so-high-8-ways-retail-pricing-algorithms-gouge-consumers-223310">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Supermarkets, airlines and power companies are charging ‘exploitative’ prices despite reaping record profits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384">Sanjoy Paul</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians have been hit by large rises in grocery, energy, transport, child and aged care prices, only adding to other cost of living pressures.</p> <p>While extreme weather and supply delays have contributed to the increases, an inquiry into what’s causing the hikes has confirmed what commentators and consumers suspected - many sectors are resorting to dodgy price practices and confusing pricing.</p> <p>Headed by the former Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) boss, Allan Fels, on behalf of the ACTU, the inquiry found inflation, questionable pricing practices, a lack of price transparency and regulations, a lack of market competition, supply chain problems and unrestricted price setting by retailers are to blame for fuelling the increases.</p> <p>The inquiry, which released its <a href="https://www.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web9-1.pdf">final report</a> on Wednesday, is one of four examining price rises. The other three are being undertaken by a Senate committee, the Queensland government and the ACCC, which has been given extra powers by the government.</p> <h2>Prices vs inflation</h2> <p>The inflation rate in Australia peaked at <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release">7.8%</a> in December 2022 and has been gradually dropping since then.</p> <p>While the inquiry found higher prices contributed to inflation, it reported that businesses claimed it was inflation that caused price rises - making it a chicken-or-egg kind of problem.</p> <p>However, many businesses made enormous <a href="https://theconversation.com/amid-allegations-of-price-gouging-its-time-for-big-supermarkets-to-come-clean-on-how-they-price-their-products-219316">profits</a> in 2022-23, which the inquiry said contributed to rising prices and inflation. In most cases, post-pandemic profit margins were much higher than before the pandemic.</p> <h2>How prices are set</h2> <p>Business pricing strategies had a big impact on product prices.</p> <p>In Australia, businesses often provided partial and misleading pricing information which differed from the actual price. For example, supermarkets were “<a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/accc-warns-supermarkets-about-discount-claims-20240114-p5ex1s">discounting</a>” products by raising prices beforehand.</p> <p>These practices helped raise prices and were “exploitative”, the inquiry found.</p> <p>A lack of transparent pricing information caused a poor understanding by consumers of how prices were set. This was significantly worsened by a lack of competition. While market concentration was a major issue, the inquiry found prices in Australia are way higher than in many other less competitive markets.</p> <p>Large price increases occurred across many sectors:</p> <p><strong>AVIATION</strong></p> <p>While it is free to set any price for airfares, Australia’s largest and highest profile aviation company, Qantas, has been <a href="https://www.thenewdaily.com.au/life/2023/12/28/qantas-deceptive-conduct-accc">accused</a> of price gouging since the pandemic.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, Qantas made a profit of $1.7 billion in 2023 - 208% higher than in 2019. At the same time, its reputation has been badly damaged by unreliable timetables, lost baggage and so-called <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/qantas-files-legal-defence-refutes-accc-case-and-ghost-flight-claims/9a6296c9-9238-4053-9f36-cc3cbf1f8a55">“ghost” flights</a> (selling tickets for a flight that’s been cancelled or doesn’t exist).</p> <p>Despite its huge profits and poorer service, Qantas passed on extra expenses to consumers in the form of higher airfares, the inquiry found.</p> <p><strong>BANKING</strong></p> <p>The banking industry has a long history of being tardy in passing on the Reserve Bank’s cash rate cuts to consumers. However, when the reserve raised the cash rates, banks immediately increased their standard variable rates and passed them on to customers. This practice keeps the bank’s profit margin higher.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, the major banks’ average profit margins have been higher since May 2022 than in the 15 years before the pandemic. For 2022-23, the four big Australian banks’ profit margins were 35.5%, compared to an average of 32.4% from 2005 to 2020.</p> <p><strong>CHILDCARE</strong></p> <p>Australian households spent a good portion of their income on childcare, and for many of them, it was <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/mitchell-institute-assessing-childcare-affordability-in-Australia.pdf">unaffordable</a>.</p> <p>In Australia, the lack of availability and difficulty in switching services makes it even harder for working parents to find alternative options. This indicates parents are forced to pay more if the service providers raise prices.</p> <p>The inquiry found the childcare sector increased fees by 20% to 32% from 2018 to 2022. Accordingly, Australian households’ out-of-pocket expenses for childcare increased more than the rate of wage growth. For-profit childcare businesses have higher margins than not-for-profit centres.</p> <p><strong>ELECTRICITY</strong></p> <p>In recent years, electricity price increases have impacted all Australian households. The inquiry found both wholesale and retail electricity pricing strategies were responsible for these increased prices.</p> <p>It reported that wholesale price increases were mainly responsible for an estimated 9% to 20% increase in electricity bills in 2022-23.</p> <p>The report noted the “price bidding system” was largely responsible for increasing wholesale electricity prices.</p> <p>The inquiry was critical of the profit margin of AGL, a leading electricity retailer:</p> <blockquote> <p>It would seem that AGL needs to explain why consumers are paying $60.10/MWh more than seems to be justified by cost differentials. That is, for every consumer bill of $1,000 there is an apparent excess to be explained of $205.61 relative to prices charged to large business customers and not accounted for by genuine cost differences.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>SUPERMARKETS</strong></p> <p>Supermarket prices have received the most attention recently with the main providers being accused of price gouging.</p> <p>As has occurred in other sectors, profit margins were well above pre-COVID levels. In 2023, the margin was more than 3.5% compared to less than 3% in 2017 and 2018.</p> <p>In Australia, <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/not-happy-little-vegemites-food-prices-rising-faster-than-inflation-20230522-p5da9w.html">food prices</a> also increased well above the inflation rate.</p> <p>According to the inquiry, the price increases for groceries between March 2021 and September 2023 varied between 19.2% and 27.3% for different categories, including cheese, bread, milk, eggs, dairy products and breakfast cereals.</p> <p>Farmers recently <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">accused</a> supermarkets of making too much profit from their crops.</p> <p>This was backed by the inquiry, which found the disproportionate market power held by supermarkets and food processors was of significant concern.</p> <p>The report noted that supermarkets increased prices when there was a shortage or cost increase, but the opposite did not happen easily when supplies were plentiful and prices were cheaper.</p> <h2>Issues common to all sectors</h2> <p>Among the issues common to all sectors were weak competition, a lack of price transparency, the difficulty consumers face switching between suppliers and providers, a lack of pricing policies and a lack of consumer awareness.</p> <p>While the price rises imposed by service providers and retailers were <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/pricing/setting-prices-whats-allowed">not unlawful</a>, the increases in all sectors were significant and were hurting everyday Australians.</p> <h2>Fels’ recommendations</h2> <p>Many of the recommendations were sector-specific, but the one that applied to all areas related to the lack of regulation and pricing policies.</p> <p>The ACCC should be empowered to investigate, monitor and regulate prices for the child and aged care, banking, grocery and food sectors, the inquiry found. This was necessary to ensure businesses used fair and transparent pricing.</p> <p>A review of all existing policies was also recommended. For example, the government should use the current aviation review to remove international and domestic restrictions on competition. It was important aviation stakeholders, such as airlines and airports, were involved in the process.</p> <p>The report suggested the grocery <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/industry-codes/food-and-grocery-code-of-conduct">code of conduct</a> should be mandatory for the food and grocery sector, and a price register for farmers should be created. This should be a government priority to protect farmers from unfair pricing by major supermarkets and food processors.</p> <h2>Change is needed</h2> <p>The current pricing practices for all business sectors must improve for greater transparency and to protect Australian consumers from unfair pricing.</p> <p>The inquiry report’s findings and recommendations are helpful in ensuring fair and transparent pricing policies and improving the current regulations for price settings.</p> <p>Implementing the recommendations will improve fair and transparent pricing practices and may help Australians get relief from the cost of living pressure in future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222755/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384"><em>Sanjoy Paul</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/supermarkets-airlines-and-power-companies-are-charging-exploitative-prices-despite-reaping-record-profits-222755">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Zimmerman founder sets new price record for Bondi home

<p>Simone Zimmerman has set a new home price record for Bondi, and she didn't even need to take out a mortgage. </p> <p>The fashion guru and founder of Zimmermann has splurged $30 million for her four-bedroom, three-bathroom home just moments away from the iconic Bondi Beach. </p> <p>“This ocean front executive residence is tucked away in a quiet street only moments to the iconic Bondi Beach and all it has to offer,”  the listing for the beachside home read. </p> <p>According to property records, the home - which is located just behind the popular Bondi to Bronte walk - last sold for $5.75m in June 2008.</p> <p>The fashion mogul is reported to have bypassed local real estate agents, purchasing the home directly from a local investor. </p> <p>No major changes have been made to the home since, but prior to Zimmerman's purchase it was being rented out at $4,400 per week. </p> <p>According to PropTrack the median house price for Bondi is around $3.75m, which went up by 4.7 per cent over the past year. </p> <p>The stunning home features 4 double bedrooms, all with large built-in wardrobes and a separate study perfect for the business-woman. </p> <p>It also has a gourmet kitchen with a stainless-steel benchtop and large open dining room. </p> <p>The lounge room opens onto a large deck with beautiful ocean views and plenty of natural lighting. </p> <p>This comes after the luxury womenswear label sold a majority stake in its company to private equity investors in August last year. </p> <p>Sisters Simone and Nicky Zimmerman are founders of the brand, which initially began as a stall in Sydney’s Paddington market, before the sisters opened their first local shop in Darlinghurst. </p> <p>It now operates across 58 global destinations in the USA, UK, Europe and China, with the sisters now having an estimated net worth of around $1bn each. </p> <p><em>Images: Realestate.com.au</em></p>

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"Wokeness gone mad": Steve Price slams AO Australia Day boycott

<p>Steve Price has slammed Australian Open organisers for choosing not to celebrate Australia Day for the second year in a row. </p> <p>The decision came after the Victorian government axed its Australia Day parade last year, amid growing backlash from athletes about celebrating on January 26. </p> <p>“This started last year and ended Australia Day celebrations, they used to feature fireworks, the playing of the national anthem and special musical events to mark the day at the tennis,” the Sky News host said. </p> <p>“So we have First Nations day, no drama from me about that, then the organisers have set aside a day for Australian Open Pride Day, an Australian Open All Abilities Day and an Australian Open Glam Slam for the LGBTI+ folk that will run across January 26 to 28.</p> <p>“You can’t make this stuff up.”</p> <p>Price also slammed the AO's decision to move the induction day for the tennis player who made it into this year's Australian Tennis Hall of Fame. </p> <p>The event normally takes place on January 26, but this year Lleyton Hewitt’s induction has been moved to the 24th of January. </p> <p>“This year it’s going to be Lleyton Hewitt – you couldn’t get a more Australian Australian than Lleyton Hewitt,” Price said. </p> <p>“They’ve changed the date of that event from Australia Day, when it used to be, to the 24th, two days earlier.</p> <p>“This is just crazy wokeness gone mad.</p> <p>“Can anyone at Tennis Australia defend this disgraceful snubbing of our national day by a tournament that carries the name of our nation," he ranted. </p> <p>Price then slammed the AO organisers for their decision. </p> <p>“It’s a pity the woke directors who run Tennis Australia don’t have the courage to drag the South African bloke running the organisation Craig Tiley into line and insist we recognise the great nation that lends its name to his tennis tournament," he said. </p> <p>A few others have agreed with Price, including Journalist Joe Hildebrand, who said that the decision is “counter-productive” in terms of making any meaningful difference. </p> <p>“The idea that these sorts of ridiculous virtue-signalling gestures are going to make any difference … is absolutely ridiculous – in fact, it puts people off even considering or wanting to address these issues,</p> <p>“This sort of stuff is what cost the Yes vote its victory … and it’s just so counter-productive, self-destructive, idiotic – you could use any name.”</p> <p>Radio Personality Tom Elliott, also called the move ridiculous. </p> <p>“If you’re going to call yourself the Australian Open and it happens that our national day takes place during the tournament, you have to acknowledge Australia Day,” he said. </p> <p>“Maybe the date will change down the track, but right now it’s January 26.”</p> <p><em>Images: Getty/ Sky News</em></p>

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Amid allegations of price gouging, it’s time for big supermarkets to come clean on how they price their products

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384">Sanjoy Paul</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>With inflation driving up the cost of living, many are dreading not just the hassle of a big grocery shop, but also the bruising cost.</p> <p>But while Australians struggle with their budget and spending, several major supermarkets made large profits in 2022–23. Coles and Woolworths, for example, made net profits of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/aug/23/woolworths-posts-162bn-profit-with-dramatic-lift-in-margins-despite-cost-of-living-crisis">A$1.1 billion and A$1.62 billion</a>, respectively.</p> <p><a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/money/costs/coles-and-woolworths-chief-executives-to-face-senate-inquiry-into-supermarket-price-hikes/news-story/0f74b6d4cac20ee65b818642f4f554ba">Allegations of price gouging</a> by Australian supermarkets have even led to a <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-12-03/greens-move-to-establish-senate-inquiry-into-supermarkets/103179656">Senate inquiry</a> into supermarket pricing.</p> <p>Coles chief executive Leah Weckert has <a href="https://www.colesgroup.com.au/media-releases/?page=coles-group-statement-on-senate-inquiry-into-supermarket-prices">promised</a> to appear at the inquiry, saying the company “works hard to keep prices affordable for Australian households […]” and is ready to “engage in an informed discussion on the factors that influence supermarket pricing.”</p> <p>Woolworths Group chief executive Brad Banducci, meanwhile, <a href="https://www.woolworthsgroup.com.au/au/en/media/latest-news/2023/woolworths-group-confirms-ceo-will-appear-at-senate-inquiry-on-s.html">said</a> he welcomes the chance 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”.</p> <p>But why wait until a Senate inquiry to explain all that? There’s an opportunity <em>now</em> for the big supermarkets to be more transparent about how they decide what prices to put on products.</p> <h2>Allegations of price gouging</h2> <p>It’s not just <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-12-03/greens-move-to-establish-senate-inquiry-into-supermarkets/103179656">politicians</a> and <a href="https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/woolworths-photo-exposes-everything-wrong-with-supermarkets-002726485.html">customers</a> complaining about supermarket prices.</p> <p>Australian farmers have also accused Coles and Woolworths of price gouging for <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">fruits and vegetables</a>, claiming supermarkets profit too much from their crops.</p> <p>The National Farmers’ Federation has <a href="https://www.freshplaza.com/oceania/article/9583132/farmers-call-for-price-transparency-beyond-supermarket-inquiry/">called</a> for greater transparency from the supermarkets on how they decide prices.</p> <p>A recent <a href="https://www.freshplaza.com/oceania/article/9583132/farmers-call-for-price-transparency-beyond-supermarket-inquiry/">survey</a> by AUSVEG (the peak industry body for the Australian vegetable and potato industries) found 34% of vegetable growers are considering leaving the industry in the next 12 months as they <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">struggle</a> to turn a profit.</p> <p>When asked about calls for more transparent pricing, a Woolworths spokesperson told The Conversation:</p> <blockquote> <p>We publish both our average gross margin and EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes) margin transparently in our public financial reports.</p> <p>Supply chain costs are different for every product and they are constantly fluctuating, as are our buying costs in the case of fresh food like fruit and vegetables.</p> <p>Shoppers are very savvy. We operate in a highly competitive industry and we know our customers will – and do – shop around to find the best value.</p> <p>As we start to see the rate of inflation ease, we will continue to focus on delivering savings to our customers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Coles was also contacted for comment but did not reply before publication deadline.</p> <h2>Factoring in many costs</h2> <p>When a retailer buys products from their suppliers, it involves a supply chain that includes supply, manufacturing, transportation and distribution, warehouse and storage.</p> <p>There are several costs – such as product costs, transportation fees, labour, rent, inventory and more – involved at every step of the process.</p> <p>The supermarket must factor in all costs, as well as its profit margin, when it sets the selling price for a product.</p> <p>Organisations usually have these cost breakdowns as part of their internal decision-making – but they don’t typically disclose these calculations to their customers.</p> <h2>Not disclosing the cost breakdowns</h2> <p>The problem for supermarkets is that when they don’t disclose details such as their buying price or supply chain costs, it can contribute to anger among customers and suppliers.</p> <p>Apple and Pear Australia Limited – the national peak industry body for apple and pear growers – has <a href="https://apal.org.au/retailers-need-to-demonstrate-greater-price-transparency/">called for</a> retailers to demonstrate greater price transparency, saying, “frustration at the behaviour of the major retailers has again angered many growers”.</p> <p>Of course, supermarkets use several pricing strategies to win customer support – such as locking in prices for a certain period of time, everyday low prices on key products, specials, price-matching and discounts.</p> <p>Supermarkets spend millions of dollars on these price-related advertisements, but perhaps they would get more community support by simply disclosing cost breakdowns on their websites and in-store to show their commitment to transparent and fair pricing.</p> <h2>Transparent and fair pricing</h2> <p>Research shows price transparency helps businesses build trust with their <a href="https://fastercapital.com/content/The-Importance-of-Price-Transparency-in-Pricing-Psychology.html">customers</a>.</p> <p>Many major retailers already have this information for internal decision-making, so could display this online and in stores.</p> <p>Yes, prices change constantly due to factors outside their control – such as fuel prices, shipping problems or even supply chain issues linked to global conflict. But being more open with customers about these issues could help repair relationships and their public image.</p> <p>Perhaps there may even be a role for government, which could collaborate with supermarkets and retailers to develop policies for transparent and fair pricing.</p> <p>Everyday Australians deserve to be treated fairly and given the information they need about how major supermarkets price their products, so they can make informed decisions at the checkout.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219316/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384"><em>Sanjoy Paul</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/amid-allegations-of-price-gouging-its-time-for-big-supermarkets-to-come-clean-on-how-they-price-their-products-219316">original article</a>.</em></p>

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Three-bedroom home on the market for unbelievably cheap price

<p>A three-bedroom home located on the border of Victoria and South Australia is up for sale for just $65,000. </p> <p>But there is a catch to future homeowners who want to experience the “quiet and cheap country living”, as they might need to be handy with a hammer. </p> <p>“If you’re a handyman and willing to put some elbow grease into it, then this one might be for you,” the listing read. </p> <p>The home itself is located on two plots of land measuring 2,100m2 in Serviceton, Victoria, and is only 16 minutes away from Bordertown, South Australia. </p> <p>“Being on two titles, you can utilise both or sell the vacant allotment as all the dwellings are on one,” the listing read. </p> <p>It also features a large lounge room with wood-fire heater, and a centrally located bathroom with a bath and vanity. </p> <p>There's plenty of room to cook in the massive kitchen, despite it needing a lot of work, it features a formal dining area that has a sliding servery window which connects to the lounge room.</p> <p>Outside, the future homeowner can find a large shed, rain water storage, and a gate that opens up to a park. </p> <p>“It went under contract ... an hour and a half (after it was listed),” Ray White agent Hayden Obst told<em> 7News</em>. </p> <p>The condition of its electrical, plumbing and appliances are unknown, but people are still expressing their interest.</p> <p>Despite this, many people from different parts of the country and a few investors are still calling the real estate agent, just in case the contract falls through. </p> <p><em>Images: 7News.com.au</em></p>

Real Estate

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Fed up farmer blasts major supermarkets for price gouging

<p>In a heartfelt plea captured in a viral video, Ross Marsolino, a Victorian farmer and owner of Natural Earth Produce, expressed his frustration with major supermarkets and their pricing strategies for fruits and vegetables.</p> <p>Marsolino, who specialises in growing zucchinis, tomatoes and eggplants in Victoria's Goulburn Valley, said that the profit margins imposed by supermarkets are crippling farmers, adversely impacting consumers, and driving growers out of business.</p> <p>“We’re going to walk away from 80 acres today,” Marsolino said in his video posted to social media. “We’re not retailing the right price to be able to keep the product moving and selling. Plain and simple. The supermarkets are making too much profit out of our crops. We can’t survive. As growers we can’t afford to pay the workers, 50 people are going to be out of the system looking for work.”</p> <p>The crux of Marsolino's argument lies in the claim that supermarkets are engaging in price-gouging, purchasing produce from growers at a considerably lower price and then selling it at a steep markup. He highlighted the stark contrast between the $1.80 per kilo that supermarkets allegedly pay to farmers and the retail price of $4.99, stating that this disparity is unsustainable for growers.</p> <p>The consequence, as Marsolino outlined, is a domino effect on the entire supply chain. Farmers, unable to cover their costs, are forced to reduce the quantity of product they sell, leading to both financial losses for growers and higher prices for consumers.</p> <p>That is why, in his case, Marsolino is saying he is prepared to abandon his 80-acre zucchini crop, estimating the loss at a staggering $2 million. This decision, he said, is a result of the unsustainable economics of the industry.</p> <p>Marsolino's argument goes beyond his personal struggle; he contends that the high retail prices set by supermarkets are ultimately detrimental to consumers and the agricultural industry as a whole. He believes that if prices were lowered to a more reasonable level, consumers would be more inclined to purchase the produce, resulting in increased sales for growers and a healthier industry overall.</p> <p>The plea from Marsolino has also sparked a call for government intervention. He urged authorities to scrutinise the pricing practices of supermarkets, demanding transparency in their transactions with growers. Marsolino's desire is for someone to hold the major supermarket chains accountable for the prices they set and to ensure that they are fair and reasonable.</p> <p>In response to Marsolino's claims, representatives from Woolworths and Coles <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/fed-up-farmer-abandons-80acre-zucchini-crop-blaming-high-markups-at-supermarkets/news-story/30c5ebbaa296e74b8c12c1da356696cd" target="_blank" rel="noopener">defended their pricing structures</a>. They argued that the prices paid to suppliers are influenced by various factors, including processing, transport, labour, packaging and market conditions. Both companies emphasised their commitment to fair pricing and their efforts to balance the interests of suppliers and consumers.</p> <p>Marsolino's plea serves as a reminder of the delicate balance required to sustain both the agricultural sector and the affordability of fresh produce for consumers. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen whether there will be a shift towards a more equitable pricing structure that benefits all stakeholders in the industry.</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Kyle Sandilands leaves brutal voicemail for Steve Price

<p>In the latest episode of "Australia's Got Voicemails", shock jock extraordinaire Kyle Sandilands unleashed a verbal tempest upon fellow broadcaster Steve Price. What sparked this war of words? Apparently, Price had the audacity to <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/entertainment/tv/steve-price-slams-buffoon-kyle-sandilands-over-move-to-melbourne-airwaves" target="_blank" rel="noopener">label Sandilands a "grubby buffoon"</a> on national television. And you thought your family gatherings were awkward.</p> <p>Let's rewind to the moment when Price, with all the subtlety of a kangaroo in a china shop, decided to throw some shade on <em>The Project</em>. With the finesse of a wordsmith, Price declared, "I don't think grubby buffoons work in Melbourne." Ouch. Melbourne, known for its coffee, culture, and now apparently, a grubby buffoon ban.</p> <p>In response, Sandilands, not one to be outdone in the art of verbal gymnastics, left Price a voicemail that would make a sailor blush. "Hey, you piece of sh*t," Sandilands began, setting the tone for a heartfelt exchange of pleasantries, "we’ve spoken before, last time you forgot that you’re not allowed to mouth off about me.</p> <p>“Steve, it’s Kyle obviously, there is probably a long list of people who ring you.</p> <p>“Again just surprised at your feigned reaction on The Project, can’t you just be yourself? Can’t you just say your true thoughts? I can’t wait to see you face-to-face buddy, it’s been too long.</p> <p>“It’s disappointing that as you’ve gotten older you have turned into a real piece of sh*t. Feel free to play this on tonight’s Project because that’s the last gig you will ever have.</p> <p>"See you mate, by the way love the alcoholic nose, bye bro.”</p> <p>Despite the verbal thrashing, Price seemed unconcerned. "I described him as a grubby buffoon, and that's it," <a href="https://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/page-13/pieceofsh-radio-war-of-words-between-steve-price-heats-up-with-veiled-threats/news-story/ed616773a1064b8e8afd8e448977b40b" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Price retorted</a>, probably sipping tea and counting the days until the next headline-grabbing voicemail. It's all in a day's work for a grizzled commentator who's clearly impervious to verbal beatdowns.</p> <p>In the grand tradition of radio feuds, this clash of titans unfolded after Sandilands and his partner-in-crime, Jackie 'O' Henderson, inked a jaw-dropping $200 million deal live on air.</p> <p>As the radio waves settle from this tempestuous encounter, we can't help but marvel at the drama that unfolds in the seemingly mundane world of talk radio. Who needs reality TV when you have Australian broadcasters providing this level of entertainment?</p> <p>In the end, whether it's a buffoon's brawl or a radio roast, one thing's for sure – the Australian airwaves are never short of surprises. Tune in next time for another episode of <em>He Said, He Said</em>, where words are sharper than claws, and feuds are settled with voicemails, not handshakes.</p> <p><em>Images: Network Ten / KIIS FM</em></p>

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