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‘Corporate price gouging’: sleight of hand for troubled economic waters ahead

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 21 February 2024

The "Inquiry into Price Gouging and Unfair Pricing Practices" is the latest ship to be launched in the Australian Council of Trade Union's (ACTU) armada of misdirection to shift the blame for inflation from the real culprits-the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), and state and federal governments in combination with Labor unions-to business.

It is probably no coincidence that it was released about the time the crossbench was waving through the government's new, back-to-the-70s, "Closing the Loopholes" industrial relations bill.

It's cleverly done, superficial, and will easily slot into most journalists' needs for a compelling narrative of heroes (trade unions), villains (business), and victims (the rest of us)-but it happens to be mostly wrong.


Particularly clever is the use of Alan Fels, the first chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), as the inquiry head-it gives the exercise superficial credibility that it doesn't deserve.

The inquiry's title assumes its finding-when you are investigating price gouging, then you will find price gouging.

Undoubtedly, this is why there is no objective definition of what price gouging is when you search the document.

In fact, there are two subjective definitions.

Price gouging is "excessive" prices, or "prices that significantly exceed levels that would occur if there was competition."

What is "excessive"? Are there many, or any, situations in corporate Australia where there is no competition? How do you tell what prices would be with competition?


None of this is explored or given any concrete definition. The term is just flung around when convenient and is meant to have an emotional resonance.

The Cambridge dictionary definition gives the game away.

Gouging is "to charge someone too much money for something, in a way that is dishonest or unfair" [my emphasis]. It also comes with a profoundly physical image of viciousness, as when you "gouge out an eye."

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This article was first published by Epoch Times.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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