A photo of an over-priced bottle of hand moisturiser on the shelves of a remote community store is the latest viral social media post to draw attention to the issue of price gouging in remote INdigenous communities
On Sunday night, Rob Arnol tweeted the photo of a bottle of Vaseline Intensive Care Moisturising Lotion labelled for sale at $35.96. The 200ml tube has a recommended retail price of $4.99.
Less than 24 hours later, the post had been retweeted 1,700 times.
Speaking with NITV News, Mr Arnol confirmed he did not take the photo himself but said he found it in a Facebook group, but could not recall which one.
The tweet names the Ernabella Store; however, the pricing label for the lotion states it was sitting on the shelves at Mega Discounters in Alice Springs.
When contacted by NITV News, the manager on duty confirmed the over-priced item was located at their store.
However, according to the manager of Mega Discounters, the $35.96 price tag was an error.
“When it went into the system [from our suppliers], it went in as a carton price rather than the unit price. The actual price is $5.90.”
In March earlier this year, Community Enterprises Queensland said an $82.27 pack of lamb chops in a government-owned supermarket on Palm Island was also “incorrectly labelled”.
Despite this, “price gouging” is a legitimate concern, not confined to one or two isolated incidents that can be explained away as an “error”.
This month, an inquiry commenced into the operations of remote community stores at the Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt, and will report on food prices and food security in remote Indigenous communities.
The Indigenous Affairs Standing Committee, chaired by Julian Lesser MP, will hold its second public hearing for the inquiry on June 30, attended by with The National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) and Outback stores.
“Outback Stores are supporting about 40 remote stores, and we look forward to discussing the management and governance of these businesses, and how this contributes to a secure supply of affordable and healthy food for their communities,” said Mr Lesser in a statement.
The committee is encouraging and welcoming submissions for the inquiry from people in communities where food pricing is an issue.
“Get out your iPhone, take a picture of some of the prices you pay and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org,” said Mr Lesser.
“You don’t have to write a lot of words. We just want to see evidence these prices are the way they are.”
The final report for the inquiry is to be tabled on October 30.