David Littleproud
David Littleproud (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

Despite David Littleproud’s fierce criticism of Coles — including a call for Australians to boycott the supermarket chain — it seems the pair might have more in common than the drought minister thinks. 

This week, Coles has been dragged through the — pardon the pun — coals for neglecting to pass on a 10 cents per litre price rise for milk to dairy farmers following an ACCC investigation. The milk levy was introduced in February, with Coles now committing to a $5.25 million payment to Norco farmers. 

At that time, both Coles and Littleproud were staunch in their defence of their actions. Coles wanted to keep the price of milk at $1 per litre, and Littleproud wanted to keep owning shares in that other supermarket chain, Woolworths. After public outcry, they both backflipped. Coles agreed to up the price and pass the increase on to farmers, and Littleproud announced he would sell his Woolworths shares and donate the funds to drought relief. 

“[It’s] about 750 bucks worth I understand … I’ve made all avenues available to sell these 25 shares, and you know what? Even to appease Mr Fitzgibbons and the Labor party and this tawdry little attempt to make a sideshow out of this, I’ll donate it to the Western Queensland drought appeal,” Littleproud said at the time.

But it seems neither had their paperwork in order. Coles didn’t pass on the price hike to farmers, while Littleproud’s register of members’ interests indicated he still owned Woolworths shares as recently as yesterday morning. 

Responding to an enquiry from Crikey, a spokesperson for Littleproud’s office said the failure to update the register was a clerical error. It has since been amended to reflect that the minister had “no interests with Woolworths from date: 21 February 2019”.

A media statement from February shows Littleproud’s shares were worth $756.25. Crikey has seen a receipt for a $719.13 donation to the Western Queensland Drought Committee, $37.12 less than the value of the stock shown on the media statement — apparently due to brokerage fees and stock price fluctuations.

Littleproud still owns shares in ANZ, Blue Energy and mining and metal company South32.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey