IT comes as no surprise to anyone living on the Mid North Coast – we pay some of the highest prices for fuel in the state.
On December 3, Port Macquarie motorists were paying 44 cents per litre higher than south-east Sydney and after years of questioning why, still have no real answer.
Labor candidate for the seat of Cowper Andrew Woodward is calling on sitting member Luke Hartsuyker to call on his government to request an Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) inquiry into the conduct of petrol companies.
“Something is going seriously wrong when petrol in Port Macquarie is 40 per cent more than Sydney and 20 per cent more than other major regional centres,” Mr Woodward said.
“We need answers.”
The NSW government’s Fuelcheck website on Monday showed almost a 44 cents per litre difference in prices between Sydney’s Sutherland shire and Port Macquarie:
- $1.139 at Jannali in the Sutherland Shire
- $1.149 at Rozelle in inner Sydney
- $1.298 in Wagga Wagga
- $1.395 in Orange
- $1.419 in Kempsey
- $1.509 in Coffs Harbour
- $1.579 in Port Macquarie
”Labor has proposes to have tougher penalties for petrol companies where we find them gouging the market,” he said.
More inquiries are not the answer. The Commission has the authority to take action, or give advice to government on what it believes needs to be done.Luke Hartsuyker, MP
Mr Hartuyker in April this year admitted it was unfair for motorists to be hit with excessive price hikes and called on the ACCC to investigate.
He agreed that price differences of over 40 cents per litre are “an absolute rip-off”.
“A minor degree of differentiation between capitals and regional centres is to be expected, for a range of reasons, and as recently as the June quarter this year the ACCC said it was averaging just under five cents per litre,” Mr Hartsuyker.
“The scale of the differential now is simply extraordinary, and I will be calling on the ACCC to give us a much better answer than I received earlier this year on the same topic.
“The ACCC was given the task, last December, to monitor prices in the capitals and a wide range of regional centres that included Port Macquarie.
“If differentials at anything like this sort of level persists, the Commission simply has to take some action, and if action needs legislative support from the Commonwealth, it should be forthcoming.
“More inquiries are not the answer. The Commission has the authority to take action, or give advice to government on what it believes needs to be done.”
Opinion: Motorists held to ransom
The ACCC website last published information on regional petrol prices in April 2012.
“Fuel prices are generally higher in regional Australia due to lower population and demand resulting in fewer outlets, leading to less competition; higher costs for transport and storage of fuel; less demand for convenience sales like drinks, food and newspapers that can enable retailers to add to overall profits and keep fuel prices lower; and the location of outlets–whether or not they are on a highway and likely to get a high number of customers,” the ACCC’s website says.
“Regional fuel retailers don’t usually sell their fuel stocks as quickly as city retailers, so when there is any change in the international benchmark and wholesale prices of fuel it generally takes longer to impact on country retail prices.
“While prices in regional areas might fall slowly they also tend to rise more slowly.”
Most motorists would disagree with that final point.
The last big drop at the bowser after a worldwide decrease in oil prices in early November still has not been felt regionally.
NRMA spokesperson Rebecca Page said it is always best to shop around. She added there’s no reason why petrol prices should not be dropping across the Mid North Coast and it is up to individual service stations to manage their own pricing structures.
It just fluctuates in a way that irritates the hell out of motorists, but it's not against the law the way that's happening.Rod Simms, ACCC
In October, ACCC chair Rod Sims said it's not against the law for consumers to be overcharged for goods, but motorists can work out the best time to buy based on price fluctuations.
"When prices are at bottom of the cycle you're probably getting petrol below cost and when they're at the top of the cycle you're getting ripped off big time," he said.
"It just fluctuates in a way that irritates the hell out of motorists, but it's not against the law the way that's happening."
Mr Sims says 35 per cent of the cost of petrol is tax and Australians are paying a fuel excise of 41 cents on top of the GST.
The tax is meant to fund roads but he says it's questionable whether the taxation level is appropriate.
Motorists can use the free FuelCheck app to compare daily petrol prices in their region.