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Critics slam fuel probe

Howard government's petrol price inquiry comes in for attack from Labor and RACV

General News logo25 Jun 2007

A FEDERAL government inquiry into petrol pricing has been attacked by a leading motoring group and the opposition.

Treasurer Peter Costello said last week that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would examine anomalies between the price of benchmark Singapore oil and the price consumers are charged at the pump.

It is alleged a discrepancies occurred in January and in the last week of May, with customers paying more than expected given a lower Singapore price.

“I am determined that motorists should have full confidence in the price they pay for petrol at the bowser,” Mr Costello said.

“While it is well understood that the price of petrol is driven by a range of international price pressures, I want to ensure that motorists get the most competitive price when filling their vehicles.” The far reaching ACCC inquiry is due to issue its findings on October 15, during the lead up to the federal election.

Shadow treasurer Wayne Swan, who has been calling for such an inquiry for some time, said the government has only acted because of poor poll results.

“This is a temporary move basically to stem the political bleeding that's hitting the Government,” he said.

80 center imageMr Swan said the government should have gone further and introduced other measures.

“What they haven't done is change the Act, put a petrol commissioner in the ACCC and given the petrol commissioner the power to conduct these investigations whenever they think they're necessary,” he said.

RACV spokesman David Cumming (left) said the inquiry would probably be a waste of time.

“It is window dressing, that’s all,” Mr Cumming said.

He said the government should be looking at the petrol tax regime.

“It doesn’t even debate what the 38 a cent litre excise is for, or the unfairness of then putting a GST on top of the excise,” he said.

Mr Cumming said the opposition was no better when it came to taxing petrol.

“The Labor party doesn’t want to debate this issue either.” He said the current weekly price fluctuations could be attributed to the supermarket chains that now control the majority of petrol stations trying to recover some of the discounts they offered.

“The inquiry should find that the supermarkets did it. Instead of a 10c a week fluctuation, we have a 14 cents a litre fluctuation,” he said.

Mr Cummings said that whilst the current situation was not ideal, it is better than a regulated market.

“If there is a recommendation for any form of regulation, Australian motorists will pay more,” he said.

“We recommend that our members fill up on a Monday or Tuesday, when the cycle is at its lowest. If you look at the prices across Australia today (Tuesday), they are actually below cost in all states other than Perth.”

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