ganging-up-on-petrol-pricesThe price of unleaded petrol, at 121.5¢ last week in Leongatha, Korumburra, Inverloch and Wonthaggi; was being heatedly criticised by locals. It was 119.5c yesterday. m010315


THE Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Danny O’Brien, has weighed into the country petrol price debate by saying the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) should use Gippsland as a case study for a full-scale investigation into the difference between country and city fuel prices.
He said it’s not fair that Gippslanders are paying well over the odds for fuel and claimed there was no relationship between prices and distance from Melbourne.
He was echoing the concern and even ager expressed on the Sentinel-Times’ Facebook page last week when a ‘Petrol Price Watch’ post invited people to comment.
More than 150 people made direct comments and almost 10,000 people were ‘reached’ by the hot-button topic.
Here are the top six comments:
• Marg and Barry Fitzgerald: It stinks, the price we have to pay here and other places can sell it a lot cheaper. They say support our own but how can you when they keep their price so damn high
• Jenny Hogg: Seriously?? In Shepparton we are paying 129 a litre and you’re complaining??
• Rob van Rooy: Oil is now approx 1/3 of what it was, yet price creeps down very slowly in South Gippsland. Watch when it jumps to $5 a barrel and the price jumps 5 cents a litre overnight! We are constantly being screwed by a monopoly in this area!
• David Brereton: Gee, come on, they employ locals to drive the trucks. They have local people running the service stations etc! That’s probably why their business has survived; they charge the price they need to to be sustainable?
• Alysia Clark: It’s about $1.08 in Melbourne near me. I always fill up before I drive home. I refuse to pay that price. South Gippsland is horrible for prices of things. It’s a rip off.
• Phil Dempster: Don’t stress, the ACCC will fix it. They will look at the price difference and come out with a 1000-page document explaining there is a difference but they can’t do anything about it.
Notwithstanding Mr Dempster’s comment, Mr O’Brien says he has written to ACCC chairman Rod Sims in the wake of the Federal Coalition Government’s directive for the consumer watchdog to review petrol pricing in regional locations.
“Given my regular travels around the region, and to Melbourne, I see the variation in petrol prices and have noticed in recent months that while metropolitan prices have fallen substantially with the drop in global oil prices, the same cannot be said for prices in Gippsland,” Mr O’Brien said.
“That’s not fair on Gippsland motorists and the ACCC will be able to shine a spotlight on this disparity.”
The Nationals MP also believes Gippsland provides evidence of inter-regional pricing variation.
“For example petrol prices in the Latrobe Valley are often higher than prices in Bairnsdale, which is further from Melbourne, while a town such as Sale, with seven different petrol stations and presumably therefore greater competition, is currently averaging 10 cents a litre higher than Rosedale just 25 kilometres away and with only two stations.
“Most country people understand there will be a difference in prices between the city and the country but what frustrates us is that when city prices come down as they have in recent months and country prices don’t follow to the same extent.”
Mr O’Brien said a report released today by the ACCC demonstrated how the gap between city and country petrol prices was growing bigger.
“Global oil prices have fallen dramatically in the past few months and those savings should be passed on to Gippsland motorists.”
Mr O’Brien also urged Gippslanders to shop around and reward those companies that have dropped their prices by becoming long-term customers.
He welcomed the new powers issued to the ACCC by the Federal Coalition Government which will allow the consumer watchdog to crack down on irregular petrol prices.
The Federal Coalition has directed the ACCC to provide quarterly rather than annual reports on petrol prices along with conducting investigations into specific geographic markets in response to community concern.
ACCC Chairman Rod Simms said last week that the average differential between city and country prices of 17.6¢ was too great but he also said the ACCC had not been able to put its finger on illegal price-setting, not yet anyway.

Not that simple

Evans Petroleum spokesman, Stuart Evans is mindful of the criticism being levelled at country operators but claims these are extremely unusual trading conditions.
“I have never seen, in more than 40 years of trading, such a volatile situation with petrol prices and such a big fall in the price of a barrel of oil.
“In fact, in some of our slower turnover areas, the wholesale price of fuel has fallen well below the price of what we’ve still got in the tank when we bought it. The city outlets are able to respond more quickly becasue they have higher turnover and different trading conditions.
“These have been very difficult operating conditions for us as well and we’re still getting our heads around it.”
Mr Evans said he did appreciate that people would shop around for the best price and that it was an issue which interested everyone but it was important that he protected the viability of the business in order to continue to provide a local service long term.


Farmers captive to unfair fuel

VICTORIAN Farmers say they feel like they are getting “gouged” at the bowser and are captive to unfair fuel pricing in the bush.
The result is that they have welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision to monitor and analyse fuel markets in the country.
“While our city counterparts are heaving a sigh of relief at fuel price reductions, our rural communities are questioning why they haven’t seen similar reductions in prices,” VFF president Peter Tuohey said.
The report released by the ACCC indicates the static nature of regional petrol markets.
According to the ACCC, average city prices fell by around 35 cents from July to January whereas the gap between city and country increased from 5.7 cents to 17 cents per litre, said the VFF.
The first report, covering all capital cities and 180 regional locations, is due next month. The studies will look at the cost of fuel in the nearest port, transport and storage costs, as well as wholesale, distribution, and retail costs to fully explain prices and where money is being made in the petrol price value chain.
“We need this inequity in the market to stop and look forward to the review taking place,” Mr Tuohey said.