This proves petrol rip-off: NRMA

Perhaps that ought to read, This proves petrol rip-off: common sense. I don’t know.

The NRMA has produced evidence it claims is the smoking gun over alleged price gouging and collusion within the oil industry.

Brandishing a graph comparing the price of petrol at the bowser to international crude prices over the last eight months, NRMA’s Motoring and Services president, Alan Evans, said today the analysis proved “beyond any shadow of a doubt” that prior to the announcement into petrol pricing by the Treasurer, Peter Costello, two months ago, motorists were being ripped off to the tune of millions of dollars.

I have not managed to find that graph. I really want to see that graph. Opinions differ about the NRMA’s claims. I’m inclined to think they’re smarter, surely, than the patronising tone of the Herald Sun assumes, but I still want to see this proof of theirs.

The very amusing thing is that, usually, Australians see prices spike on things like the day before a long weekend, and scream “rort!” (not the economists, of course), but that is not the proof of which the NRMA spake. Quite the opposite:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission was given the green light for an inquiry by the Federal Government on June 15. According to NRMA figures presented to the inquiry today, retail petrol prices promptly began to decrease after the inquiry was announced, despite the Malaysian Tapis – the crude oil benchmark for the Asia-Pacific market – progressively rising.

“We see in the last few weeks crude prices have risen but lo and behold, because someone is looking over their shoulder, [the oil companies] have brought the prices down,” Mr Evans said.

“This is the smoking gun we’ve been waiting to find. The industry is very tight. We know they’ve got a whole range of technologies which allow them to track the movement in prices of their competitors, so they don’t have to get in a smoke-filled room or on the telephone to collude anymore.”

A bit Dick Tracy, there, at the end. They’re in weak territory, for a start, referring to the crude oil price benchmark in an analysis of the price of petrol – a refined product. We shall see.

Finally, there is the implication of all of this:

The NRMA has called on the Federal Government to give the ACCC enhanced powers to regulate the price of petrol, a product the motoring body says should come under the same regulatory framework as other essential commodities such as water, electricity and gas.

Bollocks. I’ve said already that water needs to be more expensive. I suffer all the missing sympathy of a non-motorist who, right now, is wearing his Treehugger tee-shirt, but petrol needs to be more expensive, too.

I don’t agree that petrol companies should take the surplus as profit, let me be clear: it should be a tax re-apportioned to something useful. Driver-welfare, however politically appealing, is economically and ecologically foolhardy.

As it stands, I don’t see petrol prices making electoral inroads, this time. Not past food, housing, interest rates, etc.

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1 comment so far

  1. Michael Angel on

    If any tax cuts are given by the new Rudd Labor government they should be on fuel. not the GST, but the 38c a litre excise. This is a regressive, unfair tax that hurts the poor and country people more than others. It is no longer appropriate is such a vast country as Australia.
    It makes everything that has to be moved in Australia dearer including our exports.
    Also those buying ethanol mixes are being ripped off as they will get less mileage ( petrol has 30-40% more ‘energy’ than ethanol.).
    Taxes should be reduced on ethanol mixes.


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