Thursday, 28 August 2014
Corangamite Electorate: Petrol Prices
I rise this morning to speak out on a very important issue for the people of Colac and the broader Colac-Otway region. For far too long, petrol prices in Colac have been far too high. Year after year, residents of Colac have been forced to pay a significantly higher price for petrol than arguably anywhere else in south-west Victoria. This is not an issue of distance from capital cities. Further afield from Melbourne, in places like Camperdown and Warrnambool, prices are routinely lower than they are in Colac.
This situation appears to be driven by a lack of competition in the Colac petrol market. In 2011, two Colac residents, Mr Phil Edge and Mr Bill Brown, simply had enough. They collected 6,409 signatures on a petition, which was tabled in parliament by my good friend the member for Wannon.
There seems to be little doubt that petrol operators in Colac are taking people for a ride. That is why our government's competition law review, chaired by Professor Ian Harper, is so important. For the first time in 20 years, our government's root and branch review of competition law is demonstrating that we are determined to fight for a better deal for consumers and small businesses. We are determined to take on the big supermarkets and to examine the ways in which this duopoly is operating to hurt their small business competitors. We are determined to ask the hard questions. We are determined to stand up for small business operators who for too long have been banging their heads against a brick wall.
Petrol prices must be a central consideration of the Harper review. This in itself should give the Colac community confidence that we take the job of delivering a fairer go for consumers and small businesses very seriously. I wish to commend the Minister for Small Business, Bruce Billson, who was championing this review well before our government was elected. I wish to acknowledge his assistance in arranging for submissions to be accepted by the review panel prior to the handing down of its draft report in September. I will also be providing a copy of Mr Edge and Mr Brown's petition to the Harper review and to the minister to demonstrate the importance of this issue in Colac.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s I worked for a wonderful program called The Investigators on the ABC—a highly respected program—when the then Trade Practices Act was in its relatively early days. In my work I rallied against rip-offs, unfair trade practices and misleading and deceptive conduct. I continued that work as a lawyer and I continue that work today in this parliament.
In the lead-up to the 2010 federal election, I campaigned for better competition in the Colac pharmacy market. Labor were dragged kicking and screaming on that issue and eventually they took the appropriate action. Petrol prices are a much tougher challenge, but I commit to the people of Colac and the broader Colac-Otway district that I will do everything to stand up for them on this important issue.