House debates

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Constituency Statements

Launceston Smart Fuelers, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

10:18 am

Photo of Ross HartRoss Hart (Bass, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, cost-of-living pressures are rising, yet we see on a regular basis record company profits and CEO bonuses with absolutely no relief for workers, with real wage increases consigned to the never-never. People in my electorate are crying out for a government that shows leadership on issues that matter to them—a government that can deliver relief to hardworking Tasmanians. That's why, under a Shorten-led Labor government, if elected, the majority of people in Northern Tasmania will see their tax burden reduced, particularly those on lower incomes, who will receive Labor's bigger, better tax cut, giving some initial relief to the rising cost-of-living pressures.

One group in my electorate decided to take action rather than simply complaining. They started the group Launceston Smart Fuelers, who aim to put downward pressure on petrol prices by working together through collective action. This is a fantastic grassroots community initiative. I applaud the group and its leaders for taking this issue on.

I've been speaking to David McCormick from the Launceston Smart Fuelers, who have already written to the ACCC and have asked why they've not acted on their very real concerns about price gouging at the fuel pump. David has told my office that, despite being told he'd receive a response to this inquiry within 15 days, he's heard nothing. David has also been directly speaking to the fuel companies, who, it seems, simply aren't interested.

In this incompetent government's first term, it sacked 10 per cent of the staff of the ACCC, undermining the ability for it to regulate some of the most powerful corporations in Australia, including the banks and the petrol companies. We all heard during the banking royal commission that unregulated big corporations have taken advantage of Australian consumers in the absence of proper regulation.

For everyday Australians like David and the over 10,000 consumers who've joined or have indicated support for the Launceston Smart Fuelers group, Labor wants to see more power for the ACCC so it can take action against fuel retailers who take advantage of their customers. One of the biggest problems is that regulators need more than the power to act. They also need a budget to act. Labor's plan, if elected, is to give the regulator more powers, to make sure that there are tougher penalties and to ensure that regulators have a budget and the ability to enforce them.

This is about giving the regulator real power to take action against anticompetitive behaviour. Governments can't and shouldn't regulate fuel prices. Proper competition amongst retailers and wholesalers is the best way to drive down prices. Labor will increase penalties for anticompetitive and anticonsumer conduct, double the ACCC's litigation budget and give the ACCC an independent market studies function so it can explore public interest issues including this vital issue.