Thursday, 21 February 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, Tasmanians are being ripped off by high fuel prices and they're mightily furious. Now, no-one can blame the added transport and handling costs or the lower volumes, because, according to the ACCC, the net margin on fuels is still consistently higher in Tasmania than on the mainland. So, Prime Minister, will the government give the ACCC the power to intervene in the fuel market and to help stop Tasmanians being ripped off? While you're at it, will the government also direct the ACCC to start monitoring the price of bottled LPG as a start to cracking down on that particular price gouging?
I thank the member for his question. As Treasurer, we initiated quite a number of measures that actually increased the powers of the ACCC to work specifically in this area of fuel prices, and so I will ask the Treasurer to further update the House on those matters.
I thank the member for Denison for his question and note that, earlier this week, he had a briefing from Rod Sims, the head of the ACCC, and today again I spoke to Rod Sims about this particular issue. As the Prime Minister reminds the House, it was this side of politics, this government, that actually gave a direction to the ACCC to monitor prices and profits across the fuel supply industry. Earlier this week, the ACCC published a report which said that fuel prices had come down and that the refiners' margins were the lowest in a decade. As we import 80 per cent of the petrol that we sell in this country, there are factors that drive the price of petrol outside this country's control like the international oil price and like where the Australian dollar is. With respect to Tasmania, there was a report, again commissioned by this government, by the ACCC, into Launceston, because that was to be indicative of the broader Tasmanian market. It found that there were higher transport costs, that there were lower volumes and that there were higher operating costs and margins in Tasmania, but there were no breaches of the law. As the head of the ACCC has pointed out to me, over the last week in Hobart, the prices varied, with the highest price being nine cents higher than the lowest price across Hobart in the same week. So the ACCC's advice is that they will continue to monitor prices, costs and profits but it's up to consumers to put the pressure on and to shop around.
With respect to bottled LPG, the head of the ACCC's advice is that, if there are any issues relating to competition and consumer issues, they should be directed to the ACCC.