John Connolly, 26 December 2015

New year’s resolution for all governments, car companies, petrol companies, petrol retailers and other leeches who live off those of us who own cars: get your hands out of our pockets.

Four years ago the international oil price was $US110 a barrel and you paid $1.40 a litre at your local servo. Today the oil price has dropped nearly 70 per cent and the price you are paying has dropped by a massive 10 per cent to an average of $1.26 a litre. Lucky you!

But if you live outside the major cities you are really stuffed. The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission found that while retail petrol prices in the five largest cities in Australia move in cycles, these price cycles generally do not occur in Hobart and Darwin, or in most regional locations.

Of course Darwin people should just send their credit card details directly to the petrol pirates. Darwinians are donating 10c a litre more to the local servo’s New Year’s Eve staff party than the rest of us.

ACCC boss Rod Sims found every man, woman, child and crocodile in our deep north is paying $77 a year extra for the benefit of buying petrol locally.

As you would expect, all parties involved regularly issue statements saying all is kosher, the petrol market is a perfect model of the capitalist system at work and Australian consumers are getting the world’s best deal.

Unfortunately Uncle Rod spoiled all that by going to the Federal Court arguing Coles Express, BP, Caltex, Woolworths and 7-Eleven were sharing information on prices that could substantially reduce competition. Worse still for the other members of the price sharing gang, Coles Express agreed with Sims it would not be price sharing any more.

But don’t feel you might be winning because both the NSW and Queensland governments have decided you need more ethanol in your petrol. Ethanol has the same environmental impact as petrol and can wreck your engine. In 2010, US carmakers sued over the government’s decision to make petrol with ethanol legal for all cars after 2007. One of their points was the blend could damage engines. As Popular Mechanics, hardly a left-wing publication, summarised: “Can ethanol really do damage to an engine? Yes.”

Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association chief executive Mark McKenzie says the move in NSW would result in a petrol price increase of 8c a litre over three years to recoup costs.

“The Baird government’s Office of Fair Trading is intimidating petrol stations into making ethanol-blended fuel look like it is premium quality. Petrol stations are being forced to mislead motorists over the energy and sulphur content of E10 in order to fatten up the profits of a major campaign donor to the Liberals and Nationals,” says Johnny Kaye.

Given Kaye is a Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council, you’d expect he’d be in favour of saving the planet with ethanol. Kaye points out Manildra is the monopoly manufacturer of ethanol in NSW and has given more than $4.3 million to the major parties since 1998.

Finally Paul Fletcher, federal Minister for Territories and other stuff, said he would keep second-hand car imports out of Australia despite the Productivity Commission and Harper competition review recommending the opposite.

New Zealand allows so-called grey imports and it hasn’t led to widespread disease, uranium poisoning or increase in sea levels. That hasn’t stopped people such as NRMA president Kyle Loades (an organisation that used to be on our side) warning of “thousands of Third World clunkers being dumped on this market” and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries telling us the Japanese Yakuza and Russia mafia would be importing Japanese cars “contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima disaster”.

And they will make your curtains fade, your teeth fall out and your private parts glow in the dark.

Extracted in full from The Australian.