20 January 2016

MOTORISTS know they are being gouged at the pump and they want something done about it.

It is not enough for the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to say he regards the profit margins of petrol companies as excessive and the retail price of petrol needs to come down.

Motorists are well aware the reduction in wholesale fuel prices is not being passed on at the pump given the fall in the price of oil to a 12-year low.

The Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers’ Association denies allegations of gouging. What else would it say?

It’s convenient to blame all sorts of costs between the price of crude oil and what motorists pay at the pump. The Australian Institute of Petroleum says much the same.

When wholesale and retailing costs are taken into account, according to chief executive Paul Barrett, the average profit margin over the decade by oil companies is under 2c per litre.

Tell that to motorists who are aware of a 23 per cent drop in the price of Brent crude since the start of the year as Saudi Arabia floods the world market to maintain its market share as Iran again becomes a supplier after the lifting of economic sanctions.

The ACCC believes the profit margin being enjoyed by international refiners is more like 20c a litre.

Treasurer Scott Morrison says Australians expect that if the global price of oil is going down, petrol should follow as competition dictates prices. The Government is running on empty on this argument. Motorists know governments extract 38.6 cents per litre in fuel excise, which also attracts GST of 10 per cent.

Why should the Government care?

Yesterday, as reported by the Herald Sun, the price of unleaded petrol at the pump was still around $1.20 per litre at several Melbourne servos.

The Herald Sun keeps a watch on fuel prices but it is up to the Federal Government and the ACCC to do something about prices, which fluctuated by as much as 30c a litre between the cheapest and most expensive fuel outlets before Christmas.

The usual advice is to “shop around’’, but motorists burn fuel looking for cheaper petrol. Governments have remained deaf to the reality of gouging and Mr Morrison appears to suffer the same selective hearing.

Kevin Rudd when prime minister came up with FuelWatch in an online attempt to lock in fuel prices for 24 hours after price movements. It was abandoned when it failed to have any effect.

Petrol prices inevitably increase before the holidays and, while there have been cuts as oil prices have plunged this year, the motorist is still the sucker being taken for a ride at the pump.

Governments might throw up their hands, pointing to free competition, but that’s not working. The Turnbull Government needs to get the hands of the price gougers out of motorists’ pockets.

The Government might not be able to put a cap on prices but it can call on the ACCC to name and shame the gougers. If motorists fill up somewhere else, the profiteers will fall into line.

LET’S PLAY HARDBALL

INSTEAD of being defensive over allegations of match fixing, tennis authorities need to get on the front foot.

Tennis Integrity Unit chairman Nigel Willerton used the response much favoured by politicians when he was asked about allegations released at the start of the Australian Open.

“It would be inappropriate for me to make comment as to whether any players are under investigation at the present time,” he said portentously.

Why not? Mr Willerton might be having trouble returning what has been served up to him, but admitting that eight of 16 players known to the anti-corruption unit are playing at Melbourne would have been the better reply.

The Tennis Integrity Unit, the internal watchdog of the Association of Tennis Professionals, has been warned repeatedly about the conduct of these players, according to a report by the BBC and Buzzfeed.

Such allegations have been around top-level tennis for years and drew a comment from world No.1 and Australian Open top seed Novak Djokovic that his team was approached with a $US200,000 offer for him to throw a match in Russia in 2007. Other players have had similar experiences.

Some of the cheats who try to influence the outcome of matches are known to gain access to players in the dressing rooms. This cannot be tolerated.

As reported in today’s Herald Sun, a coalition of sports bodies — including Tennis Australia, Cricket Australia, the AFL and the NRL — has expressed its concerns to the Federal Government.

State anti-match fixing laws in Australia need to be standardised, but there must be no attempt to hide what has the potential to ruin the game globally.

Extracted in full from the Herald Sun.