Kimberley Vlasic, 02 February 2016

EXPLOSIVE allegations of historical corruption in the Cairns service station industry have been levelled amid rising furore over fuel prices.

In the late 1980s, David Kalman spent several years auditing service stations in Cairns, Innisfail and the Tablelands before opening his own business in Brisbane when unleaded petrol cost just 17.9¢ a litre.

Mr Kalman claims servo owners back then colluded on fuel prices and used stand-over tactics to force competitors to ditch discount deals.

While price fixing has occurred in other parts of the country, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has never found any evidence of it in Cairns.

An ACCC spokeswoman was unable to confirm if local service stations and oil companies had been the subject of previous investigations.

Mr Kalman, of Mooroobool, says he was told by a service station owner it was an unwritten law that all outlets sold fuel at the same price.

“Sometime after, I was told by the guy who owned the servo opposite the airport turn-off that if he didn’t take away his 4¢ discount sign, they would put a chain in between two trucks and rip the bowsers out,” he said.

“The chap who owned a shop opposite the Red Beret had a discount sign out and was told to take it down or he wouldn’t get any petrol.”

Mr Kalman, who has been a Justice of the Peace for 25 years, claims oil companies also behaved badly, charging rent for service station sites based on the amount of petrol sold which meant some operators were worse off even if they increased sales.

He said consistently high fuel prices in Cairns showed it was still an issue that needed government intervention.

“There aren’t adequate measures in place,” he said.

“The Government says they’re looking into it but then they say they can’t make them sell it at a certain price.

“There should be something done to say oil companies buy it at a certain price, they sell it to servos at a certain price, and servos sell it at a certain price.

“Why is it that places like Mareeba, Atherton and Tully can sell their petrol cheaper than Cairns when it has to be transported from Cairns?”

Extracted in full from the Cairns Post.