ACAPMA staged the second Asia Pacific Fuel Industry Forum (APFIF) at the Melbourne Conference and Exhibition Centre between 13 and 14 September 2017.

Industry support for the event was the highest it has been in recent memory with more than 360 delegates and a trade hall comprising 40 exhibitors.

The event also featured the inaugural Contractors Forum, providing a dedicated forum for the discussion of issues affecting petroleum equipment and services businesses.

Delegates enjoyed barista style coffee from the UCB pop-up shop in the trade hall and a large networking dinner sponsored by New Sunrise Group at the end of Day 1.

But the conference wasn’t just about renewing business acquaintances and perusing the latest offerings from equipment manufacturers and service providers.

The Forum opened with a presentation from Craig James (Chief Economist at CommSec) who provided a comprehensive economic outlook with the key message being that the economy was likely to remain ‘steady’ over the foreseeable future.

Day 1 also saw a presentation from Rod Sims (ACCC Chairman) who provided a frank assessment of the ever-persistent community debate about retail prices in Australia. Rod challenged the industry to present its case for petrol prices more clearly in the future.

Day 2 opened with Brenda Mainland (Survey Matters consultancy) who provided a ‘sneak peak’ of national fuel consumer research soon to be launched by ACAPMA. This research suggests that an increasing number of motorists are becoming less sensitive to petrol prices and are instead considering the total petrol and convenience offering when selecting the fuel retail sites that they patronise (the full report into this research is scheduled to be released in late October 2017).

But perhaps the highlight of the Forum was a presentation from Natalie James (Fair Work Ombudsman) during the morning of Day 2.

Natalie provided an overview of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers Bill (2017) that had been passed by the Australian Parliament just one week earlier. This new Bill makes franchisors liable for the employment law breaches of their franchisees where they knew, or could reasonably have been expected to be aware, of the breaches.

“We will enforce the new laws in the same way as we approach all our work, in a balanced, evidence-led manner that considers the circumstances of the case”, said Natalie.

“We don’t ‘prosecute’ oversights or errors made when an employer has made a reasonable effort to get it right”, continued Natalie.

“But for those who are doing the wrong thing, and quite deliberately seeking to maximise their profits at the cost of their workers and their competitors, we will not hesitate to apply the full set of tools in our toolbox, including the new powers and penalties granted to us by the Parliament”, Natalie warned.

The new laws – and the likely response of Franchisors to same – introduces a new dynamic to the wage under-payment issue in the Australian workplace, with particular relevance for industries that utilise large number of franchises such as the fuel retail industry in Australia.

“Put simply, these new laws suggest that any franchisee that is not paying correct wages risks being fined by the FWO – and their franchise being terminated by the franchisor”, said ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

Further information about the new laws and your wage compliance obligations can be obtained by contacting the ACAPMA team on 1300 160 270 or by emailing communications@acapma.com.au.

Meanwhile, delegates enjoyed the remainder of Day 2 and were treated to a comprehensive analysis of current Petrol-Convenience business strategies from an equity perspective by Shaun Cousins (Executive Director Equity Research at J.P. Morgan).

Finally, with all good things coming to an end, Mark McKenzie (CEO, ACAPMA) invited all delegates to attend the 3rd annual APFI Forum which will be held in Auckland between 4 and 6 September 2018.