Scott Morrison is facing pressure from Coalition MPs to take action on rising petrol prices, including a call to lower the $12 billion a year fuel excise, after the Prime Minister shifted responsibility for reducing bowser costs to the competition watchdog.
Liberal MP Craig Kelly yesterday called on the government to consider “substantially reducing” the fuel excise tax, more than 40c per litre, while Nationals senator John Williams said the excise should be frozen if the international oil price rose to $120 a barrel, up from about $110 yesterday.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce said the government did not have the “will” to bring petrol prices down, as the average price of unleaded petrol in NSW was $1.57 last night.
Mr Joyce said the government would extend divestiture powers beyond the electricity sector if it was serious about helping lower petrol prices.
“There is no point in promising people something when either side of politics are not willing to deliver,” Mr Joyce said. “If there is a will to deliver on lower fuel prices there would be general divestiture powers. There would be stronger ways of monitoring what is happening in the marketplace.”
Mr Morrison yesterday put pressure on the Australian Competition & Consumer Commissioner Rod Sims to take action on petrol companies.
“I want some answers out of the ACCC. I mean, they are the cop on the beat. They are the ones we fund to monitor why prices are moving up and down and how they are timed. That is their job. That is Rod Sims’ job, to make sure these petrol companies, these fuel companies, do the right thing by customers,” Mr Morrison said.
“So if they are not, he has the powers, he has the resources to investigate them and I expect them to get on and apply the pressure. That is why we have an ACCC. It is to deal with that precise issue.”
Mr Sims said the ACCC would try to inform people how they could get cheaper petrol and explain the global factors behind why prices were rising, including a lower exchange rate and “cartel” behaviour from exporters.
“The ACCC understands the significant public concern with high petrol prices and shares the concerns of the Prime Minister, which is why we are working to ensure consumers have transparent information about petrol pricing,” Mr Sims said.
But inaugural ACCC chairman Allan Fels said the competition watchdog only had the power to intervene if it could prove petrol companies were colluding on their prices.
“If there is evidence of a price-fixing agreement. That requires proof that they have, in some way, acted illegally with the affect of fixing prices,” Professor Fels said.
Mr Kelly said freezing the fuel excise indexation — culled by the Abbott government in the 2014 budget in a $1 billion a year boost to the budget — would not be enough of a saving for motorists, arguing the government should instead consider substantially lowering the fuel excise tax.
“If you live in the outer suburbs of Sydney, or you live in a regional area, you are paying more for the excise than someone who lives in the inner city that doesn’t travel many miles,” Mr Kelly said.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the government had no plans to change the fuel excise indexation.
“The government has no plans to change the fuel excise. There are a number of factors behind the current above-average petrol prices, particularly higher global oil prices and a lower exchange rate,” Mr Frydenberg said.
Extracted from The Australian