Canberrans’ pain at the petrol pump has continued over the holiday period, with ACT drivers being slugged more for unleaded fuel than those in any other capital city on the Australian mainland.
The situation has led the National Roads and Motorists’ Association to again call for the ACT government to adopt real-time price monitoring measures similar to those in NSW.
A Sunday Canberra Times analysis of data published on petrol price monitoring website Motormouth for the 60-day period between October 29 and December 27 found that while the daily average price dropped in Canberra, it fluctuated less than any other mainland capital city.
ACT drivers paid an average of 165.4¢ per litre for unleaded fuel on October 29, with the average price dropping 15.8¢ to 149.6¢ per litre on December 27.
During the same period, the average daily price dropped 52.1¢ per litre in Adelaide, 40.5¢ per litre in Melbourne, 37¢ per litre in Brisbane, 34.8¢ per litre in Sydney and 26.3¢ per litre in Darwin.
While the average daily price in Perth was only 17¢ a litre lower on December 27 than on October 29, prices there fluctuated significantly each week and there was a difference of 46.2¢ per litre between the highest and lowest prices for unleaded petrol during the 60-day period.
Only Hobart, in the island state of Tasmania, experienced less fluctuation than Canberra. Its lowest daily average price of the 60-day period was 152.6¢ per litre on Boxing Day, down from 164.5¢ per litre on October 29.
Canberrans will get little comfort from a look at the cost of unleaded petrol outside the major capital cities, with drivers in the NSW border town of Queanbeyan paying an average 6.6¢ per litre less on December 27, and an average 7.4¢ a litre less at the start of the 60-day period.
Even the small NSW country town of Cootamundra, 161 kilometres from Canberra, enjoyed much lower petrol prices than the capital. Drivers there paid an average of 23.4¢ per litre less than Canberrans when unleaded was at its cheapest during the 60-day period, and an average 13.5¢ per litre less at its most expensive.
Wayne and Cathie Hines, who were filling up at Caltex in Queanbeyan on Friday, said they worked on both sides of the NSW-ACT border, but only ever bought petrol on one side.
“I never buy it in the ACT,” Mr Hines said.
“We work at Fairbairn and in Queanbeyan, but I always get [petrol] in Queanbeyan.”
Canberra’s high petrol prices dominated discussion on social media this week, with several posts on community groups across Facebook and Reddit.
Most people who commented on the posts expressed anger and confusion at the situation.
“We are getting so ripped off,” one woman wrote in response to a photo of a price board in Sydney advertising unleaded petrol for 101.9¢ per litre.
“It is outrageous,” another said.
National Roads and Motorists’ Association spokesman Peter Khoury said Canberra’s consistently high petrol prices were driven by a lack of competition in the capital and showed why it was important for the ACT government to introduce real-time petrol price monitoring.
Two years ago, the NSW government made it mandatory for service stations to make petrol price information available in real time on the Fuel Check website, which was designed to deliver drivers a better deal by boosting competition and transparency.
Just this month, the Queensland government launched a two-year fuel price monitoring trial.
Other jurisdictions have had measures designed to get drivers a better deal in place for much longer.
In 2001, Western Australia’s government launched FuelWatch, which requires petrol retailers to notify authorities of their prices for the next day at 2pm each afternoon. That price is then fixed for 24 hours, starting at 6am the next day.
An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission study in 2007 found FuelWatch had led to a decrease in pricing, but plans to introduce it nationally were defeated in the Senate the following year.
Mr Khoury said the NRMA had been raising the issue of real-time petrol price monitoring with the ACT government for years and it was time for the government to take note.
“It’s made a huge difference in NSW and if you can do it in NSW, you can do it everywhere,” he said.
“Even when prices are high [in NSW], you can still find a bargain because people know what they’re paying before they even get in the car.
“In Canberra there’s no transparency, prices are consistently high and prices fall more slowly because there’s not the same spread of competition, so it can be really hard to find a bargain.”
The ACT government, currently in its Christmas shutdown period, was unable to provide new comment on whether it would consider real-time petrol price monitoring.
Earlier in the year, Chief Minister Andrew Barr told the ABC that it would “not solve the issues people have” and that increased competition was the only way to drive prices down.
Extracted from Canberra Times