An app that monitors fuel prices at service stations would have little impact on the market, says Caltas managing director Wayne Bould – but that’s not his biggest concern with the government’s new petrol scheme.

Mr Bould, who has over 50 years of experience in the petrol industry, said the government had taken a ‘slanted view’ of the issue, threatening penalties for retailers who provided inaccurate information or who set their prices “excessively high”.

“That’s not a free economy,” he said.

“They’re waving a stick around saying that if you don’t stick to the prices then we will penalise you.

“We think that the government has done a fantastic job in the COVID situation … but they haven’t bothered to consult with the industry at all. I don’t think they have any particular understanding of what the cost of procuring and selling fuel involves.”

He was responding to Attourney-General Elise Archer’s Tuesday announcement, which outlined plans for a website and free app to give Tasmanians access to “real time, mandatory fuel price reporting”.

“If retailers continue to charge excessively high prices, the government reserves its right to take further and more direct action, including the introduction of legislation,” she said.

Ms Archer said global oil prices had come down significantly during the pandemic, but that Tasmanians had not experienced any major reductions on fuel prices.

Mr Bould said the government had been “a tad misleading” when talking about international crude oil prices.

“The price of oil isn’t continuing to drop,” he said.

“It went down to effectively zero in April/May … it’s now trading around USD36 a barrel.

“We don’t necessarily have an issue with the reporting itself – that’s already transparent, every petrol station has their prices clearly marked.”

He said while fuel prices had dropped during April and May, the federal government had kept the excise tax at 42.3 cents a litre.

“If we were charging a dollar for fuel, almost 50 per cent of that is government excise,” he said.

“Then you’ve got the overheads. The cost of a fuel tanker that complies with all the necessary requirements is well in excess of $1 million.

“And our staff, we’ve kept them in a job and at the same time demand has gone down 30, 50 per cent.

“Our frontline workers kept their service stations open – one of the beneficiaries of that was the government.”

He said he was “not afraid” of working with the government, and that a consultative approach would be more effective.

It is expected the scheme will be operational from July 2020.

Extracted from Tasmanian Examiner