Geoff Helisma |
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan moved a motion in Parliament on Monday December 3, seeking a Royal Commission to investigate the disparity between petrol prices in regional areas and cities.
His motion also called for an investigation into “allegations of misuse of market power, unconscionable conduct and the use of unfair contract terms by the large supermarket chains Woolworths, Coles and Aldi”, which “control 76 per cent of the industry”.
“Like the rest of our community, I am sick of petrol prices in regional and country areas, like ours, being at times 20 to 30 cents a litre higher than in the city,” he said in a media release.
“This difference cannot be explained away by transports costs or any other input cost.
“With limited transport options in the country and the longer distances we travel, high petrol prices are a huge impost on families, pensioners and small business owners.
“I also believe our local farmers and small businesses are being hurt by the big three supermarkets.”
In his speech to his motion, Mr Hogan said: “As a member of the Standing Committee on Economics, I asked the head of the ACCC [Australian Competition and Consumer Commission], Rod Sims, about this when he appeared before the committee in August 2016.
“Even he couldn’t give a satisfactory answer as to why regional petrol prices are so much higher.”
Member for Solomon, Labor’s Luke Gosling, said Mr Hogan is “quite right to raise the issue of competition policy; it’s a significant concern for the whole Australian community”.
However, while acknowledging that part of the problem was that “resources have been stripped out of the ACCC” and that it was a “toothless tiger”, he put forward a different solution, challenging the Coalition to “match our commitment to effectively double the ACCC’s litigation budget—an increase of $24.5 million a year—so that the watchdog can take on more cases of anticompetitive conduct to court”.
Fellow National, Member for Dawson George Christensen, spoke in support of Mr Hogan’s motion.
He said he, too, “had a long talk last week with … Rod Sims”.
“[Mr Sims] acknowledged that the situation with regional fuel prices was peculiar and not easily explained,” Mr Christensen said.
“…I believe it’s time for the federal government to order an investigation into these supermarket chains and these big retailers—Woolworths, Coles and Aldi—and in particular their impact on the fuel market.”
Centre Alliance’s Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie focussed her speech on the Coles and Woolworths “duopoly”.
“We need to have the power of courts to break them up so that their behaviour will change,” she said.
“I commend the member [Kevin Hogan] for this motion.
“We need to talk more about this in this place.”
On more ‘talk in this place’, Mr Hogan told the Independent that he was “optimistic” that he would succeed and that “he was working hard with his colleagues” towards that end.
“I don’t have unanimous support from any party,” he said, “but the royal commission is warranted, so I have to keep talking and explaining this to politicians from all parties.
“Many agree with me but I have to achieve a majority.”
Come February, Mr Hogan pointed out, “I have three sitting weeks to gain more support.”