Fuelwatch Furfphy

I’m having a hard time believing that a national "fuelwatch" system would benefit motorists. Our governments plan to introduce a system where all petrol retailers need to register their price the day before, and are not allowed to change the price for 24 hours, seems to me, stupid.

The plan is to model it on the W.A. scheme. The ACCC looked into that scheme, and while they found an average of 1.9 cpl drop in fuel prices in WA, they also pointed out that the drop occurred quite some time after the introduction of the scheme, suggesting that perhaps other factors could have produced the price drop.

They also only tested it in Metropolitan areas. In smaller centres, where there is much less competition, the ACCC worry that the system will drive prices up by giving retailers an easy mechanism with which to control prices.

Service stations under this type of scheme are not going to be able to offer really low margin prices on petrol like they can now. Today, a service station can sell petrol at cost or even below, for a short term boost to turnover. Those prices will never occur within a fuel watch system, as the station cannot afford to sell at those prices for long.

The simple fact is that there really isn’t a conspiracy at the pump on petrol prices. If there is a scam going on, its happening at the refinery. The more we punish service station operators, the more we punish hard working small business owners for trying to make a living.

If the government wants to help motorists, then remove some of the tax on fuel. If it really wants to help, then why not legislate tougher fuel economy standards? How about doing something to get hydrogen powered vehicles on Australian streets? What about flex fuel vehicles? There are plenty of options, but they aren’t being explored.

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