Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 4 August 2022) . . Page.. 2430 ..
I appreciate that the engagement with New South Wales is ongoing, but there has been, as the Chief Minister flagged in his amendment, a high proposed cost of expanding the scheme, at least in those negotiations so far. As the Chief Minister rightly pointed out in his speech, there is a prohibitive cost of establishing our own scheme and a high proposed cost of expanding the scheme, at least at the moment, and those private apps that do exist are providing 99 per cent coverage. They are not perfect, but they are still pretty good indicators. I think this does all need to be factored in with the negotiations.
So it is not that the ACT government ignored the advice, as Mr Cain’s motion claims. In fact, they have carefully considered it and done so in a very responsible way, and I thank them for that. To conclude, I look forward to the engagement with New South Wales continuing and to a positive response, I hope, from the New South Wales Premier. I thank the Chief Minister for his considerable public and very effective engagement with retailers, which has seen action and prices come down. I commend the Chief Minister’s amendment. Thank you.
MR COCKS (Murrumbidgee) (4.05): I rise to speak in support of Mr Cain’s original motion, calling for the implementation of a FuelCheck app for the ACT—a positive solution which will improve competition and help to lower the cost of living for Canberrans. For many Canberrans, life without a car is not realistic and fuel is a necessity, not a luxury. It was good to hear the government acknowledge that today. But while so many of us need to drive in Canberra to get the kids to school, to get to work, to participate in community life, fuel is quickly becoming unaffordable.
In recent years, global events have helped to drive fuel prices way up, but Canberrans reasonably feel that something is a bit off with petrol prices here in our territory. An Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission report into ACT petrol prices did conclude that the higher prices in the ACT are primarily due to retail margins. It has been the case for a long time.
On our side of the Assembly, we believe in a competitive market to set fair prices and we believe in the consumer’s right to choose the best price. For that to occur, consumers need to know what their options are. Prices need to be visible. Consumers need to know when they are getting ripped off and when they are getting a good deal. When consumers have informed choice, competition can drive down prices. But Canberra’s fuel market does not work this way; it is opaque, it is limited and it is uncompetitive. That 45 cent per litre cost variation mentioned by Mr Rattenbury would not be the case if those prices were easily visible to Canberrans.
Without stumbling across one of these apps or one of these websites that you have mentioned, the only way for Canberrans to discover the difference in prices is by driving around to see exactly what the prices are. The Chief Minister says he has taken action. He tells us that he has written a sternly worded letter; in fact, he says he has written sternly worded letters three times! If this chamber actually wants to fix the deficiency, to help improve the lives of Canberrans and take the pressure off fuel costs for Canberra families, then there is a practical step we can take that does not rely on stern letters, and consumers will have more power.