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Hansard . . Page.. 1620 ..

Mr Berry: He promised a pool, too.

MR CONNOLLY: He promised a pool, too. Mr Humphries promised an additional $1m for the police, but that seems also to have gone.

Petrol pricing being an issue of more than passing interest to the long-suffering Canberra motorist, the Government obviously felt that it was necessary to be seen to be doing something about it. The Labor Government's competitive policy, which saw petrol prices drop, having been abandoned, we saw petrol prices rise again upon the change of government. The promise was still held out that they would come good on the tax cuts. That was abandoned. They said, “We had better look as though we are doing something”; thus the move against multisite franchising.

The Labor Party will not oppose the move against multisite franchising in principle, although we are very sceptical as to its effect, given the current dynamics of the ACT market. Late last year when Labor was in government and when petrol prices were ranging from 67.9c a litre to 69.9c a litre, depending on the week - there was fluctuation in petrol prices, which is the hallmark of a competitive environment, with prices generally fluctuating in the mid to high sixties - we were approached by the Motor Trades Association expressing real concern at the oil majors moving to multisite franchising; that is, refusing to renew individual site contracts and seeking to control multiple sites from one franchise. The Motor Trades Association put to us that that would have an impact on competition because it would mean that instead of there being many competitive players in the Canberra petroleum market there would be only the oil majors. At the time we had genuine, competitive dynamics in the Canberra oil market. People who live in central Canberra or who drive through Manuka may well recall that for a very long time last year the large Shell station at Manuka had a big sign outside which said, “We match Burmah”. Whenever there was a price move downwards it would be matched. The majors then tended to force the price up, with a 1c or 2c increase, and then down it would come. There was genuine evidence of a competitive market.

That is not merely my rhetoric. The Industry Commission, a body which ideologically opposes government intervention in the marketplace and which, in its report, opposed what the ACT Labor Government had done in forcing competition onto a closed market, said that that is not the way they would go about the matter. They acknowledged that our actions had at least a 3c impact on the retail price of petrol. That is in the Industry Commission report on petroleum products, released in July of last year. We say that we succeeded in getting prices down. That is not merely a statement of the obvious. Anybody who looks at the price board now can see the marked jump. Everybody who looked at the price board then would know that when we announced the forced entry of competitors petrol was retailing at around 75c or 76c a litre. The day the first independent opened it was 69.9c.

Mr Humphries: This is the one that follows the market, is it?

MR CONNOLLY: This is the one that, now that the pressure is off, has gone back to the normal, monopolistic pricing practices of oil companies. Mr Speaker, keeping competition in the oil market is a bit like picking up a group of books. By imposing pressure at the ends, I can pick up three or four of those volumes of Hansard and lift

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