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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 1757 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I congratulate the Government on the movement towards the protection of the small petrol station site owners, or lessees, against the predatory nature of the major oil companies. Indeed, in this regard the Government is going to introduce changes, as I understand it, to the land use legislation, which will require major oil companies to at least offer a site for sale generally and to give people who are operating a site an opportunity to buy it and operate it as an independent. That is a laudable move.

However, I draw the Government's attention to a couple of things which have surfaced recently. I know the Minister is interested in this because he has such a relationship with Col Parker at Farrer. In that particular case we discovered there were two issues involved, and I am sure the Minister will recall at least one of them. The first was the threat of the major oil company not to supply petrol even if the sale went ahead. He may recall in his conversations with Mr Parker and his lovely wife that the major oil company said, "No, we do not want to continue the franchise. We will pay you the value of the products that are there. See you later. Best of luck". It also said to the operator at Phillip that the deal was not on. In fact, it said, "Too bad. You walk away with nothing". I now understand that he has done that. I do not know whether he has actually gone. I have just been told that, so I have no verification. However, I understand his conversations with the oil company were absolutely fruitless.

Mr Smyth: Caltex?

MR HARGREAVES: Ampol-Caltex.

Mr Smyth: Caltex is still running, I think.

MR HARGREAVES: Yes. You know the one I am talking about. I understand that his deal was less advantageous to him, or with less recovery, than the one for Mr Parker. That has concerned me. There is probably a very good case for saying that the oil companies breached the Trade Practices Act by refusing to supply, but I have not pursued that with Mr Parker. Of course, what we are talking about here is a small operator who is a petrol station owner; he is not an accountant and he is not a lawyer. He would not be aware of the particular subtleties of law. When a major oil company says it is or it is not going to do something, the bullyboy antics come to the fore and, in nine cases out of 10, it gets away with it because nobody knows that they can challenge it.

I am sure that the major oil company succumbed to the pressures of the Minister and me concerning Mr Parker. I had conversations with Caltex-Ampol and I know the Minister, or the Minister's office, did. I am pretty sure that their willingness then to negotiate with Mr Parker to buy the site was as a result of that, and also the threat of the impending legislation. I think that is great. However, I have discovered that they have a way of getting out of this. We do not have a provision saying what is a fair price that has to be negotiated for the site.

The site at Farrer is valued at around $120,000. When the proprietor started speaking to the oil company, naturally he put in an ambit bid of $100,000, hoping to see a reasonable figure offered and countered and being met somewhere in the middle. Their opening bid, Mr Speaker, was $240,000. What that means is that they have complied with the land use

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