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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 816 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (continuing):

the influx of multisite franchising and whether the mix of petrol station owners has resulted in improved or complacent competition.

The key changes, without doubt, are the developments in Western Australia. The Western Australian government, to their credit, have made an attempt to have an impact on petrol prices from a state level, and to date it has been successful. I have been keeping a close eye on what has been happening in Perth, and the comparisons are interesting. The best daily prices in Perth immediately dropped by about 8c per litre when the pricing reforms commenced on 2 January this year. The best price in Perth has stayed below 90c per litre during the past two months, while in Canberra we have paid consistently in the 90s and sometimes closer to $1 a litre. This week the best Perth price is about 87c, while Canberra motorists are paying upwards of 92c. There has been a genuine attempt to stimulate competition in Western Australia and, it appears, with good effect.

I believe it is important that this Assembly do what it can to explore the West Australian model further, and the ICRC is the forum to obtain advice and guidance on whether similar reforms can return a benefit to the ACT. We have a valuable tool in the ICRC which can assist us in this area. I urge members to support this important reference.

MR KAINE (5.59): I support Mr Rugendyke's motion. I will be interested to see how effective our Independent Competition and Regulatory Commissioner is in inquiring into this matter. In the last 10 years I have been a member of two different committees of this place that have inquired into this question, and we have never really got to the bottom of what determines the final price at the petrol pump in Canberra.

The whole issue is very complex. There are, I presume, local factors that affect the price that is charged at the petrol pump, but my understanding, after having gone through a couple of inquiries, is that those factors are quite minimal in their impact on the final price that is paid at the pump.

Mr Rugendyke says that it is often said that one of the big factors in the price here is the freight cost. You can go to places in New South Wales and elsewhere that are a lot further away from Sydney than Canberra, yet the price is lower.

Mr Rugendyke: Wee Jasper is one.

MR KAINE: Exactly. The assertion, which I think comes from the petroleum industry, that freight is a significant element is largely, in my view, a furphy. It is quite irrelevant.

One of the factors always argued is the petrol franchise tax that until recently was levied by the states and territories independently, and that varied. In fact, Queensland did not have one. Now the Commonwealth has taken over the collection of those franchise taxes on behalf of the states and territories, which will be reimbursed. Now we have the ludicrous situation of the Premier of New South Wales saying that the only authority that is levying petrol taxes in Australia is the Commonwealth. He conveniently ignores the fact that the Commonwealth is levying a state franchise tax and reimbursing it. When the GST came along, some adjustments were made in the taxation regime. That was one that the states agreed not to continue levying as long as the Commonwealth included it in the GST arrangement.

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