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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 817 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

So it is a very murky story, as I have said. The one constant seems to be the price at which fuel is released at the refinery gate-I think they call it the gate price-of the limited number of refineries that exist in Australia. There are all sorts of petrol brands. You can get Shell, Ampol, British Petroleum, Gull and the like. But most of the fuel that comes through the retail outlets you see that have all those signs on them comes out of a couple of refineries. You would have to assume that the gate price at which the fuel comes out of those refineries in the tankers would be a major determinant in arriving at a retail price at the pump. There seems to be an enormous difference, however, between the gate price and the price that you are charged at the pump.

All I am saying is that it is a very complex situation. It is very difficult to determine what factors lead to the petrol pump price at any retail outlet. It is quite astonishing the range of names that appear on gas stations around Australia. It would indicate that we are buying differentiated products. In fact, service stations mostly sell it to within one-tenth of a cent per litre of the same price, and if at one service station the price goes up or down by two-tenths of a cent per litre, everybody else's price fluctuates by exactly the same amount, by and large. There are occasions when one brand will be the leader and will up or down their price a little bit and it takes the others a little while to catch up.

It is a very complex and very murky situation. My recollection is that the ACCC did a study into this not all that long ago and their findings were inconclusive. I have not read the report. I only know what was said in the media. But they did not seem to be able to get to the bottom of the differentiated prices that we all pay as we travel around, even within Canberra, let alone when we leave Canberra and go across the border, particularly if we go all the way from here to Queensland. So it is murky.

I would be delighted if the ICRC could come to some firm conclusions about what factors impact on prices at the pump. I would be more than delighted if they were able to determine that the majority of those factors were within the power of the ACT government to control. I very much doubt that either of those outcomes will eventuate, but I would certainly like to see some shredding out, in an understandable fashion, of what those factors are and how the oil companies arrive at their pricing policies. I wish the ICRC well in their investigations. I hope they can do better than prior inquiries into this matter.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (6.05): The government will also be supporting Mr Rugendyke's motion. Mr Kaine hit on a few very good points. I share his cynicism, but I think another inquiry is probably worth a go. Accordingly, it is a very supportable motion.

I would urge some caution and point out a few factors. The initiatives this government has taken to introduce competition into the marketplace by the introduction of independent operators has clearly resulted in more competitive retail petrol marketing in the ACT than would have been the case otherwise. The continued involvement of independents in the ACT has maintained price competition, albeit at a higher price per litre over the recent past with the increases in the price of crude oil. That is a very big factor.

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