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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 819 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Any setting of a maximum retail price would have the effect of establishing the de facto retail price of ACT fuel, and that could be a highly anti-competitive move.

Such an approach would also have the effect of deadening the impact of the other competitive elements in our market, particularly the independents and Woolworths Plus, and would undermine this government's policy of successfully attracting price competition into the ACT retail market.

The inquiry proposed by Mr Rugendyke, as Mr Kaine said, would not be the first into the operation of the retail sale of petrol in the ACT. The Assembly established a select committee on that in June 1996, which is what Mr Kaine referred to. That committee's report did not recommend the use of price-setting powers, but it rather recommended the development of measures which gave franchisees and distributors more power in their bargaining relationship with oil companies; the use of existing vacant sites by new retailers; the easing of restrictions on retail space available in service stations; and the investigation of issues concerning multisite franchising. This government has pursued a number of these initiatives, with the result being a more competitive retail fuel market in the ACT.

In putting a few things on the record, I urge some caution. Let us not get overoptimistic, because there are a lot of factors outside our control, and some of the fixes which might seem attractive are in fact somewhat simplistic and have other consequences.

Mr Rugendyke's series of questions are sensible ones. It is appropriate for the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission to look at these matters. The broad issues in the motion are all relevant. The general power "and any other related matter" in the terms of reference gives the commission the ability to look at other points as well.

Whilst I share with Mr Kaine a degree of scepticism about what is going to come out of the inquiry, it certainly cannot hurt. We have had a few positives from inquiries in the past. All I can say is good luck to you, Mr Rugendyke, and to the ICRC in its investigation. I will be very interested to see the outcome and what, realistically, we may be able to do. I suspect it might not be a hell of a lot, but we may be able to do something that will make the lot of the motorist better.

MR QUINLAN (6.12): We will be supporting the motion. For the most part, it smacks of appalling populist pap. Nevertheless, I have to agree with Mr Stefaniak that some good may come of it. It will permit the ICRC to provide independent information on petrol pricing that may be in a form understandable to the general public, which will be a first. It will permit some examination of the Western Australian legislation and, I hope and trust, open discussions on other proposals for the promulgation of up-to-date pricing information and possibly formal tracking of price changes in various outlets.

I note that there has been some media coverage on the Western Australian proposition and a warning of some inherent risks in price that, once posted, cannot change. Not all changes go upwards. Nevertheless, we will be very happy to see some information come forward as to how the public might be kept up to date and might be able to vote with their tyres-I was going to say vote with their feet-and move to the cheapest price in

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