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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 820 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

town and therefore have some impact upon various outlets and their propensity to shift pricing upwards.

I read in my research that nationally there have been about 40 inquiries into the petroleum industry over the last 50 years. I do not see why we should not have another one. We are aware that John Howard, the desperate and poll-driven Prime Minister we have at the moment, has announced an ACCC inquiry into the feasibility of a cap on the price of petrol or price changes and an inquiry into the structure of fuel taxation in Australia. He has come to the question late, but information may come out of that and complement the information the ICRC can produce.

I look forward to seeing the mouse that roared, our own little ICRC, which has penalty clauses in its legislation. We will be calling up oil companies, and if they do not provide the information, if they do not cooperate, if they do not respect confidentiality, as is provided for in the ICRC act, then they will go straight to the rack and be severely dealt with.

We support this little exercise. We hope that it does not get out of hand but that we spend a reasonable amount of resources to glean as much information as we can and to come up with proposals that are practicable within this small territory.

Mr Kaine spoke about the Select Committee on Petrol Pricing. In the last paragraph of the preface to their September 1997 report they said:

In essence, it has to be recognised that the ACT community and economy is not insulated from the wider Australian economy nor is the petrol market capable of being regulated in isolation from the immediate New South Wales and the national markets.

The mouse may roar, and I look forward to the results of this inquiry.

MS TUCKER (6.17): I move the following amendment to Mr Rugendyke's motion:

After paragraph (6) insert the following new paragraph:

"(7) the level of dependence in the ACT community on the use of private motor vehicles for transport, the environmental and social impacts of this dependence, and its impact on local fuel demand and price.".

There are a number of issues to do with fuel prices that warrant investigation, but unfortunately Mr Rugendyke's motion focuses on a limited set of issues. Mr Rugendyke's motion addresses the nature of the petroleum supply industry in the region and more generally in Australia and whether there is sufficient competition within the market to ensure that consumers are getting the lowest economically efficient prices.

I can support such an inquiry, because I am also aware of unexplained fluctuations in petrol prices, and generally prices for petrol are high in the ACT relative to other regional areas. It is also the case that the number of service stations in the ACT has dropped in recent years, and there appears to be an increasing concentration of control over retail outlets which could be a restriction on competition.

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