201412.17

Transcript – Interview with Amy Bainbridge, ABC

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Subjects: Petrol prices, ACCC Fuel Monitoring Report

AMY BAINBRIDGE:

Petrol prices are plunging but there are still huge variations in what you pay depending on where you live. But moves are afoot to make the market more transparent.

Bruce Billson is the minister responsible for competition and consumer affairs. He’s given the ACCC greater powers to produce its fuel price monitoring report quarterly rather than annually and conduct four investigations a year into specific markets.

MINISTER BILLSON:

It’s a closer examination of pricing and margins, of supply impacts, of even the state of competition in particular markets.

We’ve seen even within capital cities as the price of oil’s come down, the price at the bowser has come down more quickly in some capital cities than others.

In other areas we’ve seen LPG prices, the Saudi benchmark is used to price LPG, as soon as the Saudi bench price goes up, and miraculously LPG prices go up pretty quickly. When the benchmark price comes down there’s a bit of a lag.

And these are things that we need to more closely examine.

AMY BAINBRIDGE:

There have been price drops because of the global oil price, yet there’s still huge discrepancies say between somewhere like Darwin and Canberra compared to Melbourne and Sydney. Do we just put that down to market forces at play, or is there something more sinister at play?

MINISTER BILLSON:

In some areas we just don’t know and that is why this new power has been given to the ACCC. Even in some regional centres, about the same distance out of the capital cities, same distance from terminals, no great variation in the volume sold, but quite a difference in the price that motorists are charged. Now we need to understand what’s at play there.

AMY BAINBRIDGE:

Ultimately, the new investigations could lead to more enforcement action.

BRUCE BILLSON:

This direction that I’ve given the ACCC gives them the power to demand information, to be able to peel back the onion to find out what’s really going on and whether there is a case for further intervention or use of the commission’s broader enforcement powers.

AMY BAINBRIDGE:

The ACCC has a case in the Federal Court against five major fuel retailers, alleging they used a service called Informed Sources to share price information.