QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICEPosted May 29, 2008
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Ms JACKSON (2.20 p.m.)—My question is to the Assistant Treasurer. Will the minister outline to the House the positive benefits of FuelWatch and the reasons why the government are supporting it?
Mr BOWEN—I thank the honourable member for Hasluck for her question. FuelWatch is the only system on offer which will halt the intraday price movements and put consumers back in charge of their purchasing decisions. We support FuelWatch because it was a unanimous recommendation of the consumers’ watchdog, the ACCC. We support FuelWatch and we are pursuing FuelWatch because the ACCC and the government think that this is the way to give motorists an even chance—an even chance against the big oil companies and the petrol stations for whom the deal is stacked.
Motorists and consumers often say to me, ‘Don’t you think there is collusion? Don’t you think the oil companies are colluding? Why do the prices all move together?’ I say to those individuals, ‘No, I don’t think there is collusion because they do not need to. It is all stacked in favour of the retailers. It is all stacked in favour of the oil companies.’ The oil companies and the retailers share information, and consumers and motorists are locked out. We saw today the chairman of the ACCC call the fuel market in this country as close to collusion as you can get, backing up what the ACCC said in their report that the current fuel market arrangements are conducive to anticompetitive coordination. On this side of the House we do not think that is acceptable. Apparently that does not go for members opposite.
For the benefit of honourable members, in the ACCC analysis, and in the full analysis which was released today, the conclusion was that from the econometric analysis, on a conservative basis, the ACCC can say that there is no evidence that FuelWatch led to any increase in prices and it appears to have resulted in a small price decrease overall. Importantly, the ACCC has dealt with the myth perpetrated by the Leader of the Opposition that people who only buy on Tuesdays would be worse off. The ACCC said that prices decreased by an average of 0.7c per litre for the lowest day of the week.
I shared with the House this morning some views of real people who have been emailing and writing to the government about the debate on FuelWatch. I got one in my email at 12.52, which I read just before I came down to the House. It is from a constituent of the honourable member for Canning. I enjoy reading my emails because it does keep you in touch. This is what the constituent of the honourable member for Canning says:
Here in Perth our experience with FuelWatch has been quite good. Initially, I myself was sceptical and didn’t bother about it. But when we experienced the wide price ranges from petrol stations of sometimes 20c within a radius of just a couple of kilometres of where we live, and the substantial savings by using it, we use it all the time.
He goes on to say:
Petrol stations with the highest prices had the least customers. Informed buyers are not stupid. Considering the wide range of prices, the volume of sales are definitely greater at the cheaper ones, hence the average petrol sold in Perth is definitely lower than if there was no FuelWatch service.
Brian from Canning can work it out but the member for Canning and his colleagues cannot.
Mr Randall—Mr Speaker, I ask that the Assistant Treasurer table the letter from my constituent.
The SPEAKER—Was the Assistant Treasurer quoting from a document?
Mr BOWEN—Yes, I was.
The SPEAKER—Is the document confidential?
Mr BOWEN—It is.
Opposition members interjecting—
The SPEAKER—Order! Those on my left are denying the Leader of the Opposition the call. The Assistant Treasurer.
Mr BOWEN—Mr Speaker, to protect the confidentiality of the individual I am happy to table the document after removing the individual’s second name.
Mr Randall—Mr Speaker, further to the point of order: I ask that the minister table the document with the address as well.
Mr McMullan—Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The standing orders with regard to questions are particularly structured to protect the privacy of individuals, including those who write letters to members of parliament, and it is not appropriate to undermine that privacy principle through the device of a request for tabling by someone who might then be able to go and visit the person.
The SPEAKER—Order! The honourable member for Canning made a request, as is permissible under the standing orders, for the tabling of a document. That request was handled in the way that it has been handled for many years in this place. Subsequent to that, the minister has indicated that he will be in a position to table a document. And I remind the House that a minister does not need leave to table a document. Has the Assistant Treasurer concluded his answer?
Mr BOWEN—Almost, Mr Speaker.
The SPEAKER—Hopefully. The Assistant Treasurer has the call.
Mr BOWEN—Real people understand how FuelWatch works. They understand that it puts motorists back in charge. The shadow Treasurer’s argument is that oil companies oppose FuelWatch because it benefits them. His argument is that oil companies will benefit from FuelWatch but they oppose it. I will leave the House to draw its own conclusions as to the logic of the honourable member for Wentworth’s proposition. But the Australian people know who is on their side—it is the ACCC and not the oil companies.
Add A Comment