Stacey Sawrey fills her car as fuel prices continue to soar.
Stacey Sawrey fills her car as fuel prices continue to soar. Patrick Woods

The one thing to push fuel prices down is getting closer

IT'S the issue that just won't go away.

Along with power prices, fuel prices have more ability to impact the cost of living and the cost of doing business than any other single factor.

Queensland's peak motoring organisation, the RACQ began campaigning for a system to monitor fuel prices in real time before last year's state election.

The LNP opposition took up the campaign in January.

At the time, Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the legislation would be of little use.

"The LNP's knee jerk pledge to have a state-run website and create a new layer of bureaucratic red tape will do nothing to bring down petrol prices and only duplicate market based services," Mr Bailey said.

"Queenslanders already have access to a variety of commercially generated, real-time, fuel monitoring services like MotorMouth and Gas Buddy."

Mr Bailey's response, in hindsight may have been the real knee-jerk reaction as the state government now scrambles to play catch-up.

The RACQ says real-time price monitoring would be a website or app showing the latest prices at each service station around the State at any given time.

"It gives drivers the information they need, in real time and at their fingertips, to make the most informed decision of where they should fill up," spokesperson Lucinda Ross said yesterday.

"Too often drivers fill up out of convenience, often giving their business to the servos that are charging the highest prices.

"We know the best way to drive down prices is to support the servo charging the lowest price and that's why we think a real-time fuel price monitoring system will be so effective.

"Ultimately, it puts some power back in the hands of consumers."

At 11.52am yesterday, Motormouth.com.au showed price data from 15 service stations in the Rockhampton area.

It quoted an average price of 150.9c per litre but only disclosed price brackets, not individual prices.

Of the 15 service stations, 12 had a price somewhere between 1.52 - 156.9c per litre and only three, at Choice Wandal and Allenstown and Puma Rockhampton depot in Kawana were below 151.9.

 

Opposition leader, Deb Frecklington said real-time fuel price monitoring was the first policy adopted by the Shadow Cabinet after she became party leader in December last year.

"Labor only announced a trial because of the pressure the LNP and motoring groups have applied to this Government," she said.

"The RACQ and NRMA endorse the LNP's policy...we estimate real time price monitoring will save motorists around $6 per tank based on the experience in NSW.

Member for Keppel, Brittany Lauga said she knew locals were concerned about high fuel prices and "rightly so" .

"The Government has studied reports from Griffith University and the RACQ on fuel price monitoring," Mrs Lauga said.

"Whilst the reports provide differing views, we have determined that a two-year trial of fuel pricing monitoring should take effect in Queensland as soon as possible.

"The two-year trial will ensure that more current data is available to motorists and will not disadvantage small independent retailers."

Under the trial system, all fuel retailers will be required to collate and publish their latest prices online, on their own websites and apps, within 15 minutes of any change.

Mrs Lauga said the system would have in-built safeguards against retail price fixing and would not inflict unnecessary red tape.

"The Queensland Government's proposal is supported by a Griffith University study of the petrol prices monitoring schemes in NSW and the Northern Territory," she said.

"Despite a $20 million price tag for the NSW scheme, the study reports a very limited impact in metropolitan Sydney, no impact in regional New South Wales and an actual increase in the price of fuel in Darwin.

"In regional Queensland, the study says 'results for NSW and regional Northern Territory suggest that such a scheme will have either negative or upward impact on the average monthly retail ULP prices'.

"The study said what the government has been saying all along - that the key to lowering the price of fuel is increasing competition."

But according to the RACQ, real-time fuel price monitoring is the key to increased competition.

"Increasing price transparency will increase competition, and that will ultimately drive down prices," Ms Ross said.

"The Griffith study considered average prices across the fuel market, real fuel price reporting increases transparency, increasing the visibility of smaller brands and independents, who often have cheaper prices.

"Any evaluation of a price monitoring scheme needs to be able to identify whether more volume of fuel is being purchased at a lower price, as opposed to an overall average price.

"In simple terms, motorists will shop at cheaper retailers."

Mrs Lauga said she has real concerns about the LNP proposal which she described as "an expensive, airy-fairy scheme based on limited information".

She said a streamlined national approach was necessary and the federal government had a primary role to play.

"We cannot do this alone - a fact conveniently overlooked by the LNP," she said.

"A federal excise of 38 cents per litre is a significant percentage of the price of petrol; the Federal Government did not address this in the 2018-19 Federal Budget."

The RACQ is continuing its discussions with the Queensland Government around the model for the coming trial.

Ms Ross said the federal government was conscious fuel excise would decline as electric vehicle uptake increased.

"We understand that this will form part of any future road user charging reform," she said.

"Our members and Queenslanders can be assured we'll keep a close eye on the issue and continue to work with the Government on bringing fuel price transparency to Queensland as soon as possible."



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