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Transcript of doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 8 August 2006: Petrol prices; interest rates.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer


SUBJECT: Petrol Prices, Interest Rates

SWAN: The letter from the ACCC shows why we need formal monitoring of petrol prices. My question to the Treasurer was about refinery gate prices.

What we see in the letter from the ACCC is that their monitoring is little more than a google search on some information provided by the oil companies on a six monthly basis.

If people are to have confidence in the pricing processes and to be assured that price gouging is not happening we need the ACCC to have these formal powers to get behind these figures and to do the investigation.

What the letter from the ACCC shows is that they do not have that power at the moment.

Journalist: Simply, what powers are you calling for?

SWAN: Well formal monitoring powers under the Act, Part 7A.

Journalist: So what does this say about the Treasurers call today for the ACCC to monitor ethanol prices as well?

SWAN: Well it shows that the powers under the Act are not sufficient to be absolutely assured that a full investigation takes place. We need the ACCC to have the powers to look behind the figures, not to just look at the figures.

Journalist: Can’t the figures as they appear at face value alert them?

SWAN: Not all of the figures are supplied. If you read the ACCC letter what it says is that they searched the website of the companies but not all of the information was there and some of the information is supplied on a six monthly basis so it’s old information, and some of the information is not consistent. All of these things add up to a case for there to be investigative powers out there.

Journalist: So do you think the current monitoring is of no value then?

SWAN: Look, I think it’s of some value but it’s not comprehensive. It doesn’t have the capacity to look behind the scenes.

Journalist: You’ve already got several websites that provide the information anyway so motorist must have some idea what’s going on.

SWAN: No. We’re talking here about refiner margins. We’re not talking here about the retail level. We’re not talking here about the service stations. We’re talking about the refiner margins. That’s where the Treasurer was trying to kid people today. He was talking about retail sales. We’re talking about refiner margins.

Journalist: And just on Question Time - the Opposition did pursue the Liberal TV advertisements today. Were the answers adequate?

SWAN: No they weren’t, absolutely not. This Government does not understand the pain that households are feeling because they are paying a record percentage of their income in housing mortgage interest repayments. That’s the point. They are the highest they’ve been.

Journalist: Were you satisfied with the Treasurer’s comments when you asked him about comparing an economy like Australia’s with current interest rates at the moment?

SWAN: No. We have some of the highest interest rates in the world, particularly when we are compared to countries like ourselves. There’s only one country that is higher than Australia when we look at like countries and that of course is New Zealand.

Journalist: On interest rates, you and Mr Beazley are both increasingly allowing comparisons with the Keating years and saying the name. Is that a double edged sword electorally?

SWAN: No I don’t believe so. Interest rates are high now in terms of their impact on household disposable income, higher than they were in 1989 - 17 percent was too high then and 7.8 percent is too high now.

Journalist: But how does that compare with the Keating Government?

SWAN: Well it compares because people are paying more now than they were paying under the Keating Government as a percentage of the household income to meet their interest repayments.

That is precisely the point we made in the House today. It is a higher percentage, a higher share of their income to meet their interest payments. That’s the whole point.

Journalist: On petrol again - Labor’s indicated greater support for alternate fuels like ethanol. Why won’t it go that step further and back a mandate for the ethanol blends?

SWAN: Well I’ll leave that to our spokesman Martin Ferguson to deal with.

ENDS Tues 08 Aug 06 Contact Lachlan Harris: 0417 592338