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Relief for motorists.

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Media Release


31 March 2002

Relief for Motorists In response to the large increase in petrol prices over the Easter holiday period, the Federal Opposition today released a policy plan to assist the motoring public.

Around Australia, prices have increased by approximately 10 cents per litre, again exposing the way in which the major oil companies exploit holidaying motorists.

In releasing Labor’s policy, the Assistant Shadow Treasurer Mark Latham said that Federal action is needed to protect vulnerable consumers.

“For no other essential product or service do prices move around so substantially. During holiday periods and weekends, Australian motorists are forced to pay higher prices due to the market power of the oil companies,” Mr Latham said.

“Families are hundreds of dollars worse off each year because of the failure of the Federal Government to increase competition and guard against price exploitation in the industry.

A Labor Government will introduce the following five changes to the petrol industry:

1. If the oil companies do not agree to end this practice, Labor will introduce specific penalties and sanctions for price exploitation during holiday periods.

2. Establishment of a warning “yellow card” system, so that the ACCC keeps a register of bona fide complaints of misuse of market power within the petrol industry. This information would then be used in assessing penalties for proven breaches of the Trade Practices Act. If these measures do not alter market behaviour, criminal penalties and larger pecuniary penalties will be introduced.

Media Release


3. Establishment of an “effects test” under the Trade Practices Act, so that firms will be prosecuted for abuse of market power when their actions have the effect or likely effect of substantially lessening competition in a relevant market. (Under the current laws, the abuse must be proved to be intentional, rather than having a market effect.)

4. Reversal of the onus of proof under the Trade Practices Act. In cases where market conduct has substantially lessened competition, the onus of proof under Section 46 would shift from the complainant to the alleged offender.

5. The introduction of genuine wholesale competition, allowing service stations to shop around for the best price at the terminal gate. In particular, independent service stations should have the same access to discounted wholesale petrol as the major brands.

“Answers are available for improving the integrity and fairness of the petrol industry,” Mr Latham said.

“Following six years of inaction by the Howard-Costello Government, Labor is determined to promote and ultimately introduce an alternative policy plan.

“Motorists have been ripped off by holiday and weekend price hikes for too long. Only Labor is committed to overcoming this problem.”

Contact: Mark Latham 0419 616 987