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Transcript of doorstop: Brisbane: 26 September 2005: petrol prices; ACCC; Graeme Samuel.

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Wayne Swan MP Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer



SUBJECTS: Petrol prices, ACCC, Graeme Samuel

SWAN: Well it’s about time we had a fair dinkum inquiry into the allegations of price gouging and profiteering by the petrol companies. Many people assert that refiner margins are abnormally high at the moment and today we’ve had the extraordinary admission by Mr Samuel that he had no role in investigating these matters. Well, I can tell you who has a role to investigate these matters. It’s the Federal Treasurer Mr Costello who must direct the ACCC to investigate these allegations, and if the Prime Minister can feel people’s pain, he would have instructed the Treasurer to do this as well. It’s not good enough for the Prime Minister to sit on his hands. It’s not good enough for the Treasurer to sit on his hands. We need a fair dinkum investigation by the ACCC into these allegations and we need it now.

Journalist: So Labor insists that there is price gouging.

SWAN: Well, there’s evidence that’s been presented by motoring organisations that refinery margins are high at the moment. Mr Samuel himself has said in the past that something funny is going on. Today he has said that there is no role for the ACCC. Well there is a role. Under Part 7 of the Act, the Treasurer can direct the ACCC to investigate these matters, and that’s in the interest of all motorists, that we have this open transparency so people can see whether they’re being ripped off. I would have thought the oil companies, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer would have seen some sense in an investigation so we can see what’s going on.

Journalist: (inaudible) … a backflip today, saying they aren’t profiteering?

SWAN: Well I can’t figure out what Mr Samuel is saying but there’s one sure way to fix it and that’s to get the Treasurer to instruct Mr Samuel to investigate the matter under the law.

Journalist: So it’s all up to the Government now and they have the power to tell the ACCC?

SWAN: Under Part 7 of the Act the Treasurer has the power to direct the ACCC to investigate profiteering and price gouging. He also has the power to direct them to continually monitor prices. We say he should do both immediately.

Journalist: And Mr Howard is also on the record today saying they’re not going to do anything with the excise of fuel. Would you agree with that?

SWAN: Well Mr Howard has a record tax take at the moment, and he can make choices about how he chooses to give tax relief. His choice is to make no change to the taxation arrangements. His choice is to not to direct the ACCC to do anything about the allegations of price gouging. He’s decided he should sit on his hands. We put forward some positive proposals for an ACCC investigation and, in the long term, to do something about our reliance on imported petroleum and set up a domestic industry which can make us much more self-sufficient and insulate this country from instability in the Middle East and events elsewhere. There’s two practical things the Prime Minister can do.

Journalist: How about a greater … (inaudible) … toward ethanol … (inaudible)?

SWAN: Well absolutely and we’ve been saying this for some months. We forced the Prime Minister into some small steps forward but we haven’t been successful in forcing the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to direct the ACCC to investigate the allegations of price gouging. They should do that. At the same time we must urgently develop an alternative approach so that we can get self-sufficiency in fuels as soon as possible. That’s been our policy, part of which has been picked up by the Government. They’ve taken on board our recommendations that the Government use ethanol in Government fleets - good step, small step. It’s most welcome but much more needs to be done.


Monday 26 September 2005 Contact Jim Chalmers 0417 141 676