Steane Klose | Oct 7, 2008

The Rudd government has received another broadside from the VACC, this time over its planned national Fuelwatch scheme. The peak automotive industry body in Victoria is calling on the recently proposed new Petrol Commissioner to abandon the flawed scheme.

The Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Mr Chris Bowen, will recommend Mr Joe Dimasi takes up the position, subject to the approval of the Governor-General, plus State and Territory Governments.

“Mr Dimasi is a very capable individual and VACC looks forward to working with him in the future. However, we recommend that, if he does take the job, he wastes no time in dropping the flawed Fuelwatch proposal and instead tackles the issue of the lack of transparency at the Terminal Gate,” VACC Executive Director, David Purchase said.

Mr Dimasi, is currently an economist at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and his appointment to the role will see him replace Mr Pat Walker, who resigned in July for personal reasons.

“The national Fuelwatch scheme, due to be introduced at the end of the year, will not do what it is intended to do. It simply further discriminates against independent service station operators who do not have the same wholesale pricing information as oil companies and their supermarket partner retail sites.”

The VACC points out that while Fuelwatch is unlikely to benefit motorists, transparency at the wholesale level will. At the moment ‘big oil’ is controlling the wholesale price, and in doing so controlling the independent service station operators whom they supply (more on this in a future article). Until this situation changes, competition in the fuel market place will remain virtually non-existent.

“VACC believes there is a place for a Petrol Commissioner. We encourage the incumbent to rake over oil industry practices in controlling the wholesale market.”

“VACC is ready to work with Mr Dimasi in any way it can. VACC has repeatedly campaigned against the oil majors' vice-like grip on the supply chain and recommends their so-called ‘comfortable oligopoly' is smashed.”

A reasonable person would be inclined to question the whereabouts of the ACCC in all of this. With ‘big oil’ stymieing competition one might expect that they would have their big stick out; but alas, they remain as seemingly indifferent as ever.

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