FUEL retailers across the region have been labelled as "cartels" and "petrol barons" as Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall took aim at fuel prices across the electorate.
With demand for fuel worldwide dropping sharply due to the COVID-19 pandemic, terminal gate prices in Australia are at their lowest in years.
According to Mr Marshrall lower prices, such as 84.4 cents/litre at Sydney and 83.4c/l in Brisbane, have not been passed on at the local bowsers, according to Mr Marshall.
He said the average across the region Tuesday for unleaded 91 fuel was 130.3c/l – a full 11 cents above the NSW average today and eight cents above the regional NSW average.
Mr Marshall was infuriated by the price difference, savaging retailers setting prices locally, accusing them of colluding with one another to keep prices high.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that there is cartel-like behaviour occurring in our region at the moment,” he said.
“These people are like the mob; exploiting people and preying on the vulnerable, on people who can’t shop around, particularly the elderly.
“There clearly has to be some sort of collusion because it’s not as if one fuel retailer around the region in every town is very high, with just a couple of exceptions, they’re all in on it, blindly committing daylight robbery, gouging people at the fuel pump."
Mr Marshall said it is a "rort" that while prices across the country are dropping rapidly, they are seeing very little or no change here.
Glen Innes was one of the worst-hit communities, with the cheapest unleaded fuel today selling for 131.9c/l.
Mr Marshall said the average price at the bowser, across all the town’s fuel stations, was 137.2 cents – the highest in the region and one of the highest anywhere in the state today.
Uralla was not much better, with the cheapest unleaded 134.9c/l and an average of 136.2 at the pump.
“It is ridiculous that fuel pricing in our region over the past few weeks has consistently been more expensive by more than eight cents a litre for unleaded petrol and more than 13 cents a litre for diesel the almost everywhere else in the State,” Mr Marshall said.
This is the MP’s latest attack in an ongoing battle against fuel retailers, speaking about the “price gouging” in Parliament in 2014, and reviving the issue two years ago.
“The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission exists to protect consumers against this sort of racketeering behaviour, but in reality, they’re simply a toothless tiger,” Mr Marshall said.
“If the ACCC doesn’t have the power to take action in a situation like this, then the law needs to be changed to give the ACCC the ability to take these guys to task.
“I would encourage people to write, to email, and to make the complaints online through the ACCC."
Mr Marshall said the cheapest fuel in the whole region was at the Beardy Street Servo in Armidale and the Invergowrie General Store, both selling unleaded petrol today for 105c/l, more than 30 cents a litre cheaper than the average price in Glen Innes.
“Aside from these and a couple of other independent retailers across the region, prices are sky-high,” he said.
“If this doesn’t convince you that something’s wrong with the system, then nothing will. It’s easy to see why motorists have had a gutful."