The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (15:08): I rise today on behalf of the people of Stuart to talk about fuel pricing. I am particularly concerned about the fact that fuel prices in Port Augusta have for a long time now been consistently too much higher than those in other parts of the state. I make no bones about the fact that a long time ago I used to work in the fuel industry supplying fuel to mines, the fishing industry, the farming industry and roadhouses, etc., so I have some knowledge of this, although some of it is a bit out of date.
The reason I mention this is that I accept that there are cycles, I accept that retail prices need to be connected to wholesale prices, need to be connected to transport costs and need to be connected to a whole range of things. Of course, the further you are away from the source of the fuel, the more you will need to pay for it, and that is true of most commodities that we consume.
But in Port Augusta we have seen fuel prices 20¢ and 30¢ higher than in Adelaide and that is completely unacceptable. I believe strongly that fuel retailers need to make a fair profit, absolutely. We need them to make a profit so that they will continue supplying the fuel and the other products and services that they supply. If they do not make a good profit, they will not continue to supply the services and then the consumers do not have anything.
However, there is a big difference between a fair profit so that they can pay fair wages, etc. to local people who work there, and, in the Port Augusta area, this is sometimes in excess of 30¢ a litre but certainly regularly 20¢ to 30¢ a litre higher prices than those in metropolitan Adelaide. That is well in excess of the extra cost required to cover for freight, that is well in excess of the extra margin required to make up for often smaller volumes than metropolitan areas have and it is well in excess of any reason that I can think of that would be described as a fair, local margin. It should certainly be more expensive in Port Augusta but not 20¢ to 30¢ higher.
I note with great pleasure that today the Attorney-General introduced to parliament our fair pricing legislation. The government intends to make sure that all consumers across the entire state have access to free, real-time pricing information so they can make decisions and see exact fuel prices in the area where they are contemplating buying fuel. This will be an enormously powerful tool. It might be that very few people in this house realise that that information has been available for a long, long time but it has not been available for free. It has been provided by a company—quite fairly, they are entitled to do this—at a price which large organisations have taken up regularly and they have used those for their decision-making processes, but an individual motorist or any one of our constituents who wanted that information would have had to pay for it.
Our government is making sure that motorists around the state will have free and real-time access to pricing information. We will look at exactly what information is available at the time and, importantly, consumers can say, ‘I am in Port Augusta,’ or a suburb of Adelaide or Port Lincoln or Mount Gambier, wherever they happen to be, and say, ‘I need to buy some fuel. What are the prices of the service stations around me? Petrol is this, diesel is that,’ and make their choice. What is really important about that is that when consumers make their choice about where they buy their fuel, based on where fuel is cheapest, then the other service stations where the fuel is not as cheap will have to make adjustments if they want to win those customers back.
By providing this information we are putting power into the hands of the consumers, giving consumers the real-time, free information that they need so that they can vote with their feet, or vote with their wheels, however you might like to put it. They can use their power as consumers individually and in a united way to make their choices. When they make their choice in preference of the cheaper fuel suppliers, other fuel suppliers will then need to become cheaper also.