Jun 102007

"Australians by and large accept that international settings and market forces will govern the price of petrol, but they will not tolerate being taken for a ride by anyone"

ABC News Online

How very prophetic and self-soothed by the little twirp as well. Have you noticed, reader, the almost incessant use by Howard of the terminology, "by and large"?

The phraseology comes from the olde english sailing terminology, meaning under all best probable conditions. In other words, whenever Howard uses this phrase – and he does so quite often – he is presuming that the best all-round considerations of the Australian people are conforming with his view of whatever the subject in question happens to be. Rather arrogant, really. Twenty million Australians all agreeing with the one man’s opinion? I doubt that.

Anyway, let’s examine his statement. He’s assuming – and we all know the failing of assumption, don’t we – that we all understand that international settings, whatever that means, and market forces will serve to moderate the price of fuel in this country. Now, I for one have never accepted anything, that I didn’t immediately understand, as truth and law. Just what is ’international settings’? It’s a reasonable question, isn’t it? Market forces I understand, but exactly which market? Domestic or international? I recently wrote a spray on the subject of petrol pricing in this country and alluded to the gouging which has been taking place for a long time now.I for one would like to know just what ’international settings’ Little Johnny Howler is on about. Is it WTI, Tapis, or NYMEX? Maybe it’s even a combination of Brent and Dubai with a smattering of Ural pricing thrown in for good measure? Who’d know? Certainly no-one outside of the inner sanctums of oil refinery bean counters, that much is certain.

Just how is this country’s imported oil requirements, not to mention the stuff we provide from our own reserves, priced? I don’t mean the voodoo mantras written on any number of refinery moguls websites. I mean the real thing. Seriously, anyone who actually believes the crap that Caltex and Shell, et al serve up clearly still leaves milk and carrots out for Santa & his reindeer. If pertol prices are linked to relatively stable oil prices, even those so erroneously quoted on daily news reports, why does the cost of fuel at the bowser fluctuate so much? Up to 18 cents per litre at any one time. Why are we constantly told there exists a ’fuel cycle’, when the oil which serves as a source for this cycle doesn’t fluctuate in concert with the fuel which is refined from it? Why are Tuesdays in my neck of the woods, the cheaper day to buy? Why does the price rise out of all relation to oil prices on long weekends? There is absolutely nothing on any of the refiners websites which is capable of adequately answering these questions. Those websites are more akin to a frustrated parent telling a monotonously querulous child, ’just because, alright?!!’.

On the subject of market forces, my question would be what market forces? Market forces indicate competition. There is no competition in the domestic marketplace and hasn’t been for many years now. How can any Australian who has to purchase petrol be said to agree with Little Johnny’s ’by and large’ claim? I do, however, agree with his postulation that we don’t enjoy being taken for a ride. Who’s driving, Johnny? Seems to me it’s you. You’re right that Labor’s plan to install a fuel commissioner is window dressing. I’d call it popularism and unnecessary creation of additional bureaucracy. We have a prices commissioner. It’s known as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. How about you give the ACCC some real teeth instead of the wooden dentures it wears currently? How about you instruct the ACCC to root out and publicise the mechanisms by which oil refiners are gouging the pockets of Australian consumers? How about you cease and desist with the by-and-large assessments of Australian opinions of subjects you clearly have no understanding of or belief in?

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