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Draft Code of Practice - Fuel Price Reporting

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Tags: Cost of Living, Big Business

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I will make a brief contribution on the Australian Consumer Law (Tasmania) (Code of Practice for Fuel Price Reporting) Regulations 2020, and state from the outset that in the Greens' view, this is quite good red tape. It will require fuel retailers to - largely in real time - provide information to motorists about the retail price of petrol through their outlet.

It contains no sanctions, however, other than that the market - hopefully when a more informed customer base is able to choose where they purchase petrol - will have some influence over compliance, I gather.

It is interesting that price gouging for fuel has been a fact of life for Tasmanian motorists, as Ms Butler said, for decades. When I first came here as a journalist in 1989-90, the price of petrol was a regular headline story on the news. They were much more innocent times, of course, but price gouging has been a big problem in Tasmania for the past 30 years at least. It is partly of course because we are an island, and we are very vulnerable because of our reliance on imported fuel.

However, we are also made vulnerable as a community, because proportionally we have the lowest incomes in the country, and proportionally we are the state with the highest dependence on Commonwealth income support. Even in the Mercury newspaper today, we read that Tasmanians are the biggest losers when it comes to transport costs. Hobart motorists are spending 15.7 per cent of their income on transport, and it is about the same for people in Launceston. So we are paying more as proportion of our lower income on transport costs - and that is largely fuel - than other Australians. Over the last four reporting periods, Hobart and Launceston are the least affordable cities, according to the Australian Automobile Association's quarterly transport fuel index.

Of course, it is important that there is transparency about petrol prices but, as an island community, we also need to start thinking about the future with a much clearer eye. We are far too heavily dependent on imported fuel, and that leaves us highly vulnerable. We are far too dependent as an island community on the car, and our government is far too fond of building roads. Even this morning, the land acquisitions that were tabled: there is an area of land at Lovely Banks for road purposes. There is an area of land at the Saltworks Road junction for road purposes. Another area of land at Saltworks Road junction in Glamorgan Spring Bay for road purposes. Another area of land at Spring Hill in the Southern Midlands for road purposes. Yes, here is another one: the Tasman Highway Great Eastern Drive Rosedale road junction for road purposes. Again here is another one at Rosedale Road junction for road purposes.

I hope I am in parliament long enough to sit here when papers are being tabled and hear that there is some land being compulsorily acquired for pedestrian access, or for a bike path, or even land being compulsorily acquired to install more electric vehicle charging stations.

We have to evolve as a community so that we are less dependent on petrol, and on cars. It is a perpetual disappointment under this Government that so much of the infrastructure spending goes into roadworks.

I do not know who has driven down the Tasman Highway towards Sorell lately, but goodness me what a mess. It is very hard to work out what the plan is there, because apparently it looks like we are going to have 10 lanes heading to the airport. It is insane, and you have choke points along the two causeways into Sorell.

There is only so much a government can do with its road infrastructure in order to ease congestion. The best thing you can do is start doing mode shift. That is why the work by the RACT on its mobility vision for Hobart and Launceston is so important, because it focuses on how you get that transport mode shift, and how you basically re-engineer your cities - Hobart and Launceston particularly - so that we have much more public and passenger transport, and much more pedestrian and bike infrastructure. Launceston particularly is really ripe for more cycling infrastructure and pedestrian infrastructure because it is flatter than Hobart, but in Hobart too there is a real shortage of safe bike paths. When I drive home through the city, I see cars turn into bike paths painted on by Hobart City Council all the time.

A few weeks ago I chased a car up Goulburn Street because they cut in on the bike path and did not even look to see whether a cyclist was coming behind them. They cut in on the bike path to get onto Goulburn Street, so I chased them and shook my fist at them. I am always a bit worried because I have Greens stickers on the back, but there is an uncomfortable juxtaposition between car infrastructure that is roads and the really half-hearted efforts that have made by Commonwealth, state and local governments to improve the cycling infrastructure. Until you have dedicated, safe bike lanes, most parents will not want their children riding to school when they see the kind of behaviour from motorists that some of us see in relation to bike lanes.

Mr Tucker - You should see the investment going into Break O'Day.

Ms O’CONNOR - Is the Break O'Day Council putting in bike lanes, Mr Tucker?

Mr Tucker - Yes, with help from the federal government and state Government funding.

Ms O’CONNOR - That is fantastic, really good. We could have walkways and bike ways that link up this whole island. We could be a global destination once we are through this incredibly difficult period, for people who want to get on their bikes and see Tasmania. At the moment we are missing those opportunities because the capital works budget for your Government, Mr Tucker, is so heavily focused on road construction.

We need to get beyond 'roads, roads, roads'. Of course it is important we have safe roads, but we need to start thinking more clearly about providing choice. One of the benefits of that is the people of Tasmania will have choices to get onto affordable public transport and have a choice not to have to spend nearly 16 per cent on their income on transport costs.

I know we sound like a broken record when we talk about pedestrian and passenger transport, but this is genuinely what people want to see in their cities. Go to the great cities of the world - such as Portland, Oregon, for example - where they decided early to invest in liveability, pedestrian access and getting cars out of their city. That city is so full of life and economic activity because it is a city that is about people and not about cars.


We need to rethink our approach to transport infrastructure. We need to recognise that being so heavily dependent on imported petrol makes us vulnerable. In a COVID-19 recovery framework, we should be investing infrastructure money into broadening out transport choices and into mobility solutions like those proposed by the RACT through its mobility vision work. I commend the RACT for that work, which is essential policy development work. Last week or the week before, other members of the House were briefed or asked their views on the Launceston mobility vision by the RACT. We fed into their work on the Hobart mobility vision. This is critical and it is work that should be coming out of government.

We need government to be driving that mode shift and allocating capital moneys into re engineering our cities so they are places for people and not for cars. That will help bring down the cost of living for Tasmanians who right now have very little choice but to be so dependent on their petrol-fuelled cars.

We also need, as a state, to be investing in electric vehicle infrastructure and government needs to ramp up its procurement of electric vehicles through the government fleet so that they can go into Pickles Auction House and start reseeding at affordable prices the vehicle mix on our roads. We should absolutely be powering our cars with hydropower and not petrol, and the day will come when measures like fuel price reporting are not necessary. In fact, they will come sooner than later because the world is shifting and major vehicle manufacturers are moving away from manufacturing petrol-fueled cars. There has been a very rapid shift towards electric vehicle transport - we need to be on top of that, and the greatest capacity to do that rests with the Tasmanian Government.

This is a good initiative on the minister's part and should help to bring down the cost of living for Tasmanian motorists, but it is a temporary initiative. The best way we can help bring down transport costs for Tasmanians is to provide better pedestrian and passenger transport and electric vehicles powered by hydropower and not expensive imported fuel.