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  • Rikki Lambert

As fuel prices surge, ACCC coy on investigating servo 'margin creep'

Australian motorists are feeling the pinch at the fuel bowser but as a peak motoring body told Flow there were signs fuel retailers were recouping pandemic losses during the price spike, the ACCC played a dead bat on investigating.

SA's peak motoring body, the RAA, told Flow on Thursday it saw evidence of retailers using the latest price rise to square the ledger after heavy losses during pandemic lockdowns. RAA fuel expert Mark Borlace said:

"There's been a bit of margin creep over the last 12 months. Part of that, the oil industry would say during COVID when nobody was buying fuel, we still had to pay rent, wages etc and we're trying to get back some of that.
"Oil companies kind of look at things in the form of 12 month profitability not weekly profitability, so some of that will be that creep."

Hear the full interview with the RAA's Mark Borlace on the FlowNews24 podcast:

The ACCC told Flow on Thursday it would not comment on potential investigations, but said through a spokesperson:

"Around 85 per cent of the average price of petrol is made up of the international price of refined petrol and taxes (which includes excise and the GST). These components are largely outside the control of the local petrol retailers.
"The ACCC will be closely monitoring movements in retail prices and the extent to which they reflect movements in international refined petrol prices."

South Australian independent senator Rex Patrick recently called for the federal government to use its March budget to slash fuel excise, saving motorists potentially hundreds of dollars per annum.

SA Liberal senator Alex Antic responded on Flow on Monday:

"Rex says a lot of things I just tune out frankly without being too disrespectful. It's very easy as an independent to throw these things around ... the concept of energy security has to be paramount, we have to be ready for the sorts of things we're seeing in Ukraine."

Last Wednesday, outgoing ACCC chair Rod Sims told the National Press Club that Australia already had the fourth-lowest level of fuel taxation in the developed world and saw little prospect of government intervention.

Rabobank's senior agricultural analyst Wes Lefroy told Flow on Thursday they were projecting further pain for farm fuel prices derived from an expected climb on crude oil:

"We're expecting crude oil will increase to around $118 USD a barrel, at the moment its around $105-108, so we're expecting that $118 mark in the 2nd quarter. Local diesel prices tend to track crude oil very closely."
"One thing to watch on the crude oil side is watch what's happening with Iran ... there's negotiations between the US and Iran which could bring more oil to the global market ... if that eventuates we might see a small amount of relief for global oil prices."

Overnight into Thursday, Australia joined around 30 other nations through the International Energy Agency to free up 60 million barrels of crude oil to curtail the oil shock.

Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor tweeted on Thursday:

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