National fuel strike: Angry drivers call for servo boycott
Sabrina Lamont from Bundaberg, Queensland is calling for change as fuel prices hit a record high. (ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)
A motorist fed up with high petrol prices is calling on drivers across Australia to boycott service stations for one day in a bid to address the cost of fuel, which has reached record highs.
More than 160,000 people have indicated they would either join or are interested in taking part in a national fuel strike later this week.
There is also an online petition lobbying the Federal Government to ditch some of its taxes on fuel.
Sabrina Lamont, the organiser of the strike and petition, said while Queensland motorists were paying around $1.65, she believed the price should be much lower.
“A fair price should be a $1.15 if you do the calculation on a barrel price and compare the dollar price, and then take away the excise and GST. That is roughly what the price should be at,” she said.
But Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA) chief executive Mark McKenzie said $1.15 a litre was far from fair.
“It would result in fuel retailers losing an average of 40 cents per litre given that they were buying petrol at an average of $1.45 last week and it costs an average of 10 cents per litre to retail [including] rent, wages and electricity.
“So a break-even cost with no profit would have been a sale price of $1.55.”
Fuel costs being felt
Websites and apps showing where and when to buy cheaper fuel:
Mr McKenzie said the increase in the cost of fuel over the past year was due to a 44 per cent increase in crude oil, a 12 per cent devaluation in the Australian dollar and a small increase in fuel retailing costs.
“Around 45 per cent of the cost of fuel relates to overseas factors such as the cost of crude oil and the international refining price while a further 45 per cent is Australian Government taxes.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says 46 per cent of the cost is determined by the international price Mogas 95, 39 per cent by taxes and 15 per cent by other costs and margins.
Tax on unleaded and diesel fuel includes excise which is set at 41 cents a litre and indexed twice a year in line with the consumer price index. GST is added on top of this so the percentage going to taxes can vary.
Ms Lamont said she believed fuel was “one of the most overtaxed products in Australia” and the increasing cost was breaking the back of the nation.
“There are people losing their jobs, businesses [are] selling trucks and letting workers go. Parents are not taking their children to school [because of the price of fuel],” she said.
“They are breaking the country’s back with this.”
Ms Lamont said she was calling on people to boycott service stations on the day of the strike.
“We are asking the whole nation not to enter a service station, a total boycott, whether independents or a major brand,” the Bundaberg woman said.
“Just do not buy fuel.”
In each litre of fuel, 46 per cent of the cost is determined by the international price Mogas 95, 39 per cent by taxes and 15 per cent by other costs/margins, according to the ACCC.
Would it work?
ACAPMA chief executive Mr McKenzie said a strike made “no sense”.
“Punishing Australian fuel retailers, most of whom are small family businesses, for increases that are the responsibility of international companies makes no sense whatsoever.”
RACQ spokeswoman Lucinda Ross said a one-day strike would not work, even if it happened nationally.
“We have run the figures and about 250,000 Queenslanders fill up each day,” she said.
“You can understand the frustration level is at an all time high with prices reaching the most expensive we have ever seen before,” she said.
“But boycotting for one day of the year won’t do anything to lower the price of fuel.”
Ms Ross said motorists were “feeling the pain” of the current fuel prices and while she believed they were paying too much, she said Ms Lamont’s suggestion of $1.15 per litre would be unreasonable.
She suggested that drivers monitor the price cycle and take advantage of when the fuel price was at its lowest point.
“You do get the opportunity in the price cycle to buy at wholesale price every four weeks,” she said.
“If you fill up on the cheap days you save 20 to 30 cents a litre on fuel.”
Petrol prices go in cycles and the duration of the cycle varies according to where you live.
(Supplied: Informed Sources)
Ms Lamont said there might be further action in the coming months after feedback from fed-up motorists across the country that “one day isn’t enough”.
“October 26 is a day designed to bring all Australians together. It has been designed to create awareness among the people to come together and finally have a voice,” she said.
“In November, December, and the following months, we will be bigger in numbers and we will be boycotting one major, or possibly all majors, for a minimum of one month at a time.”
Cheaper alternative? Try Venezuela
In some remote communities motorists are paying more than $2 a litre, but according to the Global Petrol Price, the cost of fuel in Australia is generally $US1.12 ($A1.58), which is below the worldwide average of $US1.18 a litre ($A1.67).
Venezuela is the cheapest averaging $US0.01 a litre ($A0.014) and Hong Kong is the most expensive at $US2.21 ($A3.13).
Robert Contreras, who grew up in Venezuela’s capital Caracas before moving to Melbourne in 2014, said the country “gives fuel away”.
Venezuelan man Robert Contreras has been living in Australia since 2014 with his family. (Facebook: Robert Contreras)
“Fuel is basically free; by international standards it is free,” he said.
Mr Contreras said that fuel was so cheap because the Venezuelan Government was afraid to change.
He said the country was in the grip of hyperinflation and wages were not indexed to keep up with inflation.
“The price of everything doubles in a few weeks,” Mr Contreras said.
The price of fuel and growing frustration from motorists have prompted some service station owners to issue an explanation. (ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)
He reflected on happier times when his native country was “swimming in money”.
“In the 1970s, there was an oil crisis for developing countries, but for oil producers like Venezuela it was great,” he said.
“We grew up with entitlement because we were living in an oil country.
“That was back then when the price of oil was booming as we were making a lot of money from exporting oil.
“Come 1989, the oil cycle ended and the price of oil plummeted. The country needed economic reforms and one major reform was to increase the price of oil.”
Mr Contreras said after that, the country went into turmoil. The Government suffered two coups and ceased to exist.
“Since then, the Government is too scared to increase oil prices,” he said.
“The price of oil is fixed; every gas station has a fixed price.”