The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs

3 December 2007 - 8 June 2009

Transcript of 18/02/2008

Interview with Alan Jones

2GB 873 AM

Monday, 18 February 2008

SUBJECTS: Petrol Commissioner, ACCC

ALAN JONES:

We're going to get a national Petrol Commissioner to investigate petrol prices at the bowsers. Patrick Walker will be our first Petrol Commissioner, from Western Australia. We're told he'll inject confidence into millions of motorists when they fill up, that they're getting value for their money. The Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs is a young bloke, Chris Bowen - brand new: he's on the line. Minister, good morning.

BOWEN:

Good morning Alan.

JONES:

Now you're saying this is to ensure that petrol companies and executives are held to account.

BOWEN:

Absolutely. We believe that it's appropriate to have a very senior officer, a very senior Commonwealth official focused on these things day to day.

JONES:

Right.

BOWEN:

And this will be Pat Walker's brief.

JONES:

But will he only have the powers that the ACCC currently have? Because everyone says those powers are inadequate.

BOWEN:

Yes, well obviously, we increased the powers of the ACCC in December last year. They've started to use those and what I've said to Pat Walker and to Graeme Samuel is, if you need more powers, all you've got to do is ask and you shall receive.

JONES:

So the Commissioner will have the powers and that will take away from the ACCC any responsibility for petrol prices?

BOWEN:

No no, Pat Walker will be a Petrol Commissioner and a member of the ACCC Board of Commissioners.

JONES:

Right.

BOWEN:

So we will provide a new focus within the ACCC, because remember the ACCC's got to administer the Trade Practices Act across the economy. It's a huge brief.

JONES:

So will he have the power to act when he thinks oil companies are ripping Australians off?

BOWEN:

Yes, if he believes that there's anti-competitive conduct he can begin action. But just as importantly Alan, it's his job - the job the government's given him - to try and introduce more transparency and more competition over time. So when you look at the ACCC report...

JONES:

(interrupting) See the competition, Chris, isn't needed in the retail area; the competition is needed in the wholesale area.

BOWEN:

Quite right but this is a brief along supply chain.

JONES:

So wholesale as well as retail?

BOWEN:

Absolutely - the complete petrol industry; and not only petrol Alan, because this is very important to many of your listeners but we've seen increases in diesel and LPG.

JONES:

LPG - so he'll be looking at that?

BOWEN:

We've asked him in the brief to look at that.

JONES:

They've gone up from 45 cents a litre to 90 cents a litre in 18 months.

BOWEN:

Absolutely, and his job is to advise us on what more we can or should do in relation to competition. Now, again, just in LPG and diesel there's a lot of reasons for increases - there's world factors, they're the biggest impost. But when world factors are having such an impost on motorists, we need to ensure that they're not being ripped off and you really need that focus and this is something we said we'd do before the election, something the Prime Minister made an important commitment on before the election, and we're implementing that.

JONES:

So when can we expect petrol prices to fall, consistent with what they should be, as a result of this appointment and stop the Wednesday rip-off that we get every week?

BOWEN:

Well, as I say Alan, the biggest impact on petrol prices is world oil prices and we are all subject, every country in the world is subject, to the vagaries of world oil prices but we are working through a range of recommendations and suggestions from the ACCC report and that's Pat Walker's job - to help us implement those.

And they go from the cosy arrangements - if you like - that the oil companies have to buy and sell petrol from each other, which means in effect when one petrol company is having a problem at one of its refineries, we pay more at every other petrol station across the country because one is having problems. Now, that's not how competition's meant to work.

JONES:

Good on you.

BOWEN:

Pleasure.

JONES:

Well we'll leave it there and we'll keep being in touch with you.

BOWEN:

Ta.

JONES:

Chris Bowen, the Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs.