Horsham Rural City, Victorian Farmers Federation make submissions to parliamentary inquiry into fuel prices

WIMMERA leaders have called for a greater review into regional fuel prices and more transparency in the market.

A parliamentary inquiry into fuel prices in regional Victoria heard submissions from Horsham Rural City Council and the Victorian Farmers Federation at a hearing in Melbourne on Monday.

Horsham Rural City chief executive Peter Brown said council’s submission emphasised that the city had very high fuel prices.

“We don’t understand why our prices are so high because we are on the highway and we have strong sales,” he said.

“I can’t see why we should have high prices.”

Mr Brown said prices rarely fluctuated in the region. 

“We recommended in our submission that the RACV launch a statewide campaign that will help regional drivers seek the lowest prices,” he said.

“We also want the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to meet with us and we want the state government to look at a broader review into how regional prices are set.”

Mr Brown said prices were often lower when there were independent fuel stations operating in the market.

“We need the state government to encourage more independents to set up,” he said. “Fuel services are important for small towns and the issue needs to be addressed.”

Victorian Farmers Federation president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke said there was a number of issues relating to fuel in regional areas.

“The total volume of fuel consumed in regional areas made it hard for there to be deep competition in prices,” he said.

“We also spoke in our submission about the need for more transparency, so people in regional areas could see what retailers were setting fuel prices at.

“For example, if I was travelling to Marnoo, it would be handy to know what the fuel prices were like so I know whether I should fill up in Horsham or hold off until I get somewhere else.”

Mr Jochinke said diesel supply was also a big issue in the region.

“In 2012 and 2013 we saw a diesel shortage during big harvests and we got quite close to running out of fuel,” he said. “For grain farmers that meant having to leave grain exposed to weather, for horticulture it meant people not getting their crops off in a timely manner, and for livestock producers, it meant people had to rely on generators and created an animal welfare issue.

“In the agriculture industry, it isn’t just that we need access to well-priced fuel, but we need to have access to fuel especially during peak times.”