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Aug 15, 2014

Petrol prices must go up

Crikey readers talk fuel excise, Joe Hockey and why Labor shafted single mums.

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Grow a set and raise petrol prices

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Rundle: Hockey’s suicide machine successfully alienates every single voter” (yesterday). The media (including the apparently responsible media) have run this facile coverage about what Joe Hockey has foolishly said about fuel prices and made it sound as if Australia and its population is on the bones of their arses (we are not).

A cent a litre of petrol or diesel is about $35 a household a year. That is what is at stake. This is not life or death level stuff, is it?

Recently the country got over a debate on bigotry. Most bigotry is not racial, it is actually partisan, and if a country cannot have a mature debate over a cent a litre, it is sad. Is there something wrong with the people of this country? Most of the opposition is purely partisan bigotry. The ALP put in place twice annual CPI-linked excise increases, with minimal fuss and without a mandate in 1983 (that party’s supporters are now leading the charge against a policy of its making — why?). The Greens have joined the fray for no economically or environmentally responsible reason. Palmer wants to increase spending, cut taxes and ruin our finances, it seems.

Australia has the third-cheapest fuel in the OECD (only Canada, US and Mexico are cheaper). We pay 38.143 cents a litre excise, which is quite low. Fuel in Norway (which produces its own oil) is the highest at $2.70 a litre. The ending of indexation in 2001 means that we pay 17 cents a litre less than it would have been, i.e. some 55 cents. If excise were set at 55 cents a litre it would roughly equate to the $37 billion of government measures to bring the budget to surplus in fours years. And we would still have the third-cheapest fuel in the OECD!

The figures are rough, but without one of the named parties above changing their position it is not possible to fix the budget. As Jacqui Lambie crudely put it, if someone grew a set you could fix it all with one large measure. I don’t expect any of the named parties to become responsible anytime soon, however!

Peter Matters writes: A case could be made out for an increase in the price of fuel — not as a budget gimmick but as a means of persuading people to take public transport, reduce pollution and save on road maintenance. That is to say, the price increase could be justified on the condition that everybody — particularly the battlers — had cheap public transport available within easy walking distance of home.

Sadly, Hockey is not smart enough to understand that by having the guts to spend a fair few billions on public transport,  he would soon recoup on the expense on roads and nobody would object to a price rise of fuel.

Labor’s tough questions to answer

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re “Combet and traditional Labor values” (yesterday). When Greg Combet launched his book The Fights Of My Life in Melbourne, he enjoyed a well-earned hero’s welcome but had a problem with a difficult question. Why did he vote in government against increasing the dole, which hasn’t increased in value for 20 years and is only a miserable $36 a day, and why did he vote to offload 110,000 single mums from their pension onto the lower dole payment when their children turn eight?  All this at  at a time when you have one vacancy for every 20 unemployed or a real unemployment figure of 2 million or 20%, but at the same time of course he voted for and accepted a 30% pay increase, which put him into the top 3% of income earners. Combet said “I’m sorry”, but gave a rambling answer blaming the GFC. Good that he is sorry, but will his caucus colleagues also say sorry and give more detailed reasons for their anti Labor decision?

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