John Howard spent half an hour talking to Jon Faine on 774 ABC
Melbourne this morning and one of the interesting features of an
excellent interview was his attack on the NRMA for running a
campaign suggesting the Government can pressure the big oil companies
to cut their profit margins and reduce petrol prices.

Given that shares in Caltex have increased 900% in three
years, there is certainly room for a bit of political pressure and the
economy could well do with some relief when you consider that each 1c
increase in petrol prices adds $380 million to the cost-base of
Australian petrol consumers.

However, what the PM should have said is that the NRMA is in the middle of an
election campaign in which a pile of Labor Party associated people are
running.

President Alan Evans has been all over the media and appeared to be
working in lock-step with the Federal Opposition yesterday to drive the
government’s backflip on a tiny increase in petrol excise from January
1. Evans, of course, is an ALP journeyman who was once chief of staff to
then Federal Treasurer, John Dawkins. The other NRMA figure who has
appeared publicly on the question of petrol prices is Gary Punch, an
underwhelming former Minister in the Hawke Government.

The NRMA has been associated with and often controlled by different
factions of the ALP ever since 1990 when it ran a damaging campaign
against the Hawke government to force more petrol tax revenue to be
spent on roads.

With its two million members it certainly has an ability to influence
the
public and at the moment is proving far more effective than the
sleepier RACV in Victoria, which remains a clubby mutual run by a
15-strong board with an average age well into their 60s and an average
length of service of about 12 years.

Compare that with this list of almost 70 NRMA directors over the past 12
years, which is likely to expand again when the current election
concludes in a few weeks.

Peter Fray

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