The Senate sat until 1.30 this morning
debating private health insurance, renewable energy, law enforcement and tax.
And also pushed through in the last sitting before the winter recess – with
reluctant support from the Government – was a motion for an inquiry into petrol
pricing
.

The Opposition proposed the inquiry, and
won the support of Barnaby Joyce. Government Senate Leader Nick Minchin is
sceptical about the inquiry. “We would be surprised if it found anything other
than what the previous inquiries have all found,” he said, “but we’re happy to
have such an inquiry to see if anything new can come of it.”

Petrol prices are at record levels. The
punters are unimpressed. There are allegations of price fixing.

The inquiry could see petroleum company
execs summoned and asked to explain how they set their prices.

It’s all good populist fare – a key hip
pocket issue. An issue the Prime Minister even spoke about in the party room
this week – but up until now an issue the Government has chosen to ignore.

The standard line has said that there have
been 44 inquiries into petrol prices – and another is unlikely to change a
thing.

Now, it seems something’s different. Could
it be that high petrol prices – combined with Labor’s IR campaign – are making
punters acutely aware of how much they have in their pocket?

The Government’s been hoping tax cuts will
do the trick – but they’ve clearly decided petrol prices need some work. They
don’t want to be left out in the cold this winter.

Peter Fray

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