Fuel Watch Bill

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (11:05): I rise to speak to the Fuel Watch Bill as put by the member for Florey. I certainly get the intent of the member for Florey with this bill, but I do not believe that it is the best approach with regard to getting accurate fuel pricing. I know there are various models in place around the country, as far as real-time pricing, and I guess there is no time like the present to think about real time. However, it appears that there are better models that can be utilised.

When we look at the fuel issue, not just in this state but in this country, and how things have changed over many years as far as the processes in regard to whether we are even refining fuel as we used to at Port Stanvac—which is long gone—now we are essentially related to a shipping lane, which is basically our pipeline coming from overseas places like Singapore, for example. It is quite serious, obviously, especially in relation to people such as myself when I was actively farming. It affects farmers especially and people in heavy industries because they buy fuel in bulk. Gone are the days of buying in bulk, where you might only order as little as 900 litres to fill up your unleaded tank or, in the old days, the super tank—that is going back a while.

A lot of orders were made, as far as bulk fuel was managed, in 2,000 or 3,000 litres and perhaps up to 5,000 litres. With the natural course of things—and it is a bit sad in a way—farming has come to a situation where essentially you have to get big or get out. It has always been that way since my father started back in 1933-34 working for his father at Angle Vale. They were not using a lot of fuel then, I must say. When people on the land order fuel now, much of it is ordered in 10,000-litre batches and it is not uncommon for orders to come in semitrailer loads, which may be 25,000 or 28,000 litres or possibly more. You can get reasonable discounts by ordering that amount. Certainly talking about industrial levels, and I guess at the farming level, depending on what size the orders are, people can get reasonable discounts.

However, part of the object of this bill is to ensure that consumers are provided with up-to-date and accurate information regarding the price and availability of fuel. That is the issue: the availability and the sea pipeline that comes to our shores. I have noticed at times, and as we are now moving into the seeding phase on farms within the next month—and some might be going earlier than that on the Far West Coast and in some of the Mallee areas, starting their programs—there will be a lot of diesel coming through.

Despite the current challenges that we are facing at the moment, that fuel needs to arrive—and I understand it will be arriving—because of our food producers. When you look across the country it is absolutely vital that that fuel gets here, because being a country of 25 million people we do produce enough food for at least 75 million people. I just want to reflect on that briefly in this conversation. There have been some—and I am not going to use another word—what I call unusual buying practices in supermarkets in regard to food. It is unusual, and it is not really necessary as far as I am concerned because we have so much food we are producing, and it is great to see some of those great food icons, like the Crottis and the Thomases, getting out there promoting what we can produce in this state, let alone what we produce in this country.

Just as an aside—and this does affect obviously the use of fuel and industry—in regard to the run on toilet paper, I find that bizarre to say the least. I understand that before Kimberly-Clark down at Millicent went to three shifts, at two shifts they were getting out 35 B-doubles of toilet paper a day from Millicent, from our home state here. So I am sure there is probably something around 50 B-doubles a day of toilet paper being sent around the state and the nation. I guess what I am saying is we are not going to run out any time soon, and people have already found, to their individual dismay, that they cannot take it back to the shops. I think the shops should keep that policy in place just so we can get some sensibilities in place in regard to these purchases.

Fuel is absolutely vital for day-to-day running in the community. I absolutely get that. It has come down in recent times because of a price war overseas. I can remember what happened in the seventies. We were going to run out of fuel, evidently. Well, here we are, a long time since then and there is still plenty of fuel around, and there will be for a long time. Despite all the advances in green energy and that kind of thing, I understand that oil growth, as far as using oil goes, is going up exponentially even as we speak. I salute renewable energy as we transition—and I stress the word 'transition'—into it, but it is a fact that oil use has gone up in recent times compared to what it was previously.

I just want to keep reflecting on the vital need for producing that food, because in these times where people do get uncertain about things that are happening in the world, there is this absolute certainty that we can produce great food and fibre in this state. In regard to the run on toilet paper, they are working flat out down at Millicent to produce it. Last time I looked, when I was in the South-East, there were many hundreds and thousands of acres of forest that can be felled, so you are not going to run out any time soon.

I do salute all of our food producers, and I salute them in this time when there is uncertainty around a range of things. I know most of them, especially those that are really super organised, have organised their chemicals to be on site, their fertiliser to be on site, because it is absolutely vital that they get all those supplies, including fuel, to function.

In regard to this Fuel Watch Bill, during the process leading into the last election, the Labor Party and SA-Best, of blessed memory, supported the introduction of mandatory fuel price reporting by fuel retailers. The idea was to put downward pressure on fuel prices and to give consumers greater information about the market to make more informed purchasing decisions.

One thing has always intrigued me with fuel pricing and fuel sales with the proliferation of diesel vehicles now, including many of us in this place driving diesel vehicles. Certainly, in the farming sector it is best to have a diesel vehicle, especially when driving over stubble. There are other stories I could talk about, but I will not be doing that today. Diesel, which is essentially light crude oil, is usually reasonably dearer than more refined fuels like the 91, 95, 98 octane unleaded fuels. I was always intrigued by that. When I was working in the oil field at East Mereenie, we used to get our fuel out of a light crude well. They took the water out of it, separated it out, and we ran all the vehicles on that.

There has been research done in regard to the Productivity Commission for their consideration. We note this bill from the member for Florey, but we will not be supporting it. However, we will be looking at the release of the Productivity Commission's report and the associated government response before moving forward.

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