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Vena McGrath

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Fuel Price Update - Sydney November 2008
by Vena McGrath   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Posted: Tuesday, November 04, 2008

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The price of fuel - can we afford it? Sydney announces today that bikes and scooters can be parked without incurring fees. All well and good for those living near the city. Anyone fancy riding a pushbike or a scooter 60kms through dense traffic to the office and back home again because parking will be free?

The price of petrol is big news in Sydney Australia at present and has been either hitting the front page or headlines consistently for probably 2 years or more.  There is more than enough fuel for thought available that has been published on the Internet by various organisations regarding the petrol fiasco and rip-off as most of us call it.  Rarely a day goes by without mention on radio of the cost of fuel for the day and the same goes for TV.

In October 2001 the NRMA (National Roads and Motorists Association Limited) submitted a report to the Fuel Taxation Inquiry.  At that time fuel in Sydney was costing 46cpl (cents per litre) for refined petrol plus excess tax of 38cpl plus retail/wholesale margins and freight of 4cpl plus GST (Goods & Services Tax) of 9cpl, giving a total of 97cpl.  Mind you the GST was getting a couple of nudges at that little lot of charges. It appears the report was a waste of time, money and trees.

It’s a bit like when we get our salaries or wages in Australia – we are no longer paid in cash (well most of us aren’t).  Our salaries and wages go direct into our bank accounts (direct debit) after tax and from then on it’s like lions to the Christians at feeding time while anyone and everyone gets in for their bite of your take home pay that you really don’t take home at all.  From what I can find out by doing a little research, the unions traded off our rights to be paid cash weekly for other goodies (not sure what they were). 

We pay tax on our salary or wages and then almost everything we buy or every service we use charges us another tax on top.  I was under the misguided impression (an idea implanted by politicians before the instigation of the GST) that I would be so much better off with a GST.  My tax burden out of my salary would lessen and I would only pay GST on whatever I chose to buy or use that had a GST attached.  They forgot to mention that practically everything I would buy or every service I would need to use had a GST component to legally add to the total price.

I remember when I used to receive each week a little envelope with details handwritten on the outside of gross pay, tax and net pay, and inside the envelope was money, comprising of notes and coins.  Holiday pay was the most exciting because you received ‘holiday loading’ which meant you received a handy sum extra for being on holidays.  That must have been one of the things traded off over the years because I can’t remember the last time I received holiday loading.  Now when you go on holidays you just get paid as per normal, week-by-week or fortnight-by-fortnight, or month-by-month to your bank account so that you don’t run behind with your extra taxes they are expecting from you.

But getting back to petrol – apologies for wandering off down another track.

In the 12 months to February 2008 the price of petrol in Sydney increased from $1.06cpl to $1.46cpl – this constitutes an increase of 40cpl or 37.7%.  The GST component increased from 9.6cpl to 13.3cpl or 38.5%.  During the same period the average weekly adult earnings increased by only 4.8%.

I’ve been keeping a little record of what I’ve been paying for petrol over the last couple of months in Sydney.  I usually fill my car once a fortnight although now I have relocated for work and travel an extra 60km a week to the office I have to face the fuel pump more frequently. 

In the middle of August unleaded petrol cost $1.42.9cpl.  Prior to paying that price I purchased a couple of tanks of 10% ethanol unleaded at 3cpl less than the going price for unleaded.  This fuel is supposed to be okay for most vehicles however my Hyundai Sonata Classique 2001 model didn’t run well on it at all, either with smoothness of driving or kilometres per litre.  So I opted out of using the cheaper fuel because I figured it wasn’t worth the risk of damaging my vehicle for 3cpl less.

The first week in September unleaded fuel was $1.47.9cpl and 2 weeks later had dropped to $1.45.9cpl.  I should add here that I buy fuel on the days in the week when there is that window of opportunity to buy for anything up to 20cpl less than on the other days of the week.  I also choose to purchase frequently from a Woolworths’ service station using shopping dockets or a Woolworths’ fuel card. Therefore at times, fuel on bad days (most of the week) was selling upwards to $1.60.0cpl for unleaded in service stations that did not offer any shopper discount.  I feel for those that shop at Woolworths and don’t own cars because they are paying more for everything so I can get 4cpl off my petrol.  But dare I say I am selfish?

The first week in October fuel was costing me $1.43.9cpl and 12 days later $1.46.7cpl. 

Today, November 4, 2008, I paid $1.24.9cpl at a service station that gave no discounts.  I figured after the hikes of the last year I was a winner paying in reality $1.25cpl (we don’t have 1 and 2 cents as legal tender anymore so anything priced with odd cents is either rounded back to the nearest 5 cent or forward to the next 5 cents).  A little sneaky tax of it’s own where either the giver or the receiver wins out.  However, if you pay by credit card or debit card you are charged whatever the price is regardless of the total ending in odd cents.  So by using your cards you lose out every time and it pays to be very careful that you end off your fuel dump with a legal amount as all those extra cents add up over time.

Anyhow that’s the price I paid today.  I noted various prices in the 50kms that I travel home from work.  The price I paid was the cheapest for unleaded that I saw – the only service stations with a cheaper sign were charging a little less for 10% ethanol unleaded.  And that’s another beef I have.  Many service stations have done away with displaying an Unleaded price.  They have the 10% Ethanol up as Unleaded (and in small print after Unleaded you can just see +10% Ethanol).  So, if your eyes aren’t too good, or the sun is in your eyes on approach, you would pull in thinking you were getting a bargain, grab the Unleaded nozzle and go for broke before you realise that you are paying at least 3cpl more than the sign said.  You look up and note that weenie little +10% Ethanol and the air turns blue as you mouth your dissatisfaction at having been duped because you only read the word Unleaded and the cost per litre.

Hasn’t it been proven that the majority of people who can read only need to read bits and pieces of the written word to understand what they are reading?  Once again, clever marketing manipulation by the oil companies in their continuing endeavours to rip us off.  And of course they would reply to any objections that it’s all good as it will force people to change over to 10% Ethanol without even thinking about it.  As usual there is little consideration for people who own older cars that don’t run well on that fuel.  Oh of course, we all need to buy new cars so we can keep the motor industry alive and well.  Forget about debt; it’s part of life and everyone should be doing their duty by having a new car that runs on 10% of green fuel.  Dang you would think I would have enough brains to know that, wouldn’t you?

Over the last number of weeks there has been a continual backlash against the Government and the Oil Companies for what everyone knows has been a total rip-off of the motoring public of NSW and every other state in Australia.  The price of oil has dropped sharply and yet we have been paying more for our fuel since it dropped than we paid when it reached prices inconceivable to most of us.

Perhaps all the bad publicity and the moral debates and the very real financial hardships that so many Australians are facing has finally made the power brokers and the string pullers pause and ponder.  Perhaps they have finally realised that without Mr and Mrs Sucker Out There they will soon enough be wondering how they are going to cope with a future with much less cash and assets around their fat rears. 

If we aren’t able to buy fuel or anything but ordinary foodstuffs, if we aren’t able to travel for holidays or take our children to the movies, out to dinner (even to McDonald’s) then the fat cats are going to start hurting.  Taking into account that many of them have most likely either never known what it’s like to go without, or it’s been so long ago they have forgotten, their hurt will be even worse than ours.  I think it’s called sweet revenge and payback and what goes around comes around – oh and reap what you sow.

I leave my thoughts and impress on the reader that they are my thoughts and I’m entitled to them and make no apologies for them. :)

© Vena McGrath October 2008  

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