'Outrage' at North Coast fuel prices

DRIVERS are spending almost 20 cents per litre more for petrol on some parts of the North Coast than they are in Sydney, according to an NRMA report.

NRMA motoring and services director Wendy Machin said while crude prices had fallen more than US$25 a barrel during the past three weeks, motorists on the North Coast had seen practically no fall in local petrol prices.

"This is an outrage," she said.

Petrol price monitoring by the NRMA revealed that on Tuesday, August 5, petrol prices in Sydney had dropped as low as $1.44 cents a litre, while some towns on the North Coast were paying average prices above $1.60

Ms Machin said prices on the North Coast should be at least 10 cents a litre cheaper on average and should continue to fall as crude oil prices fell.

Lennox Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack was in Sydney yesterday and said the petrol price difference between regions was obvious.

"The difference really is quite bizarre," she said.

"In reality we should be cheaper because of petrol shading resulting from petrol subsidies in Queensland (where unleaded was yesterday selling for as little as $1.33)," she said.

"This price difference hits our region particularly hard because it is rich in lifestyle and poor in income.

Ms Cusack said she could understand consumers' distress at the petrol price hike and praised the NRMA for monitoring the industry.

"There is so much denial around rising petrol prices, and the fact the NRMA is gathering evidence and have been so strong on this issue is really good," she said.

Ms Cusack called petrol a 'grudge purchase' because people did not get a lot of enjoyment out of it but had to buy it. She said this made the price rise even more frustrating for consumers.

"This price rise isn't like the price rise for bananas after the cyclone, because with bananas people could substitute them with another fruit and understood why the price went up," she said.

"With petrol you can't substitute it with anything and it's hard to understand the reason for the rise."

On Thursday the NRMA wrote to the Petrol Commissioner Pat Walker and demanded he take action against the oil companies for their discrepancies in prices along the coast.

"The North Coast is sick of the oil companies and their dubious behaviour. It's time Mr Walker cracked the whip and demanded stronger powers," Ms Machin said.

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