“Fill Her Up”

By Geisha Bar

A long time ago, in a society far, far away you drove in to the “Service” Station and said, “Fill her up”. A colloquialism for “fill my car up with petrol”, the nice man would feed your car, check the oil and wash your windscreen…. Times have certainly changed, these days you “service” yourself at the station and they no longer “service” cars. In fact the only reason they sell petrol is to draw patronage for their core business as a convenience store cum deli.

Not that petrol is some cheap loss leader, not by a long stretch. This week in Perth the average price for unleaded petrol was 1.45 per litre, 1.50 is only an Israeli missile away and $2.00 will arrive when Hamas hit Tele Aviv. Your average service station owner gets a measly 2 to 4 cents per litre no matter the retail price and usually has a landlord for more terrifying than any terrorist, namely a global oil company, Coles or Woolworth’s. That’s why they hope you buy chocolates, chips, CD’s, phone cards, muffins, toilet paper, bread, milk, books, mags, stuffed toys or an arts degree when you purchase fuel. The petrol station is essentially a 24-hour deli with no small goods and considerably higher rent…they certainly aren’t the road pirates in the great petrol price pillage.

So who is profiting from the great petrol incline…let me see…The oil company gets approx 49% of the bowser price for producing and supplying the product, the Federal Govt get 28% as excise for producing and supplying nothing, the State Govt gets 10% fuel tax for producing and supplying nothing at all, the Federal Govt double dips for another 10% GST for producing and supplying nothing more and the Service Station proprietor get a princely sum nearly 3% for his hard labour.

Australia imports only 17% of the refined oil we require but as soon as any Jew and Arab starts grappling over a vegemite roll in the holy playground our petrol price sky-rockets. The Bulgarian Stock market blinks, our petrol prices fly, Michael Gardiner opens a driving school, petrol prices rise, “Play School” celebrates its 40th Anniversary and grim faced oil executives deliver the bad news…”Due to Play School’s longevity petrol prices must increase.”…

Please don’t speak to me about OPEC world parity pricing agreements or any other flaccid rooster rubbish, the oil companies are a powerful oligopoly who whilst not colluding openly (that’s against the law you know) show an uncanny knack for knowing when their competitors are about to increase the price and matching it with impeccable accuracy. (Watch Easter and Xmas fuel prices each year.) Corporate responsibility went out of fashion with Ministerial responsibility years ago and the Oil Companies really only have a legal obligation to their shareholders (and Mike Moore), so making money is their sole priority.

Conversely Govt’s at all levels are elected to represent the community and on this issue both the Federal and State Govt’s are criminally culpable of delving their greasy snouts into the oily trough. Govt taxes and inaction are responsible for our astronomical petrol prices and every time the oil companies raise the price the Govt smiles knowingly as their coffers over flow with filthy, oily lucre…. Why don’t the Govt reel in the oil companies? I don’t know…what do you think?