Central Queensland consumers haven’t seen much of a drop in fuel prices, despite a drop in global prices.
Central Queensland consumers haven’t seen much of a drop in fuel prices, despite a drop in global prices.

Why fuel in CQ isn't getting cheaper

CENTRAL Queensland drivers might have noticed recently that the cost of fuel was quite steady, notwithstanding substantial decreases elsewhere in the state.

Chiefly due to coronavirus, some Australian motorists are saving several dollars each time they fill up their tanks.

So why not in Central Queensland?

In Emerald, unleaded fuel cost 139.9 cents a litre on Monday, and diesel about 143.9 cents. Somewhat closer to seaboard wholesale sellers, Blackwater's unleaded was nevertheless more expensive at 145.9 cents, and its diesel also cost 143.9 cents.

Further inland at the independent Rubyvale Friendly Grocer, unleaded and diesel cost 125.9 cents a litre.

Co-owner Andrea Shawmarsh said she makes a profit with those prices.

"We don't see the need to overcharge people," she said.

"We don't want to rip people off."

RACQ spokesman Renee Smith said a global fall in demand had dropped some wholesale prices 20 cents a litre, but that was not yet reflected in the regions.

"Due to travel bans implemented because of coronavirus, planes aren't flying as much and people are using their cars less, which has drastically changed demand," she said.

"At the same time, Saudi Arabia is flooding the market with cheap oil and now the price of global oil is at a 17-year-low.

"It's disappointing to see the average diesel retail price in Emerald is only down by 3cpl and in Blackwater, down by 5cpl.

"It can take up to six weeks for movements in the oil price to be passed on at the bowser in regional areas, but we would have expected fuel prices to shift more than they currently have.

"Motorists are being taken for a ride and being ripped off when times are tough."

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims said this month that all drivers should benefit from an international oil price drop.

"Australian petrol prices are primarily determined by international crude oil and refined petrol prices," he said.

"Therefore, a sustained decrease in these prices should lead, everything else being equal, to lower petrol prices at the bowser.

"At this time the Australian economy needs all the assistance it can get, and lower world oil prices are one of the few positives from current world events."

But the ACCC explained that fuel prices are generally greater in regional locations for four reasons: first, less competition; second, lower volumes of fuel sold; third, transport costs; and fourth, less demand for and profit from supplementary products sold at petrol stations, such as food and drinks.

The first reason implies a lack of motivation to lower prices; the second indicates regional prices react slowly to global shifts; the third means a fuel delivery driver's wages and his own fuel costs must be included in the price of retail fuel; and the fourth suggests regional retailers have smaller profit margins with which to justify selling fuel for less.

An ACCC spokesman said consumers should seek out independent retailers, as they tend to be cheapest. He said data from before the COVID-19 outbreak showed that "independent chains were the lowest priced retailers in all eight [capital] cities.

"Motorists that always filled up at these independent chains would have come out ahead when it comes to petrol. Motorists who want to save money on petrol should use fuel price apps and websites.

"Consumers do not only benefit from the lower prices they find using these apps, but they also help reward retailers who actively compete on price."