Big oil makes easy tar­get for PM

Bay of Plenty Times - - NATION -

When the Prime Min­is­ter tells us that we are be­ing fleeced by the petrol com­pa­nies, you are see­ing a very de­lib­er­ate move by a cal­cu­lat­ing politi­cian.

That is in con­trast to the talk of kind­ness and wav­ing of ba­bies that we saw for ex­am­ple in New York.

That is in con­trast to the broad smiles and kind words we hear at the prime min­is­te­rial drop-ins to var­i­ous schools around the coun­try where she re­ceives blan­kets for the afore­men­tioned child.

None of this is bad, but it is a re­minder that she is as much politi­cian as she is new age kum­baya cheer­leader.

Her go at the price of petrol is raw pol­i­tics and easy point-scor­ing.

Not that many will dis­agree with her, and that is part of the plan. In sid­ing with us, she sides with most of us, she picks an easy tar­get, the big ugly face­less cor­po­rates that deal in those hor­ri­ble fos­sil fu­els, so not only are they de­stroy­ing the planet, they are rip­ping us off along the way.

But, the ques­tion re­mains, as it did when Ju­dith Collins pulled out the same trick at the tail end of the Na­tional gov­ern­ment — hav­ing fired the salvo, hav­ing laid down the ac­cu­sa­tion, what now?

Ju­dith, of course, launched an in­quiry (very Labour) and it came up with next to noth­ing.

The mar­ket wasn't work­ing all that well, but then there wasn't ac­tu­ally a lot you could put your fin­ger on, so that was that, as in­deed it was al­ways go­ing to be.

Petrol com­pa­nies are not rip­ping us off or rort­ing us or fleec­ing us. Petrol com­pa­nies are oper­at­ing the way most com­pet­i­tive busi­nesses op­er­ate.

They charge what the mar­ket will bear for their prod­uct.

That mar­ket varies de­pend­ing on where you are, how many play­ers are in that mar­ket, how far from the pro­duc­tion of the prod­uct you are.

It also takes into ac­count spe­cials and deals and dis­counts.

In other words it a highly vari­able set of cir­cum­stances that varies widely on any given day in any given lo­ca­tion in any given city or in­deed in any given neigh­bour­hood.

There are apps that tell you where to buy, where to save, where the deals are.

There are end­less com­pe­ti­tions and in­cen­tive pro­grammes for you to save if you want to.

And that is part of the prob­lem in tak­ing a very broad-based over­ar­ch­ing view of an en­tire mar­ket­place and av­er­ag­ing it out and sug­gest­ing we are be­ing fleeced.

Not un­like the bag of sugar you bought. Did you buy it from the dairy, the su­perette or Count­down?

Was it on spe­cial? Was it a lossleader?

Did you get fleeced or did you pay what you thought you might pay?

Your con is an­other man's con­ve­nience.

And that is the prob­lem the Prime Min­is­ter has bought into when she lays her charge.

Her an­swer is the Com­merce Com­mis­sion. Just what is it they're go­ing to do? Launch a fleece hunt?

If they can do it for petrol, what else is in line? Are we be­ing ripped off on cars, or out­door fur­ni­ture, or toi­let pa­per?

Of course this looks a bit like a de­fence of big oil which it isn't.

I've got a 5 litre su­per-charged en­gine, I put 98 in, it costs $200 to fill, no one hates fill­ing up more than me. But, is this a scam? No it is not. This is busi­ness do­ing busi­ness with a huge va­ri­ety of vari­ables, not least of which is the amount of tax the Gov­ern­ment is rort­ing us on. You want an in­quiry? Launch one into that.

Mean­time all we are re­ally deal­ing with is hav­ing to pay for an es­sen­tial at more than we have pre­vi­ously, and we don't like it.

But not lik­ing some­thing is not be­ing fleeced. I re­spond to the re­cent ar­ti­cle by Brian Rud­man (Opin­ion, Oc­to­ber 6) which in part con­tained crit­i­cisms of me when I was deputy leader of New Zealand First, some 10 years ago.

He ac­cused me of rant­ing, but I am not one for rant­ing.

I be­lieve pol­i­tics is about mak­ing peo­ple aware of con­cerns then rea­son­ably and ra­tio­nally de­bat­ing the mer­its or oth­er­wise.

Rant­ing does not get one any­where, least of all in pol­i­tics.

To clar­ify, I em­i­grated to New Zealand be­cause I found it to be a fan­tas­tic coun­try when I vis­ited as a Mer­chant Navy of­fi­cer. I loved it then and still do. I can hon­estly say I have given my very best shot for this coun­try.

I am a firm be­liever that im­mi­grants should come here to a job, be in good health, be crime free, speak rea­son­able English and be pre­pared to in­te­grate into our so­ci­ety.

There could be some ex­cep­tions, but they would be few.

Mr Rud­man and I have never met and al­though at times I was in­ter­viewed on TV, I never, ever ranted.

Thus I as­sume he got his in­for­ma­tion from a me­dia re­lease I is­sued in April 2008.

My open­ing state­ment in that re­lease re­ferred to the folly of our then “open door” im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy.

How­ever, since then the Im­mi­gra­tion Act has been rewrit­ten in its en­tirety.

I was on the Se­lect Com­mit­tee which did much of the ground­work, but the act was fi­nally passed in 2009 when I had left Par­lia­ment.

Fur­ther, of re­cent years I un­der­stand there have been sev­eral changes to the rules and reg­u­la­tions around im­mi­gra­tion.

All of this has tight­ened im­mi­gra­tion and given New Zealand more abil­ity to se­lect who should come in on a per­ma­nent ba­sis.

So, per­haps it could be said that as a re­sult of my con­cerns be­ing made pub­lic things did change.

My ad­vice to Mr Rud­man is to look at what is hap­pen­ing in The sur­vey on fuel prices (News, Septem­ber 10) shows Gull to be among the cheap­est petrol avail­able. Peo­ple seem un­aware that while Gull maybe at­trac­tively priced, all fu­els are not cre­ated equal. Gull un­der­cut the com­pe­ti­tion so forc­ing its com­peti­tors to match its price, but with its Gull Force 10 sell a less ef­fi­cient prod­uct.

Gull Force 10 98 Oc­tane petrol is blended with 10 per cent ethanol; its 91 oc­tane is not blended with ethanol. Ethanol con­tains less en­ergy than pure min­eral petrol, and so you won’t get the same mileage out of a tank­ful of Gull Force 10 as you would out of a tank­ful of say BP. Re­search by the Au­to­mo­bile As­so­ci­a­tion found that Gull’s 10 per cent blend to be 8 per cent less ef­fi­cient than pure min­eral petrol. If you are pay­ing say $2.30 a litre for pure petrol, then the Gull price should be $2.116.

I have yet to see Gull sell­ing at this sort of dif­fer­en­tial. Per­haps the Prime Min­is­ter should have Gull in for a “chat”!

Also, the AA rec­om­mends (as do man­u­fac­tur­ers) that ethanol-blended fuel not be used for marine and avi­a­tion pur­poses, and that you con­tact man­u­fac­tur­ers or re­tail­ers of small ma­chin­ery prior to us­ing ethanol-blended fuel in lawn­mow­ers, chain­saws and gen­er­a­tors etc.

The Gov­ern­ment has a re­spon­si­bil­ity, as do the me­dia, to make sure the pub­lic are in­formed that the fuel price is not nec­es­sar­ily an in­di­ca­tor of value for money. Per­haps ser­vice sta­tions should be re­quired to dis­play an ef­fi­ciency in­di­ca­tor. Richard Prince Tau­ranga There’s not been much news re the Bella Vista de­ba­cle lately. Just a word of en­cour­age­ment to the home­own­ers to stay strong. There is strength in unity! A. Palmer

For­mer NZ First MP and Deputy Leader Peter Brown.

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