Cynical petrol prices and Judith Collins | The Jackal

8 Sep 2017

Cynical petrol prices and Judith Collins

The Minister of Energy and Resources, Judith Collins, isn’t very happy that fuel prices have increased right before the election. Clearly this undermines National’s claims that everything is just fine and dandy, and there’s no need to change the government.

With most people’s wallet’s being emptier these days, Collin’s has been trying to gain public support by waging a fake war on petrol companies. That’s because the cost of petrol, with the government taking a whopping 66 cents per litre in fuel excise tax, is a very touchy political subject. National knows from experience that mishandling the cost of petrol debate could hurt them at the polls.

There is no question that most households and businesses are affected by fuel prices. This also means the economy is directly linked to the commodity of petrol. So of course the National party has to look like they give a damn about how hard people are being hit in the pocket at the pump.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

Energy Minister accuses petrol companies of 'cynical' price rise around school holidays

Energy Minister Judith Collins is accusing the fuel industry of "cynical" price changes, as a battle brews over the accuracy of official data.

On Thursday Collins revealed she had written to fuel companies formally registering her disappointment at recent price increases.

While she said she did not have evidence to accuse the fuel companies of collusion, Collins said the companies were quickly matching each other on price movements.

Earlier this year Collins ordered a report into the fuel market. Shortly before the study - which warned prices may be too high - was released, official figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) suggested fuel margins plunged.

So Judith Collins and MBIE got the timing of the reports release slightly wrong. If what has been claimed is to be believed, the report caused petrol prices to decline in June, and not August and September when the most could be politically gained from the reports release.

The price of petrol is a very powerful political tool. For instance, in 2008, a huge increase in the cost of petrol right before the general election was used by John Key and the National party to undermine the Labour led government.

In 2008, Scoop reported:

2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

John Key MP National Party Leader

Well, I’ve got a challenge for the Prime Minister. Before she asks for another three years, why doesn’t she answer the questions Kiwis are really asking, like:

Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?

Why, under Labour, do we only get a tax cut in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?

Why hasn’t the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?

Those are the questions on which this election will be fought.

Strangely enough, after nine long years of a National led government, most of those questions can still be asked. For instance, why are grocery and petrol prices still going through the roof?

The main reason for the current changes in the price of fuel is because New Zealand imports around half of the oil it requires and since mid June the Brent crude price has gone up from $46 USD per barrel to around $54 per barrel. That's a 17% increase within three months.

Much of the rise in oil pricing is due to fears over supply because of a threat of another war. But some of the increase is also because of the falling NZD against the greenback. But those facts haven't stopped the National led government trying to grandstand over increasing fuel prices.

In June, Stuff reported:

Inside New Zealand's mysterious fuel price plunge

The AA and Gull say the big petrol companies are only offering low prices because of the imminent release of Fuel Market Financial Performance Study findings - which they have not seen.

The petrol companies, who have also not seen the report, say prices are low because of international price drops.

AA's petrol price spokesman Mark Stockdale says those two factors are not enough alone to justify the sharp drops.

"The AA monitors commodity prices and exchange rates because these are the things that petrol companies say lead to changes in the retail prices.

"It is good that prices are down, but our monitoring shows it is not because of what the commodity prices and exchange rates show.

"It is very unusual for us to see fuel companies cut prices by more than the reduction in those costs."

Energy Minister Judith Collins said the study into rising petrol prices, conducted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, would be completed by the end of June.

Clearly whatever measures the National party have employed in the past to decrease or increase the cost of petrol at the pump right before an election haven’t been enough this time round.

Even with Judith Collins’ calculated release of a study into rising petrol prices to try and manipulate companies into charging less wasn’t enough. The increased cost of oil has overpowered Collins’ crude market manipulations.

This is yet another blatant attempt by the National party to trick people into believing that they actually give a damn about the rising cost of living. They don’t, and that’s another very good reason to change the government at this election.