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Canberra motorists squeezed on cost of fuel

Petrol prices continue to soar.

Petrol prices continue to soar. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

Petrol prices in Canberra have sat at five-year highs for more than nine weeks and Canberra motorists are likely to spend more than $100 more on petrol during the the year compared with the average road user, according to analysis of petrol price data.

Pump prices in the capital have been steady at 157.8¢ per litre and then 157.9¢ since mid-July, despite fluctuations in both the metropolitan and regional average prices, data from the Australian Institute of Petroleum shows.

In the same nine weeks, the national average price has bounced between lows of 149¢ per litre and a high of 158¢. The regional price has fluctuated from a low of 154.3¢ to a high of 156.9¢.


Price data for the year shows Canberra has had regular periods of steadily high petrol prices, largely above the regional average, and usually the third-most expensive capital behind Darwin and Hobart.

University of Canberra economics professor Phil Lewis said a combination of Canberra's perceived affluence and a lack of competition meant oil companies were free to set a higher price than in other cities.

''The way monopolies behave is they charge the highest prices in those markets where people can afford it,'' he said.

''So Canberra has a much higher income per head than, say, Sydney or Melbourne, and so therefore people are willing to pay the higher prices.

''With petrol, you have to buy from where you are. So you can actually have cheaper prices in Sydney, higher prices in Canberra, and the thing is, you can't move from one market to another.''

Based on 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for average car use in Canberra and average fuel consumption, the average ACT motorist has paid about $2126 for petrol so far in 2013, at an average price of about 152.6¢ per litre.

The same amount of unleaded fuel would have cost $80 less at the national average price of 146.8¢ per litre, and more than $120 cheaper at average Sydney prices of 143.9¢.

The disparity has been creeping up since 2010, when petrol prices in the capital ended the year almost on par with the national average.

In 2011, Canberrans paid an annual fuel bill about $20 more than the national average, and about $80 more in 2012.

At the current average prices for 2013, Canberra motorists are likely to have an annual fuel spend of $2990 - $110 more than an equivalent amount of fuel at the national average price, $170 more than Sydneysiders, and about $185 more than motorists in Adelaide.

Motorists in Darwin would pay about $3100 during the year for the same amount of petrol.

In the week leading to last Sunday, the average retail price of unleaded fuel in Canberra was 157.9¢ per litre, compared with 156.8¢ in Goulburn, 156.4¢ in Queanbeyan, 161.3¢ in Yass, and 154.4¢ in Sydney.

The last time Canberra had a run of petrol this expensive was through the middle of 2008, when crude oil prices peaked globally, and the pump prices in the ACT stayed above 158¢ per litre for nine weeks in June and July, hitting a high of 168.6¢.

Analysis from economists at Commonwealth Securities predicted the price of fuel nationally would likely fall about 3¢ per litre over the coming week.

Professor Lewis said the growing dominance of supermarket chains and discount deals in metropolitan areas allowed the big brands more control over prices and forced competition out of the market.

This had contributed to increased cost-of-living pressures for lower-income earners in Canberra, Professor Lewis said.

According to the Environment and Sustainability Directorate, there are 55 service stations in the ACT, most under the banners of either Shell, Caltex, BP or 7-Eleven.

On Thursday, Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury will introduce legislation to the Legislative Assembly calling for service stations to display actual fuel prices, not discounted prices, on their sign boards.

The government has indicated it is unlikely to support the bill.


  • We earn too much, we are a captive market, no one really complains or does anything about it. This article is the rare exception that we can comment on it to voice any sense of outrage.

    What will happen tomorrow? Nothing - this is fish wrapping reportage and the crude price drop won't be passed on in any real way.

    Outraged of Palmerston
    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 7:57AM
    • Outraged, maybe you earn to much.

      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 9:32AM
    • Wish it was the case!

      Outraged of Palmerston
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 10:32AM
  • Exactly! I could understand paying $1.65+ in 2008 as barrel prices were US$160 a barrell, and the AU$ wasabout 80c. When the AU$ was around parity (+ or - some), and barrell prices were under US$100 a barrell how is it we are staying with such high prices. I'm not talking 5 or 10c here or there, I think we should be paying 30-40c less than we are now on the basis of these prices!
    When i can get 98RON fuel in Campbelltown for less than Canberra's price for E10 - under $1.50/L - it is the only place to fill up on the way back from Sydney. We are getting jipped here!

    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 8:59AM
    • challenge you to find 98RON in sydney (or campbelltown for that matter) today below $1.60

      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 10:02AM
    • Well pointed out there. I don't think the price statistics reported in this article tell the whole picture either, and seem a bit "soft" to me.
      Every time I have to drive west, I can buy diesel cheaper at Hay, and every other servo I use too, than I can in the ACT. Every last one. Howcome?
      Same with the 98 RON that I use in the family sedan. Like yourself, I can buy it cheaper in Sydney then the cost of that dreadful E10 stuff here.
      This article is not "news". It is simply rehashing something that every motorist in the ACT is well aware of - we get royally shafted for fuel (along with nearly everything else in the ACT) because we are percieved as being stupid and affluent. I dispute the second part.
      And don't forget folks, when the government wrings its hands in sympathy, and creates a petrol commissioner to tell you how much you are being dudded by (that WE are also paying for), it is the government who is taking the lion's share of the price paid at the pump. They are OIL ADDICTS, hooked on the unjustifiable revenue grab. I wouldn't mind so much if the money went to improving road safety (a real sore point), licencing (a running joke), and the search for fuel alternatives, but it all goes straight into consolidated revenue - thanks for nothing.

      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 10:44AM
  • Hmmmm, that's a differential equivalent to one tank of petrol over 52 weeks...hardly worth the 'chip wrapper' it's written on really.

    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 9:14AM
    • That's more than three tanks' worth of petrol over the year for my little Starlet.

      But yes, your point is well made. I remember the days of outrage when petrol started creeping up over $1 per litre.

      Prices rise. Suck it up. If people need to drive they'll pay for it. If they dont need to drive, they'll start driving less. Everyone will have a tipping point.

      His Lordship
      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 11:21AM
  • that's the joy of living in the Nations Capital - getting gouged for everything under the guise "higher income per capita". Just gives these corporations free license to charge what they want, neither government doesn't give two hoots because its all too hard.............

    Date and time
    September 19, 2013, 9:26AM
    • Give it a few months when the sacked public servants pack up and leave, there's nothing like an oncoming local recession to knock a few cents off the price of fuel as the economy staggers and demand drops.

      Date and time
      September 19, 2013, 9:47AM

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