Petrol prices are going up: Yay!

I watched SBS's Insight on Tuesday this week. It's a discussion programme and this week's episode was about petrol prices. You couldn't find a more shameless group of rent seekers than the majority of the people commenting during the programme. They all want to be given government help to cope with petrol price rises.

The independent owner-operator truckies were loudly whinging about prices, calling for petrol excise to be removed. This is the group that enthusiastically embraced casualisation of the workforce, accepting risk in return for a slight improvement in profits. I have one suggestion for you: your costs have gone up, raise your prices! It doesn't take an economic genius to work it out now, does it? If you don't want to take on the risk of being an owner-operator, become and employee and form a union.

The student who travels hours each day to drive from her farm to university and work, spending $120 a week on petrol, I have a suggestion. $120 a week would get you a room in a half-decent flat share in any city in Australia. It might not be in the salubrious suburbs of Sydney but a flat in, say, Strathfield, would be fine. Petrol prices aren't going down, so you need to consider it. If you managed to get rid of the car completely, add another $5,000 to your annual housing and transport budget.

The price signal clearly isn't working. SUV sales up to May were up and I haven't noticed any decrease in the number of giant vehicles on the road. It seems to finally be kicking in though. Perhaps if the CSIRO's prediction of $8/litre happens, people will finally work it out.

The calls for reduction or removal of petrol excise are from the same kinds of people who would scream if other taxes were increased to pay for it. Here's the problem: petrol excise and vehicle registration pays for a small fraction of the full cost of road transport in Australia. If we had a true user-pays system, the excise would be going up, not down.

Removing excise and putting the burden on all Australians would penalise those of us who made sensible decisions about housing and transport, paying more to live closer to our workplaces and using public or petrol-free transport. I'm sick of subsidising you lot, so quit the moaning.

And, of course, we're all subsidising the road freight industry. They pay a tiny fraction of the costs they incur on our road infrastructure, to say nothing of the pollution. When Carlton United Breweries relocated their brewing from Sydney to Brisbane, how do you think all the (high volume, high weight, low value) beer gets to Sydney? That's the kind of behaviour we need the price signal to prevent!

Roll on $8/litre.