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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

DAN BIDOIS (National—Northcote): This is a fantastic opportunity to speak on the Fuel Industry Bill in its first reading. Can I just start out by saying this is another case of incompetence with this Government. Think back to 2018 and 2019 when this Government was dealing with some serious issues around fuel prices. In Auckland, fuel prices got to about around $2.30, or over $2.30 for a litre of 91. So there was pressure on the Government at the time to commit to doing something on fuel prices, so the Prime Minister came out and gave this glossy announcement, “We’re going to do a fuel market study.” And in December 2019, the Commerce Commission published that study, which recommended some of the changes that we are debating today.

But that is very distant to the New Zealand we’re faced with now, with fuel prices tanking not because of fuel taxes but because of global supply and demand for fuel, and now we’re discussing a bill that actually is quite outdated given that we faced some pressures nearly two years ago on that matter.

But speaking now to the substance of the bill, let’s talk about the fuel market and what the Commerce Commission has come out with. They’ve said that it is not competitive. Well, I disagree with that. Of course on this side of the House we adore competitiveness, and that is why the markets will reach a point at which fuel prices will be lower for consumers, and this House has already heard my colleague Jonathan Young talk about the fact that there is competitiveness in this sector. Yes, there were some oligopoly companies, large companies, but in the last few years, what you’ve seen is a whole range of regional and niche suppliers. Waitomo is a classic case—a great company supplying New Zealanders—

Barbara Kuriger: Great area of the country.

DAN BIDOIS: A great area of the country—a few Bidois’ down that way—and they are providing really low-cost alternatives for the sector.

Then there’s Gull, and I must say I’m a supporter of Gull—very, very low-cost retail prices there. And I think this reflects, actually, the general sense of other sectors in New Zealand—the fuel sector’s no different, whether you’re talking banking and financial services, whether you’re talking electricity, or whether you’re talking telecommunications. My belief is that what makes these sectors competitive is actually when you get low-cost players, whether it’s 2degrees in the telecommunications sector, or whether it’s companies like Kiwibank and the value that they have provided in the financial services, where they’ve provided low-cost banking services to the sector. Actually, what you’ve seen here is a maturity of the fuel market where there’s been an oligopoly in the past, and yet there’s low-cost providers that come in and have made a substantial contribution to that sector.

So we absolutely, on this side of the House, support competitive markets. And let me talk to you about the way we get those competitive markets in New Zealand. Greater transparency of pricing—that is something we absolutely can support and that is why we’re supporting this bill to select committee. We want to see how those wholesale prices are determined and whether there are opportunities to actually improve the transparency of pricing of fuel in New Zealand.

And then there’s the aspect of competition, which I’ve talked about, and whether we can encourage greater competition, and maybe it’s just regional competition or competition in certain cities that needs to occur, but we will look at that in the select committee process.

Chris Penk: Something to look forward to.

DAN BIDOIS: Absolutely, something to look forward to, as my colleague Chris Penk just said here.

So this is a good bill. There’s many aspects of the bill we will look forward to discussing in the select committee, and, as I said, we now face a very different situation than we did when the Prime Minister made a glossy announcement about the market study over a year and a half ago. Today, my colleague Stuart Smith has raised the point that today, 1 July, fuel taxes are going up. And I’ve got to ask this House and this Government in particular: is it in the best interests of New Zealanders that we have those fuel taxes go up? I don’t think it is, and I speak for every hard-working New Zealander out there that is facing lower fuel prices because of global demand, yet is facing increased prices because this Government wants to tax them more to then pay for projects like rail which, by the way, isn’t happening under this Labour-led Government.

So, look, we will support this to select committee, and we’ll support this because we on this side of the House see opportunities and want to find opportunities to improve the competitiveness and the competition of the fuel market sector. Where there are opportunities to do that, whether it’s increased transparency, whether it’s encouraging greater competition, we will support those measures. But until we get to select committee and hear those voices, we cannot commit further on this bill.

So it is, again, another case of the Government making a glossy announcement, doing nothing, and now we’re here in urgency discussing this law today. So we will support this bill to select committee—I commend this bill, at least to select committee, and to the House.