9 September 2005





No Pokies MLC Nick Xenophon has challenged the State Government to use little-known powers under the State’s Prices Act to demand answers from major oil companies, and if necessary, to fix the price of petrol.

Under section 9 of the Prices Act 1948 the Commissioner for Prices has sweeping powers to force companies to open their books, to produce any documents and to answer any questions either orally or in writing. Under section 10 the Commissioner has the power to enter premises and to seize documents as part of any inquiry.

Section 21 of the Prices Act gives the government the power to: “Fix and declare maximum prices in relation to the sale of declared goods”, with further powers to fix “differential maximum prices” that “may apply throughout the State or in specified parts of the State”.

Mr Xenophon said the Government should instruct the Commissioner to give an “ultimatum” to oil companies to “open their books and explain within fourteen days why the price of crude oil has gone down, but the price of petrol at the bowser keeps going up".

Mr Xenophon said “any inquiry carried out by the Commissioner should also demand answers from Exxon-Mobil, the owners of the mothballed Port Stanvac Oil Refinery as to their intentions on the plant, and to establish the impact of petrol prices if the Port Stanvac facility was re-opened”.

There are many industry insiders who believe the government was a mug when it signed up to allow Mobil to mothball it’s plant for at least three years without giving a commitment what its long-term plans would be. This is a company that has made over $32 billion dollars in 2004 in profits worldwide.”

“Industry insiders tell me that re-opening the Port Stanvac storage facility of 500 million litres would have a dramatic effect on stabilising and keeping fuel prices down. Given that South Australia uses 8.5 million litres of fuel per day (with the whole nation using 85 million litres) Port Stanvac has the potential to become Australia ’s strategic reserve of oil to provide a buffer against fuel supply fluctuations.”

 “The legal advice that I have received this morning from a barrister that specialises in Trade Practices law is that the Prices Act does not fall foul of the Commonwealth’s Trade Practices Act – indeed section 51 of the TPA specifically allows for State laws such as the Prices Act to operate in the context of the Trade Practices Act.”

Mr Xenophon also challenged the Premier to act quickly using the sweeping powers of the Prices Act to protect consumers. “Motorists are currently under siege with petrol prices – that is why it is appropriate to use the sweeping post war-time powers under the Prices Act”.

 “My challenge to the Premier is that if you can take on outlaw motorcycle gangs, it is about time you took on big oil companies that countless motorists feel they are being fleeced by”.

Mr Xenophon foreshadowed that introducing a resolution in State Parliament calling on the State Government to use powers under the Prices Act to force oil companies to open their books, and to introduce legislation to force the re-opening Port Stanvac’s fuel storage facility.


Written and authorised by Nick Xenophon, 653 Lower North East Road, Paradise, SA 5075