Wrestling at the bowser

Posted: May 16, 2008 in Uncategorized
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There are times when life under the current Australian government seems a bit like a professional wrestling match – but with poorer scripting and much harder hitting. Take the time they announced the intention to impose a new tax on petrol prices. Talk about the bad guy knocking us off our feet with a wild blow from behind!

It was proposed last year that a new tax be created on petrol prices at the pump, with the proceeds being passed to the oil companies. Whammo – a Flying Frog Leap off the top rope just flattened us once more.

In retrospect, it probably shouldn’t have come as any surprise that this government is happy to play kissing cousins with the oil companies. It was a then Treasurer by the name of John Howard who introduced us all to the joys of petrol pricing parity back in the late 1970s. Australia was even less reliant on international oil supplies back then than it is now. Domestic petroleum could be pumped and processed cheaper than purchasing on the international market. With international prices higher than domestic ones, it made good business sense to sell offshore in pursuit of the Holy Dollar.

Petrol pricing parity meant that the oil companies could now price their domestic products at the higher international prices, free from censure. Sure – that helped ensure adequate supplies for the local market, but what a gift to the oil companies – an opportunity to really jack up the pump prices. Cynics might have wondered how many campaign contributions this resulted in. Not that I would ever express such a jaundiced view (cough cough).

Now we come to the present day. Petrol prices have been climbing with the international market being cited as the cause. The poor Australian oil companies paint themselves more as powerless victims than anything else. I am yet to hear any of them remind the world that they are not entirely dependant on international supplies. In short, blaming the international market as the sole cause of increasing prices is a crock. Bammo – a Clothesline has just hammered us into the canvas.

In the meantime, Johnny Howard and Pete ‘Non-core’ Costello have had a brilliant revenue windfall. Increasing pump prices have pushed up GST returns from petrol sales, way beyond what was anticipated or budgeted. Are we seeing any of this windfall being directed back to things such as schools or hospitals? Not that I can see. Alternatively, here is a source of funds that could be directed to research making alternative fuel technologies more efficient and a real substitute for fossil fuels. Doesn’t look like that’s happening either. Hmmmm.

“But we must do something,” says the government gestalt. So in recognition of the need to take some sort of action to address long-term concerns about fossil fuel dependency, a whole new petrol tax was proposed. We’ve just been picked up, hurled around the ring in a wild Aeroplane Spin and tossed over the ropes!

This new taxation revenue was to be handed to the oil companies. Supposedly, this was going to promote research into more efficient uses of fossil fuels. Yeah sure – and let’s give the alcoholics the keys to the breweries for safe keeping while we’re about it. And before anyone starts accusing me of being insensitive towards alcoholics, I am one. What about more funding to think tanks and research institutions into alternatives?

Now the astute reader will have noticed that my rant has been mainly written in the past tense. This is because our beloved leaders swiftly retracted the proposal. I suspect that this occurred in response to the immediate public outcry. Maybe some common sense even seeped into Parliament Hill. Maybe.

The question still does beg to be asked – just how silly do you think we are Mssrs Howard and Costello? Did you ever think for a moment that the Australian public was gullible enough to believe that such a tax was justifiable in the current circumstances? Or are you just working up to laying us all out on the canvas for the final count?

One thing is for sure – this government has made it clear that they intend to keep on playing patty cake with the oil companies.

At least the professional wresting gives me the odd giggle.

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