Petrol prices climb to four-year high in Australia

In the last three months, prices have risen by 7 per cent, and by almost 10 per cent in the last financial year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in its latest quarterly report on the Australian petroleum market.

Of the capital cities, Brisbane motorists paid the highest prices for 18 out of the last 24 months — compared to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth

Regional motorists paid about 4.4 cents per litre more in the 2017-18 financial year.

“The major factors driving higher prices were an increase in international crude oil and refined petrol prices, and a lower Australian-US dollar exchange rate,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.

“The OPEC [Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries] cartel in particular continues to have a damaging effect on Australian petrol prices.”

In late-2016, the OPEC nations — which include Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq — and Russia (a non-OPEC producer) agreed to cut oil production by 2 per cent (or 1.2 million barrels a day), responding to a global supply glut which put downward pressure on oil prices and their profits.

Brent crude prices surged above $US50 per barrel immediately afterwards — and are trading higher today at $US72.17 a barrel at 1:50pm (AEST).

“This restricted supply into the market, which has clearly started to bite through steadily increasing petrol prices in the past financial year,” Mr Sims said.

Average retail petrol prices in the five largest cities

“A weaker Aussie dollar has also increased costs for wholesalers buying petrol for the Australian market [in US dollars], which flows through to consumers who pay for this at the pump.”

Since hitting a high of 81.1 US cents (on January 26), the Australian dollar has steadily fallen as low as 72.37 US cents in mid-August.

Furthermore, the ACCC said petrol retailers are charging high gross margins for petrol, more than 50 per cent higher than their 16-year average.

The ACCC noted that average gross retail margins hit a record high in 2017-18.

“Current gross retail margins in the five largest cities are now over 50 per cent above the 16-year average since the ACCC began tracking this data,” Mr Sims said.

Breakdown of petrol price components

Petrol @134.5 cents/litre Cents/Litre Percentage
International refined petrol price 20.4 15
Taxes 52.7 39
Other costs & margins 61.4 46

Source: ACCC/FUELtrac/Platts/RBA