Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he understands that motorists are hurting because of rising petrol prices, an issue which he has discussed with people as he moves around the country.
Nonetheless, sympathy has not won any friends for the government. A recent Nielsen poll showed that 56 per cent of voters were dissatisfied with the PM’s handling of the petrol problem. 78 per cent also wanted the Government to take more action to bring fuel prices down.
Out of those questioned, two-thirds want the federal government to cut the tax on fuel – a move which the Coalition is supporting (despite year’s of opposition when in power). Only 22 per cent supported Labor’s FuelWatch scheme.
“(This) is why in this Budget there is a $55 billion support package for working families, which is why we have embarked on a course of action in relation to fuel efficient cars and which is why … we have developed a longer term policy paper on the question of fuel and energy policy for Australia,” he said today.
Mr Rudd again reassured motorists that fuel prices are not set by governments, but by global factors.
“This is a global problem, we have the greatest global oil shock in 30 years which is reverberating across every economy in the world but we have a plan going forward,” he said.
“I think we have always seen FuelWatch as … a modest measure to deal with greater power for consumers in a difficult environment, which is produced by a global oil shock,” he said.
“It’s one modest measure and we have never sought to describe it as much more than that – remember the savings that we indicated were possible under that were something like 1.9 cents per litre. What we are talking about worldwide are massive fluctuations in price, tens and tens of cents a litre brought about by this global oil shock.”
The Australian government is sending a representative to an emergency meeting of oil producers and consumers in Saudi Arabia this weekend.