Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is convinced that Kiwis are being “fleeced” when they pay for petrol.
“As a moral stance, I think New Zealanders are paying too much,” Ardern said.
With motorists paying close to $2.50 a litre for petrol in many parts of the country, it is understandable that the issue is back in the headlines, and that the Government wants to be seen to be taking action.
The problem is, the action being taken is to ask the Commerce Commission – effectively the referee on whether consumers are being ripped off – to investigate. These studies tend to take around a year.
If Ardern is already convinced that a rort is taking place and Energy Minister Megan Woods believes the market is “broken” as she said in May, why are they bothering to investigate?
Not only is the Government is putting immense pressure on the independent competition regulator to give it the answer it wants, Ardern may be stalling for time because her Government does not know what it will do to fix the problem.
Of course they don’t know what it will do to fix the problem. They’ve not had a working group yet!
But the Government’s urgency has a rich irony. Ardern has described climate change as New Zealand’s “nuclear free moment”.
Her Government seen fit to crack down on the oil exploration industry, ending new offshore permits, purportedly as a means to take action.
But the reason the climate is warming is not because fossil fuels are being extracted, it is because people are burning them.
If Ardern was really serious about tackling the issue, surely she would do something about demand.
Leaving aside whether the petrol companies are making too much profit, the best way to get Kiwis to drive less is by ensuring they pay more.
But on Monday, Ardern’s “moral stance” was that Kiwis are paying too much to do the very thing she surely believes threatens the planet.
If Ardern had the courage of her convictions she would be welcoming the higher petrol prices and tell New Zealanders to give up their cars for the greater good.