Petrol prices jump 40c as school holidays end

Can somebody – anybody – explain how the setting of petrol prices works in this country?!

Yesterday as my family and I returned to the Gold Coast from a short staycation over the border in the northern NSW coast, I noticed that petrol prices were sky high. They hovered between $1.55 and $1.60 per litre – until we crossed the border, that is, and they dropped sharply to just $1.25.

I made a mental note to fill up on the school run this morning. And that’s precisely what I did, pulling into a Caltex at 9am, where I scored ¾ of a tank of fuel for $1.215 per litre.


As I walked back to my car, the ink on my receipt barely dry, I noticed that the price per litre being advertised on the massive street signage had changed. In the time it took for me to walk inside and pay, it had leapt to $1.635 per litre.

It had jumped a whopping 42c per litre!

I double-checked my receipt, which confirmed I had filled my car’s belly with 43 litres of E10 at the cheaper price.

Multiply 43 litres by 42c and that’s a difference of $18!

I thought of the friendly checkout operator who had just served me; She’s about to cop an earful, I thought.

I understand, in basic terms, that petrol prices rise and fall based on supply and demand and global market prices for crude oil.

I don’t understand how a switch can be flicked and fuel can become more than 30% more expensive, just like that.

I’m clearly not the first person to be perplexed by this.

A quick google search reveals a statement from the government, which offers a vague explanation: “International prices for petrol, as with other commodities freely traded on the world market, are set by supply and demand factors, rather than production costs.”

It also states that gross margins in the fuel game run at only 3 or 4 cents a litre.

It’s all a little too complicated for this basic brain to comprehend.

For anyone smarting because they missed the discount fuel, this ACCC guide might help you strategise for a better deal next time.