"Excise increases in recent years have helped maintain the real value of the Land Transport Fund. These latest increases will also achieve that, and allow for continuing investment in the Government's state highway building programme and other transport projects."

That was then-Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee in 2011, talking about the fuel excise increases that National was putting in place - a 3c a litre increase year-on-year for three years. For the latter two of those three years there was a different transport minister, you may know him now as the leader of the National Party and avid anti-fuel tax campaigner, Simon Bridges.

This Government has announced a 3.5c a litre increase, year-on-year for three years, with an additional 11.5c a litre increase in Auckland.


There's some cool differences between what National was doing with the money and what this Government plans on doing with the money. National was using it to mainly build more motorways. Gerry said so. More motorways mean more cars on the roads, that's how it works. Increase the cost of petrol for consumers so there'll be more cars on the road to spend more on petrol. Circular huh?

This Government is pouring a heck of a lot more money into public transport, so you pay more at the pump to ultimately get a far better public transport network so you don't need to take the car and there'll be fewer cars on the road meaning less spend on petrol. Less circular huh?

But that's by-the-by at the moment. Right now it's all political point scoring. "Axe the fuel tax!" bellows the National party website. "Sign our petition" they ask. Sign it and get put on the National Party mailing list so you can hear more rhyming slogans.

Cutting some kind of tax is an easy thing to demand when you're in Opposition. Especially when you refuse to say how you'd pay for the public transport improvements. In lieu of an actual response to this question, we can only assume National plans on cancelling it. I guess National want you to spend more time in your car so you'll spend more on petrol?

It all adds up to National seeming pretty keen on making sure that oil companies continue to get their share.

The Prime Minister said she believed that fuel companies were fleecing New Zealanders with their margins. The Government already has a bill being debated that will beef up the Commerce Commission to review markets it previously couldn't and so, with this in mind, the Prime Minister wanted the first one to be the fuel market. National seems a lot less keen on a stronger Commerce Commission.

At the first reading of the bill, one of National's powerhouses, David Bennett said of the Commerce Commission that "if anything, we should be limiting their ability to make reports and to investigate", while Melissa Lee was even more openly hostile of regulatory control saying "it is far too damaging to commercial interests to give an unchecked authority such as this to the Commerce Commission".

I mean if National was really looking out for the consumer, surely they'd want to "axe the fuel tax" AND get a review done of the market to make sure that we were paying a fair price, right? Not just have a go at the Government's slice while letting fuel companies charge whatever they want? Seems weird.


If this all sounds familiar it's because when National was in Government it announced they'd be looking into margins too. They asked MBIE to look into petrol prices, however Mobil and Gull refused to provide the information asked for - and the law at the time meant they didn't have to. This new law would compel them to hand it over. Without that information, National shrugged and went "ah well".

It's all so nakedly political. And this Government isn't innocent either. When this beefed-up Commerce Commission was announced, Commerce Minister, Kris Faafoi said he wanted to take the "politics out" of deciding what industries would be reviewed. Well, the Prime Minister just went and put the politics right back into it. So much for the experts deciding what markets would be looked into.

The Government has an advantage though - it can actually do something with the money. And it needs to. The amount we're paying at the pump is bloody high, and petrol taxes are an insidious regressive tax that unfairly penalise poorer people. But there will be tolerance for it if we start to see benefits from that increase. So get a wriggle on Government. Do something.

David Cormack has worked for the Labour and Green Parties and interned for Bill English while studying.