News National Petrol bowser pain flows for some time yet

Petrol bowser pain flows for some time yet

Josh Frydenberg is taking a former constituent to bankruptcy court over a $410,000 legal fee debt. Photo: AAP
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Motorists face pain at the bowser for some time yet as petrol prices top $2 a litre in some parts of the country.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has warned fuel prices will remain elevated as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has declined to say whether he is prepared to cut fuel excise to help households.

Petrol prices are destined to set further new records following a spike in world oil prices to about $US130 a barrel this week.

“It is the expectation that oil prices will remain elevated for sometime as tensions remain across Europe,” Mr Frydenberg told the ABC on Thursday.

There is speculation the government will be forced to cut fuel excise of 44 cents a litre to help keep cost of living pressures down in the run-up to the May election.

But Mr Frydenberg was not going to get into the “rule-in, rule-out game” just a few weeks out from the March 29 budget.

“That money goes to transport infrastructure and that is important in all our cities and all our regional towns,” the treasurer said.

His comments came a day after Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe warned the rate of inflation could reach at least four per cent, well above the central bank’s two to three per cent target.

Such pressures are due to rising global oil and commodity prices as a result of the war in Ukraine, and rising food prices locally due to the floods on Australia’s east coast.

The current annual inflation stands at 3.5 per cent.

And there could be further agony for households with Dr Lowe saying an increase in the cash rate is plausible this year.

Still, the number of people employed continues to grow, albeit at a slower annual pace when compared to a year ago.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show payroll jobs grew 0.8 per cent in the fortnight to February 12 and were 1.8 per cent higher than a year earlier.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said the 1.8 per cent annual growth rate was just over half of that seen in the corresponding period a year earlier, when it was running at 3.2 per cent.

The data comes ahead of next Thursday’s full labour force report for February.

The RBA and Treasury are forecasting a fall in the unemployment rate to below four per cent later this year — a level not seen in almost half a century — and to remain there in 2023.

The jobless rate currently sits at a 13-year low of 4.2 per cent.

Commonwealth Bank economists are expecting the jobless rate fell to four per cent in February, a level touched twice in 2008 under Kevin Rudd’s Labor government, but has never been lower, according to ABS figures stretching back to 1978.

CBA also expect 40,000 people joined the workforce in February.

Despite his warning on interest rates, Dr Lowe is yet to be convinced current price pressures will remain and believes “sustainable inflation” can only be assured if wage growth accelerates to three per cent.

Current wage growth at 2.3 per cent, as measured by the wage price index, is still only where it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said while some jobs are attracting pay rises much larger than three per cent, the evidence is that most working Australians are still experiencing base wage increases of no more than “2-point-something per cent”.