Government watches on while fuel theft reaches $5 million per year in Victoria  

Melbourne, 19 October – The Victorian Government’s response to industry recommendations designed to curb retail fuel theft has been given a mixed reception from the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC).

The Victorian Government Response to the Report of the Law Reform, Road and Community Safety Committee Inquiry into Fuel Drive-Offs outlined the government’s answers to eight recommendations developed by the retail fuel industry. According to VACC, it did not fully deliver. 

VACC Executive Director, Geoff Gwilym, said that the Chamber, which represents almost 300 independent retail fuel business owners in Victoria, was supportive of the efforts of all stakeholders to bring about a positive outcome, but noted several concerns. 

“While the retail fuel industry is pleased that several recommendations were given ‘support in full’, other recommendations were given short shrift,” Mr Gwilym said. 

“VACC also notes that none of the recommendations have been given time lines, or instruments to track change or performance.” 

Recommendations supported by the government include Victoria Police improving its compliance with the 2013 Instruction to investigate fuel drive-offs, which will see Victoria Police formalise this instruction in the Victorian Police Manual; and Victoria Police being asked to conduct six-monthly stakeholder forums. 

“These recommendations are welcome, but VACC sees little value in manuals and talk-fests when really what is required is firm action according to Victorian law, and that is that stealing goods from a business is a crime that should be punishable by the full force of applicable laws. 

“Some of our members lose up to $5000 a month through fuel theft. This is a serious criminal matter, not a civil one. But because fuel theft is considered to be a civil matter small business owners have to go through the court system every time somebody steals $70 worth of fuel. That is untenable. 

“VACC understands that Victoria Police is under-resourced, but if the Victorian State Government and its police force are serious about protecting innocent business owners, why then is fuel theft not considered a crime?” 

VACC has stridently called for the complete removal of the pre-payment of fuel recommendation. This action is likely to put many small fuel retailers, that local communities rely on, out of business. 

VACC supports the sharing of stolen number plate data with industry security systems, but asks for tight time lines around this and other recommendations.

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