West Como Service Station
WEST COMO SERVICE STATION
Mr DOWNY (Sutherland) [6.12]: I raise an issue tonight on behalf of a small businessman in my electorate. Alf Bargwanna runs the Shell service station at West Como. It has been run by the Bargwanna family since 1952 when Alf's father moved from the inner city to Como to establish a workshop-service station. Nineteen years ago when Alf's father passed away the service station passed into the management of Alf and his two brothers. Today Alf runs the service station by himself. In many ways the service station and the three or four shops at the shopping centre are a focal point for the community of West Como, where I live. During the bushfires in January 1994 Alf played an important
role and the service station became a rallying point for the community. Alf stayed behind to protect his service station when other residents were evacuated. He feared that if the fires came too close to the service station the disaster could have been even worse. Once the fires had subsided Alf offered much assistance to the residents of the area and his efforts were recognised by the community. He received awards from local service clubs including the Premier's community service award.
Like thousands of small businesses in Australia, Alf Bargwanna is a great employer of people. He employs eight local people at the service station. I am disappointed and annoyed when a person such as Alf Bargwanna receives advice that seriously affects the viability of his business. At present he operates his fuel selling operation with a margin of 2.5¢ a litre. In an effort to increase the profitability of his business he offers other services. He sells third party green slips on behalf of QBE Insurance. In early May he received a letter from the insurance company stating that it would withdraw his third party compulsory insurance subagency. This was the second part of the double whammy because the week before he had received a facsimile message from Shell informing him that all manual sales vouchers sourced from Shell cards without access to the Shell-issued EFTPOS machine were going to attract a charge of 40¢ a voucher. The service station did not have sufficient sales to justify having EFTPOS machines. Alf believes the decisions of the two companies will cost him $130,000 a year in turnover. This small business is being put under pressure by two large companies. In many ways it makes a mockery of the Prime Minister's statement of a few weeks ago that we have never had it so good. Many small businesses are finding the going really tough. The last thing they need is decisions being made by large companies which threaten the viability of small businesses.
Alf Bargwanna and his family have been part and parcel of our community since 1952. He has built up a business and created business for QBE Insurance and for Shell and its products. He now has to make decisions about the future of his business. I bring the matter before the House knowing that it is not necessarily possible for the Government to overcome the circumstances mentioned, but honourable members should understand that this small businessman who employs eight local people and provides a service as part of the local community, through no fault of his own has the viability of his business threatened through the actions of two large companies. It is about time that large companies such as QBE Insurance and Shell took into account - [Time expired.]
Mr AMERY (Mount Druitt - Minister for Agriculture) [6.17]: The matters raised by the honourable member for Sutherland come under a number of authorities. My experience over the last couple of years with the Insurance Council of Australia is that it has been able to resolve a number of problems following representations about a number of insurance companies. The matter of QBE Insurance withdrawing or threatening to withdraw its green slip business from the service station could be raised with the Insurance Council of Australia. I would recommend that organisation. I will have the matters concerning Shell referred to the Minister for Consumer Affairs. It is a matter that the Trade Practices Commission may wish to be notified of and to investigate. I note the matters raised and will see that they are appropriately referred.