Damp conditions for the delayed remainder of qualifying raised hopes of a mixed-up grid, but in the end the pole shootout took place on slicks on a nearly-dry circuit, and it was the champion team that prevailed.
Vettel put himself a second and a half ahead of the field with his 1m27.407s lap when he produced it.
Webber looked poised to beat it until a mistake at the penultimate corner left him 0.420 seconds adrift. Vettel was improving further on his next lap before pitting when it became clear he was unbeatable.
Lewis Hamilton kickstarted Mercedes' season with third on the grid, 0.6s off Vettel's pace.
That was three places higher than team-mate Nico Rosberg, despite the German having been the class of the field when the track was wet. He comfortably topped Q2, having also flown in Saturday's Q1.
The Ferraris split the Mercedes, Felipe Massa outqualifying team-mate Fernando Alonso by 0.003s to grab fourth place.
Row four will be filled by the Lotus pair, Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Romain Grosjean.
Paul di Resta got as high as second for Force India early in Q3 when intermediates were still the best choice. But on slicks he was pushed back to ninth, ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, the first man to come out on dry tyres in the pole segment.
Several drivers had tried slicks in the final minutes of Q2, but this move proved premature.
While Button immediately returned to intermediates, his team-mate Sergio Perez persisted with slicks and found himself 15th on the grid for his McLaren debut.
Having looked a likely top-five man on intermediates, the slick move left Jean-Eric Vergne only 13th, albeit ahead of inter-shod Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Valtteri Bottas discovered slicks made no difference to Williams's plight in 16th, while Nico Hulkenberg's Sauber and Adrian Sutil's Force India had the right tyres but were still squeezed back to row six.
AUTOSPORT Australian GP coverage:
FP1 FP2 FP3 Qualifying Race Gallery Live commentary Official quotes