10 March, 2017
Courtesy of the Herald Sun
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is calling for Australia’s natural gas to be kept here to protect manufacturing jobs.
As a looming energy shortage threatens widespread power blackouts and the viability of local industry, Mr Shorten is demanding Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revisits longstanding national policy on reserving Australian gas for domestic use.
His call comes after energy giant AGL warned the eastern states could run short of gas as early as this year.
Mr Turnbull yesterday announced a crisis meeting with gas chiefs after the energy market operator yesterday warned of blackouts.
But Mr Shorten said Australia had to “immediately” look at all viable options to secure domestic gas supply, otherwise it would spark the loss of thousands of jobs.
“The gas crisis facing Australian businesses and households is real,” he said “It beggars belief Malcolm Turnbull has done nothing while this crisis has escalated.”
Gas demand from manufacturing has doubled in two years, while Australia is on track to become the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas. The gas industry has long opposed reserving supplies for domestic manufacturing, saying it would discourage investment in the resources sector.
But Mr Shorten said establishing a national interest test would make sure any future gas exports would put local jobs and households first. “Of course Labor won’t jeopardise Australia’s reputation as an LNG exporter,” he added.
Mr Turnbull instead called on state governments — in particular Victoria — to lift bans on gas exploration.
He said the Australian Energy Market Operator’s report about the potential shortfalls in gas and the pressure it would place on the electricity market was “very concerning”.
“That’s why I’ll be urgently calling the chief executives of the east coast gas companies together, to explain how they plan on addressing this threat to their customers.”
He said rising power prices were damaging Australian businesses’ competitiveness: “Policymakers have put ideology and politics ahead of engineering and economics, introducing large amounts of variable energy without the necessary storage and transmission infrastructure.”
In Victoria, the Andrews Government this week passed new laws extending a moratorium on conventional onshore gas until 2020.
AWU state secretary Ben Davis said Victoria needed a gas reserve policy.
“If you export more gas, prices will go up. We have warned about this for three years,” he said.
Energy Networks Australia chief John Bradley said Victoria’s policies, including extending the gas moratorium, undermined energy security.