House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Matters of Public Importance


4:14 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | Hansard source

The member for Bonner started his remarks in this MPI by saying his government was taking action, but I think we know that this government is missing in action. And it is lovely, I have to say, to see the crossbench, with this MPI today, bringing forward a topic that I have spoken about in this chamber many times before and which we agree is a serious and important issue. But unfortunately the government, or at least most of the government—I know there's a spattering of members over there that agree with us—isn't actually taking this issue seriously, because under the Morrison government petrol prices are skyrocketing, real wages are going down and working families are going backwards, and this is a government that is doing nothing to resolve any of these things.

Back in 2011, Australia had a liquefied fuel reserve well over the 90-day International Energy Agency requirement. But, over the last 10 years, Australia's seven fuel refineries have dwindled down to just two. This approach is certainly leaving Australia vulnerable to supply chain shocks. COVID-19 has demonstrated that such supply chain disruptions are not just a theoretical possibility. In fact, we're seeing it right now, with petrol prices going through the roof across the nation.

It's not just about supply. It's not just about jobs. It's not just about the economy. It's also about our national security, our sovereign integrity and our ability to look after ourselves. Petrol prices have risen under this government. We've seen these prices rise all over the globe. Indeed, in the last 24 hours, President Joe Biden announced that he's authorising a historic release from that nation's strategic oil reserve to help offset a surge in gasoline prices in America in the hope that this will have global flow-on effects.

Meanwhile, here in Australia, we don't have a strategic reserve. We hardly have any refineries anymore. We get our fuel through Singapore. On this government's watch, we have seen oil refineries shut down in Australia, and a rescue package had to be put in place to try and keep refineries operating here in Australia. But guess what? That didn't work either, because, under the government's plan to support refineries, we saw two refineries close. In February we saw the Altona Refinery close in the seat of Gellibrand, resulting in the loss of 150 jobs. And in Kwinana, in the seat of Brand, the biggest refinery in Australia was closed, resulting in a loss of some 600 jobs. It was not just job losses but fuel security loss for our nation as well. Retired Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn AO has been vocal on this matter for some time, criticising the Australian government's approach to ensuring national liquid fuel supply. I tend to agree with him.

As I have said, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant vulnerabilities in global supply chains, and importing more than 90 per cent of our fuel stocks now means that we are absolutely at the mercy of these overseas supply interruptions. We need to approach this not just from an economic perspective but also with a scientific, business continuity and, perhaps most vitally, military defence approach. We cannot forget that fuel access and supply is a fundamental defence industry input to defence capability. It's become apparent that many of the fundamental assumptions about our nation's security need to be revisited and, with that, the assumptions that we have made regarding our supply chains and in particular fuel supply.

The security and critical supply chain is something that can't simply be left to the market or to big business. The government needs to take a leading role to ensure our nation's ongoing security. We must safeguard our nation's liquid fuel security. Everything that moves in this country is fuelled on diesel or avgas. The WA resources industry, the one that keeps our entire nation's economy going, would literally stop without these two fuels. Yet now, without the BP Kwinana refinery, there are only five days of avgas storage in Western Australia and only three weeks of diesel. Reliant on imports, many of which traverse northern Asia, we are now without an option for refining our own from more abundant crude imports from around the globe. And the government's best solution so far is to buy a fuel stockpile but keep it in the United States of America! We need to be serious about this. We need to be backing our Aussie refineries, our jobs that go with them and our fuel networks. We need to be backing our national economy and our security. The government's been talking a big game when it comes to national security over recent days and weeks, but it is leaving us fundamentally short when it comes to our fuel security.


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