House debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Corio Electorate: Viva Energy Geelong Refinery

10:02 am

Photo of Richard MarlesRichard Marles (Corio, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

The Viva refinery in Corio forms part of my earliest memories. I grew up nearby it and I can remember driving back to Geelong and seeing what was then the red-and-white smokestack of the Shell refinery. When you saw it, you knew at that moment that you were home. I remember genuinely thinking, as a child, at night-time when I saw the thousands of lights which illuminated the refinery, that it was some fairy kingdom. This is an institution which is very much a part of Geelong's culture. It's been there since 1954. But, in a contemporary sense, the refinery is very central to our local, state and national economies. It supplies half the liquid fuels of Victoria. It's one of the three remaining refineries on the east coast—the largest—and one of four in Australia when we consider the BP refinery in Kwinana in WA. It contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy and employs 700 people at the site at Corio.

It also is really central to the petrochemical industry in Victoria, an industry that is critical for the nation. LyondellBasell, a plastics manufacturer, has a site at the Corio refinery, and Qenos, another plastics manufacturer in the west of Melbourne, is also very central to that industry. Both of those companies are very dependent on the supply of product from the Viva refinery in Corio and the Mobil refinery in Altona. LyondellBasell makes a lot of the plastics for food packaging. Qenos makes harder plastics for items such as garbage bins, pipes and water tanks. But they're also really important companies in terms of giving the country a national capacity in relation to the circular economy, the recycling of plastic. Were those companies to go, our ability to deal with waste plastic in this country would be significantly limited. Those companies, along with the four refineries in this countries, including the Ampol refinery in Brisbane, form something of an ecosystem. And that is the point. If we lose any one of them, we potentially lose all of them.

The coronavirus crisis has given us a real sense of what it is to have sovereign industrial capability in this country. It is hard to think of a capability that goes more to our sovereignty than the ability to refine fuel. Indeed, it goes right to the heart of our national security. We must have the capacity to refine fuel in this country in order to fuel our economy, so it's really important that this government makes sure that this is an industry that survives. We know that we are much the poorer for the loss of the car industry because of this government. The Morrison government must stand with refineries. Labor does. We need to see that the Liberals do as well.