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AWU welcomes breakthrough on Australian fuel refining

May 17, 2021

The AWU’s hard work has helped secure the future of Australia’s fuel refining industry.

The federal government has today announced a huge lifeline to keep our last two fuel refineries open, and shore up our national fuel security.

Just last week, AWU delegates from Ampol Lytton and Viva Geelong, along with our leadership team  met with senior government ministers in Canberra. The delegation called for a serious and immediate commitment to save the industry during a time of ongoing crisis.

Thankfully, this effort has been rewarded in time to save Australia’s remaining refining industry.

This guaranteed production payment will provide financial relief for the refineries in times of difficulty, to the tune of $2 billion by 2030.

The government will also provide $302 million of capital to co-invest in sulphur reduction upgrades. These upgrades will provide cleaner fuel and a longer life to Geelong and Lytton, with a capacity to convert to new technologies or fuels in the future.

It’s extremely disappointing to see so many refineries close in the past decade – including BP Kwinana, and ExxonMobil in Altona, in just the past 9 months. With more urgent action from the government, these closures could have been avoided.

As well as saving thousands of jobs, this new announcement means Australia will retain the capacity to produce our own fuel – which is critical to our national security.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown that we cannot rely on international supply chains. If we were no longer able to import fuel, Australia would have just two weeks’ of supply – and our domestic refining capacity falls well short of what is needed to keep Australia moving. Without fuel Australia would not be able to transport, feed, medicate or defend itself within days in what would be a national emergency never before seen.

The AWU has been one of the loudest voices in support of our refining industry, and in the past 12 months, we’ve ramped up our efforts. Last December, our delegates met with Energy Minister Angus Taylor, Labor Leader Anthony Albanese, and other key government figures, where we said a rescue package was critical to keep the sector alive.

AWU Delegates visited Canberra to meet with senior government ministers. 

We also commissioned a comprehensive report into Australia’s refining industry, and explained how a closure of all refineries would have a huge impact on our economy, our national security, and our very way of life.

Fuel refineries also play a critical role in Australia’s manufacturing supply chain including petrochemicals and plastics – without fuel refineries for example, Australia would be unable to recycle plastics.

Our National Secretary, Daniel Walton, welcomed the announcement. “We’ve been saying for months Australia should never become a nation that can’t make its own fuel, and that we need not reach that dire situation if we get a few policy settings right,” he said.

“Importantly for the national interest, the ongoing viability of our refineries mean the skills of highly specialised technicians will be preserved – skills that will be needed as we transition toward a future of hydrogen and renewables.

“Being able to make our own fuel is a critical sovereign capability. Without it, our national and economic security are completely at the mercy of trade routes that are threatened by potential international conflict or pandemics.”

Ampol Lytton delegate Mick Denton agreed. “If we want to be able to guarantee essential services in the event of a crisis, ensure we have cleaner fuels and more efficient vehicles into the future, and recycle plastic right here in Australia, then we need to keep our refineries going for a number of years yet,” he said.

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