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Australia wakes up to the great gas rip off, AWU calls for bipartisanship

September 15, 2020

The Australian Workers’ Union campaign to guarantee affordable gas for the manufacturing sector and all Australians, has finally been listened to.

Six years after the AWU officially launched the Reserve Our Gas campaign, this week the Morrison Government announced it will act on the gas crisis.

High gas prices as a result of Australia’s uncontrolled gas exports have put Australian manufacturers to the wall and are threatening hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

The AWU has been demanding action for years.

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said the announcement was finally the kind of decisive move the union had been pushing for but added it was vital it was now acted on.

“This plan – if fully implemented – will finally restore Australia’s gas wealth as a boost to Australian manufacturing instead of a millstone,” Mr Walton said.

“Most of these announcements are positions the AWU has been pushing for years and we are extremely pleased to see them advanced by the government. Now we need to see those plans come to life. There is no time to waste.

“The vital thing the Federal Government’s plan recognises is that Australia’s natural gas wealth should be powering jobs in Australian manufacturing. This is fundamentally what we have been campaigning for since 2014.”

The AWU warned the then-Abbott Government that Australian industry and consumers were going to be hit with catastrophically energy prices if LNG exporters were given free rein to ship Australia’s gas overseas without making provision for domestic use.

High gas prices have continued in Australia, despite a global price crash – something that ACCC Chair Rod Simms has called out as a market failure in need of correction.

The Morrison Government’s plans include developing a new gas hub in Queensland to link five gas fields and a new pipeline to move gas south to Sydney and Melbourne. It has also promised to build a gas power plant in the NSW Hunter Valley if the private sector does not step in. A new gas fired plant will provide stability to the grid, lower prices and help firm renewable energy as it comes online.

Mr Walton said: “The Morrison Government’s plan stops short of the reservation scheme the AWU has been pushing for, but if done properly it could achieve most of the same ends for our manufacturing sector and the quality jobs it should support.

“It has been nothing short of a policy disgrace that foreign customers have been getting access to Australian gas under a better deal than Australians. Global prices have fallen, and yet the profiteering in Australia has continued. This disgrace should now end. We need the government to get serious about fixing this broken market and getting cheaper prices through to Australian manufacturers and households.

“For years Australian manufacturing has been crying out for relief on ludicrously uncompetitive energy prices. We have seen thousands of Australian manufacturing jobs shipped offshore and many thousands more on the brink.

“This is the final chance for multinational gas companies to stop overcharging Australians for their own gas. If they don’t play ball – the government needs to enact its reservation powers and force them to. Simple.

“What we need now is for Labor to enthusiastically get behind this plan and remove any impediment to it becoming law.

“We need Australian natural gas to shore up our energy supply today and support the transition to a clean energy future tomorrow. Renewable energy requires something to firm and stabilise it and gas is the perfect solution to that problem. The government’s plan would achieve this and and anyone who wants to see an Australian manufacturing jobs boom should back it.”

The AWU will continue to work with the Government to push ahead for a gas reservation policy and secure more low cost gas for Australian use. Australia remains the only gas exporting nation in the world that doesn’t keep some gas at home for domestic use.

With new gas projects being considered in Victoria and NSW, it’s vital that Australia develops an East Coast Gas Reservation policy so that this extra gas supply stays in the east coast and delivers cheaper gas prices.

The AWU has helped shape government policy through its role on Manufacturing Taskforce, which has been directed to get Australia’s economy back on track post COVID-19.

The Australian Workers’ Union needs your support to secure the future of Australia’s manufacturing sector. Join your union today.

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