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AWU advocacy paves the way for package to save fuel refining

December 14, 2020

The Australian Workers’ Union’s advocacy on behalf of fuel refinery workers has led to the Federal Government announcing a plan to bring forward a new subsidy for Australia’s remaining fuel refineries.

Under the government’s announcement, there will be a fast tracking of production payments of a minimum one cent for each litre of petrol, diesel, or jet fuel produced by major domestic refineries that continue to operate in Australia.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said the government was taking immediate action to keep domestic refineries in Australia operating during difficult circumstances.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place immense pressure on our refineries and the many Australians employed in the fuel sector,” Minister Taylor said.

“We have worked closely with the sector to design and implement our comprehensive fuel security package.”

The AWU has pushed hard for assistance for some time. In September, the union commissioned a report with BIS Oxford Economics, which outlined how with strategic financial support, State and Federal Governments could intervene and save the ailing refining industry.

Led by AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton, the union sent a delegation to Canberra earlier this month to make the case that Australia can and should retain its fuel refining capacity.

Mr Walton welcomed the government’s announcement. “On behalf of the thousands of AWU members who refine fuel in Australia I commend the government for listening and for acting. Today’s announcement is a hugely important step,” Mr Walton said.

The win comes after the AWU held crisis talks with the federal government earlier this month to secure the funding in the wake of BP’s decision to close its Kwinana operations in October.

The AWU says the subsidy was necessary particularly in the wake of BP’s decision to shut its Kwinana operations in October, a decision Mr Walton says was unacceptable. “BP claims it has to shutdown Kwinana, but the reality is it’s just a preference based on the company’s commercial interest. There is absolutely no reason BP cannot continue operating Kwinana profitably with these support measures in place,” Mr Walton said. BP’s decision in October opened up the very real prospect that Australia’s entire oil refining industry could be gone within a year, however that looks to have now been averted.

While the AWU is celebrating today’s subsidy announcement and the role the union played in securing it, the battle to protect Australia’s fuel refining industry is far from over.

“Obviously the industry is highly dynamic, and we will keep working with our members, employers, and the government to ensure these policies are continuously reviewed and calibrated to ensure Australia retains its fuel refining capacity,” Mr Walton said.

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