THE Maritime Union has welcomed the Australian Labor Party’s pledge to create a government-owned national fuel reserve.
The union described the reserve as an essential step to protect Australia from natural disasters or global crisis that could disrupt oil supplies.
The union pointed out that Australia has been in breach of the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation, with figures showing Australia has 22 days of petrol and 17 days of diesel on hand.
The International Energy Agency bases countries’ stockholding obligations by averaging the daily net imports of the previous calendar year, this covers all petroleum, including primary and refined products (with the exception of naphtha and oil used for marine bunkers).
MUA national secretary Paddy Crumlin said the fuel reserve commitment, along with Labor’s previous announcement of a national strategic fleet that will include oil tankers and gas carriers, were vital steps required to safeguard the security of an island nation that is reliant on fuel imports.
“For nearly seven years, Australia has been in breach of the IEA rules that are in place to ensure member nations have the capacity to weather unforeseen disruptions to the global supply chain,” Mr Crumlin said.
“Despite countless reports warning about Australia’s lack of fuel security and the urgent need for action, the Abbott, Turnbull, and now Morrison coalition governments have done absolutely nothing.”
Mr Crumlin said Australia is the only developed oil-importing country without government-controlled stocks of petroleum. “[This] has become more of an issue as the proportion of our fuel that is imported has risen to well over 90%,” he said.
The MUA last year commissioned a report by shipping expert John Francis, Australia’s Fuel Security – Running on Empty, which found that Australia now relies on the equivalent of almost 60 full-time fuel import tankers to keep us supplied with petrol, diesel and jet fuel.
“This research concluded that the Australian economy would grind to a halt within weeks of a major crisis in the region that interrupted fuel shipments,” Mr Crumlin said.
“It also found that Australia’s reliance on foreign-flagged tankers removed any opportunity for the Commonwealth to requisition national flag tankers if necessary to secure imports or coastal distribution requirements following major economic or geopolitical disruptions.”
Mr Crumlin said the commitment that a Shorten government would both create a national fuel reserve, along with a strategic fleet that includes Australian-flagged oil tankers, provide an end to years of “political inaction that continues to put all Australians at risk”. “The public now have a stark choice between the Liberal National government, which has done nothing to address fuel security, and a Labor opposition with a clear vision for protecting Australia’s economic security by creating a government-owned fuel stockpile and Australian oil tankers to bring it here,” Mr Crumlin said.