THE Commonwealth government should consider a public takeover of Geelong oil refinery, rather than offer more taxpayer subsidies, the Maritime Union says.

Nine News reported comments from Viva Energy CEO CEO Scott Wyatt who said “extreme pressures” were forcing Viva to entertain shutting down the refinery.

“The impacts of COVID-19 and the restrictions on mobility and the economy are putting extreme pressures on the refining business that we have not experienced before and are not sustainable over the long term,” Mr Wyatt told Nine.

The Geelong plant supplies around 10% of Australia’s liquid fuel needs, processing up to 120,000 barrels of oil a day, one of four domestic oil refineries still in operation.

MUA Victorian branch secretary Shane Stevens said rather than provide further subsidies to Viva Energy, there should be an examination of taking public ownership of the refinery.

“There is no question that keeping Australia’s four remaining oil refineries in operation is much better than further increasing our reliance on imports of refined petroleum products, but that doesn’t mean handing over millions of dollars in subsidies to private companies is the best option,” he said.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how vulnerable Australia’s supply chains are, demonstrating how quickly a pandemic, conflict, natural disaster, or economic shock could cut essential supplies.”

Mr Stevens said Australia’s fuel security was increasingly precarious.

“The federal government must build the resilience of this vital supply chain by increasing domestic storage and refining capacity as well as taking control of how liquid fuels arrive in Australia,” he said.

“Australia’s complete reliance on foreign owned and operated tankers to deliver oil and refined petroleum products has made the nation extremely vulnerable. “Addressing this requires the creation of a strategic fleet of Australian owned, flagged, or crewed tankers capable of maintaining supplies of oil and refined petroleum products in the event of a crisis.”

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