Abbott/Turnbull Government Has Sat On Its Hands Over Fuel Security

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has accused the Turnbull Government of sitting on its hands over fuel security, with our nation having been non-compliant with the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation since March 2012.

The Turnbull government today announced it would undertake a National Energy Security Assessment due to concerns over declining domestic production, diminishing refining capacity and concerns over potential flashpoints I the Middle East and South China Sea.

MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said that while the Government is running the line that the last National Energy Security Assessment was in 2011, the truth is that a number of inquiries and reports have touched on the important issue of fuel security.

“The Senate has held inquiries into both fuel security and flag-of-convenience shipping, while the Energy White Paper and Defence White Paper also investigated our increasing reliance on foreign fuel,” Bray said.

“Unlike the Abbott/Turnbull Government, the MUA has continually led the debate on fuel security in recent years but this has fallen on deaf ears with the number of Australian-crewed tankers now down to zero.

“There are now no Australian-crewed tankers supplying fuel to our nation, down from 12 in the year 2000. At the same time, the number of refineries has halved to four. This means we now import more than 90 per cent of our fuel and that number is rising.”

Engineers Australia told the fuel security Senate inquiry in 2015 that Australia's total stockholding of oil and liquid fuel comprised two weeks of supply at sea, five to 12 days' supply at refineries, 10 days of refined stock at terminals and three days at service stations.

The NRMA’s figures indicated that Australia only retained enough fuel in stockholdings to continue delivery of chilled and frozen goods for seven days, dry goods for nine days, hospital pharmacy supplies for three days, retail pharmacy for seven days, and petrol stations for three days.

“All of these doomsday scenarios have been heard before yet the Government expects us to believe the trigger for an emergency has only just occurred – they are playing us for mugs.

“Australians would expect our Government to have a better plan and this would involve more refining here and Australian-crewed ships to carry it around the coast.

“This isn’t only a matter of fuel security but also national security. Unlike Australian seafarers, foreign crews have no background checks yet they are carrying petroleum products, ammonium nitrate and LNG around the Australian coast,” Bray said.

With the nation facing heightened concerns over fuel security, the MUA has reminded the Australian community that the cost of hiring Aussie seafarers to move fuel around our coast averages out to less than one cent per litre at the bowser.

“It is also true that unlike the United States, in a time of national emergency, the Australian Government has no means to use an act of Parliament to second ships to a merchant navy. There is also the added problem that there are very few Australian-flagged and crewed ships.”

A copy of the Senate Inquiry Report can be found here


Media Contact: Darrin Barnett: 0428 119 703