The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has renewed its call for the Turnbull Government to take seriously the issue of fuel security with United States military strikes in Syria potentially increasing the likelihood of a significant supply shock from the Middle East.
Australia is a signatory Australia is a signatory to the International Energy Agency (IEA) International Energy Program Treaty, a key requirement of which is that member countries hold oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days’ supply.
However, Australia has been non-compliant since March 2012 and energy experts agree that the Syria conflict should at the very least cause the Turnbull Government to rethink its energy strategy.
Government backbenchers including the former chief of operations for coalition forces in Iraq, Jim Molan, and former member of the SAS, Andrew Hastie, have raised concerns about fuel security.
MUA Assistant National Secretary Ian Bray said the union has continually led the debate on fuel security in recent years but that this has fallen on deaf ears in the Turnbull Government with the number of Aussie-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,” Bray said.
“A Senate inquiry into fuel security in 2015 heard that Australia's total stockholding of oil and liquid fuel comprises of two weeks of stocks at sea, 5 to 12 days of supply at refineries, 10 days of refined stock at terminals and 3 days of stocks at service stations.”
“A substantial disruption in fuel supply would have serious consequences across the Australian community when it comes to delivery of food, medicine and running family cars on our roads.
“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.
“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.”
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.
Former Liberal senator Bill Heffernan in December 2015 warned that Australia's security was being put at risk because of dwindling fuel supplies and urged the Government to address the problem.
A copy of the Senate Inquiry Report can be found here: