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NO AMBITION: LABOR AND THE COALITION FAIL ON RESOURCES POLICY

11 February 2022

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has today slammed Labor and the Coalition for failing to advance positive policies to maximise the public benefit that can come from Australia’s natural resources. 

“The release today of the Senate Economics References Committee report on Australia’s oil and gas reserves is sadly another lost opportunity to develop a resources policy that serves Australia’s national interest,” Senator Patrick said. 

“The Committee’s report is a comprehensive examination into whether Australia has and is maximising the benefit that comes from our oil and gas resources. Sadly, it’s a report card marked with a big ‘F’ for fail.”

“Nothing says this clearer than the comparison of the benefit that the public derives from the oil and gas endeavours of Qatar and Australia. Qatar and Australia are the world’s primary suppliers of LNG, with both countries supplying very similar volumes of LNG, but with Qatar forecasting $26.6 billion in compensation for resource extraction and Australia forecasting $800 million.” 

“Australians have received little financial return from allowing big resources companies, often foreign owned, to extract and export our oil and gas reserves. At the same time, we have undermined our own fuel security.

“Significantly companies that extract and export our resources are not required to publicly disclose information such as the type and quantity of the reserves they are exploiting, nor the rate with which they are doing so. Companies are not required to fully exploit a reserve; they can walk away when extraction starts to get more expensive. There are also far too many loopholes for oil and gas companies to exploit in relation to dealing with aging assets.

“While the Labor-chaired Economics References Committee has done a good job in scoping the extent of the problem; their recommendations are very general in nature and limited to suggesting a review of the domestic gas security mechanism and supporting a diversification and transition to clean and renewable energy especially in areas like green hydrogen, with a role also for blue hydrogen.” 

“Regrettably this falls well short of what is required to guide future policy. As far as Labor and the Coalition are concerned, it appears the policy cupboard is bare.”

“What is conspicuously lacking is the ambition and leadership necessary for the institutional change needed to drive major reform and ensure that Australia maximises the benefits that flow from our energy resources.”

“In considering the extensive evidence gathered by the Committee, I’ve no doubt that the Australian Government needs to establish a new policy focal point through the appointment of an oil and gas national benefit czar.”

Accordingly, I have made additional comments and recommendations on the report which can be found here.

“Hopefully these recommendations will stimulate further debate and help guide future policy development.” 

“What a pity the major parties – Liberal, Nationals and Labor – could not advance more substantive proposals to ensure that Australians are no longer ripped off by foreign resources companies stripmining our energy reserves while failing to return anything like an acceptable benefit to our nation.” 

The full Committee report can be found here.