Politics Analysis

You might be warm and cookin' with gas… if only it wasn't 95.7% foreign-owned!

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The cost of living is through the roof, as gas prices make it hard for Australians to keep warm this winter. Labor needs to stand firm against foreign interests and reserve domestic supply. Dave Donovan looks at how we got to this cold, dark place.

AS WINTER BITES and power prices spike, an incoming Federal Government looks again at the thorny issue of whether Australia should have a gas reservation policy.

Gas reservation, in case you aren’t aware, is the term for quarantining an adequate amount of LNG and other gas production to sustain our domestic demands. Currently, Australia is perhaps the only nation in the Western world that doesn’t reserve some of its gas supplies, despite being the second biggest global gas producer and the world’s biggest exporter of this fossil fuel.

A gas giant! But one who can’t even top up their own lighter, without paying through the nose for the privilege.

Why is this the case?

Well, a part of the reason is that both major parties – Liberal and Labor – have steadfastly refused to implement a gas reservation policy for the last 20 years ever since gas supply became an issue.

The more interesting question is why both the majors haven’t acted sooner.

Sooner, that is, if you dismiss Malcolm Turnbull’s so-called “gas trigger” legislation of 2017 something that has never been invoked and probably wouldn’t work anyway.

As new Labor Energy Minister Madeleine King said in a press conference after the Federal Cabinet met last Thursday:

“It is a long, complicated, convoluted and ineffective mechanism that takes a very long time to produce results.”

She might as well have been talking about the former Prime Minister. Turnbull has been out gasbagging this week about what the current Government should do, a faded prince who seems to spend every spare moment trying to burnish his lacklustre image.

But at least he tried. Kind of.

Despite never achieving anything at all effectual when it comes to climate change or energy policy, it should be noted that his feeble attempts were enough to cost him his job in 2017, to smirking coal tosser Scott Morrison.

So, the incoming Labor Government has inherited an energy policy mess. And nowhere is it more of a clusterfuck than when it comes to gas policy. Of course, it is a mess partially of their own making.

One of the few Labor ministers who retained their portfolios during the RuddGillard years, from 2007 to 2013, was then Energy Minister Martin Ferguson.

Ferguson successfully fought against any efforts to overturn the policies of his Howard Government predecessor, Ian "Chainsaw" Macfarlane, Energy Minister from 2001 to 2007, and impose a gas reservation scheme for the nation.

Colin Barnett, WA Liberal Premier from 2008 to 2017, was one leader who did manage to impose a gas reserve scheme in his state albeit a modest 15% despite profound opposition from many sides:

I argued with the then Federal Minister Ian Macfarlane and the Labor spokesman, who I think was Martin Ferguson, that they needed to put in place a gas reservation policy or they would face critical problems in future years.

 

Ian Macfarlane just condemned me up hill and down dale.

 

In international oil and gas conferences he said I was a wrecker.

 

He was supported by the mainstream media who said this was a hillbilly policy which would destroy the economy.

 

Now, 16 years later, we see what the reality is.

When Martin Ferguson announced his retirement from politics on 30 May 2013, then Opposition leader Tony Abbott shed tears in Parliament in a moving speech lauding this noble Labor lord of the free-market and fossil fuel industry.

“If I may use the phrase, the member for Batman [Martin Ferguson] is Labor Party royalty,” the former director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy gushed.

He continued:

“I have in times past somewhat slightingly referred to the hereditary peers of this Parliament. I regret that I did so. I should not have made light of the tradition of service to party and country which the member for Batman and his family has represented for several generations.”

Supposedly non-dynastic Labor has often been undermined by its quislings and duly lost power under the second incarnation of Rudd, on 7 September 2013.

On 1 October 2013, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) made the following announcement:

‘APPEA is pleased to announce that Martin Ferguson AM has accepted the newly-created position of Chairman of the APPEA Advisory Board.’

The WA division attempted to expel Ferguson from the ALP in 2014 for his constant attacks on his former party since leaving politics but failed. He remains a member of the Australian Labor Party.

In February 2016, Ferguson’s predecessor, “Chainsaw” Macfarlane announced that he would not be recontesting his seat at the forthcoming 2016 Federal Election, which was held in May that year. In September 2016, the Queensland Resources Council announced his appointment as its CEO.

You are intelligent people ─ you read Independent Australia. I don’t need to tell you what is going on here, you know it all too well.

And so now we have a gas crisis, which is just a by-product of the fact we have allowed fossil fuel producers to write our energy and climate change policies since the Howard years. Turnbull did try to buck the trend, albeit weakly, but then Rupert Murdoch flew in from New York to topple him and install Scott Morrison as PM.

Rupert Murdoch, of course, is an oil man

But it is even worse than even that, alas.

Yesterday, the Australia Institute released a study that shows, shockingly, that 95.7% of our LNG production is foreign-owned:

‘New research reveals the companies profiting from the $62.5 billion LNG industry exporting Australian gas – a key driver of shock domestic gas prices for households and business – are on average 95.7% foreign owned.’

And there you have it, in a nutshell, why Australia has never been allowed to develop a credible climate change policy. Why we pay through the nose for natural gas that we produce in abundance.

It’s because the people who own everything, even our politicians and policymakers, have decided Australia is a quarry and a well.

We aren’t allowed to make anything anymore, nor even produce our own cars. Or have any sort of heavy manufacturing industry, apart from munitions no other nation wants to build. Or even keep heating costs down for people struggling to pay their bills, by reserving some of our abundant of gas supplies for domestic consumption.

Our job is to supply the global market and to hell if we freeze.

Let’s just hope the new Albanese Government does not sell out the Australian people, as we have become accustomed to our governments, of both stripes doing, time and time again.

IA founder David G Donovan writes a regular weekly column on Tuesday mornings. Follow Dave on Twitter @davrosz. Also, follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus, on Facebook HERE and on Instagram HERE.

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