With revelations Australia's fuel reserves have fallen to half the safe level, the Turnbull Government needs move urgently to bring more oil refining onshore and boost the number of Australian-crewed ships to carry it.
Australia is a signatory to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) International Energy Program (IEP) Treaty. A key requirement under the Treaty is that member countries hold oil stocks equivalent to at least 90 days of their prior year’s daily net oil imports. Due to declining domestic production and increased demand for liquid fuels, Australia has been structurally non-compliant with the stockholding obligation since March 2012.
The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and the Australian Workers' Union (AWU) are today warning that with tensions escalating with North Korea, Australia is vulnerable to a catastrophic disruption to fuel supplies.
"It is deeply disturbing that Australia has only 45 days' worth of oil in the country during a time of potential conflict in the South China Sea," said Paddy Crumlin, MUA National Secretary.
"The Turnbull Government had allowed refineries to close and the number of Australian-crewed fuel tankers to decline to zero under its watch.
“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. This means we are entirely at the mercy of market forces when it comes to fuel supply.
"Any substantial disruption to Australia's transport fuel supplies would have a significant impact on safety, national security, national productivity and society.
“Australia’s fuel supply has been held hostage by a cartel of international oil giants who have progressively destroyed our refining capacity. This has left us dangerously exposed to international market forces that send oil to the highest bidder."
AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said fuel security was now a critical concern.
"Australia is now disturbingly reliant on foreign-owned fuel tankers travelling through the South China Sea, which we know is a highly unstable area," Mr Walton said.
"If a conflict breaks out we would see the supply of everything – food, medicine, supplies – shudder to a halt. It doesn't bear thinking about.
"The fact is we don't need to be this precarious. The Turnbull Government could easily bring more refining onshore. This would shore up our national security and provide quality employment in the process.
“Just like Australia’s other energy crisis – gas – the government needs to intervene to protect our national interest."