Turnbull reinstates more gas for Australia in second meeting with industry heads

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Gas supply
Pipes are pictured at the refinery of Austrian oil and gas group OMV in Schwechat, Austria, October 21, 2015. Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to meet with gas industry heads to address a domestic supply crisis. The Australian leader reportedly invites companies to Canberra on Wednesday for a second meeting aimed at reinstating his message that a shortage on the east coast is intolerable as the country is geared to become the largest exporter of LNG.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told ABC radio that the government is “absolutely” prepared to knock heads together, adding that their focus is to make the gas companies aware that the Turnbull administration wants them to be net contributors to the domestic market.  A proposal to permit exporters to purchase cheap gas on the Asian market is expected to be part of the agenda. The plan, which was supported by Labor, would free up Australian gas for domestic use in industry and electricity generation. Labor had previously described the current system as “topsy-turvy.”

Frydenberg said swaps were a matter of commercial negotiations between the companies and assured that the government will not interfere. He stressed that the goal is to attain a better outcome for Australian households and industry by having more gas, Sky News reported.

During his first meeting with gas industry chiefs in March, Turnbull elicited a promise from two exporters to put more gas into the domestic market. Frydenberg, Arthur Sinodinos and Matt Canavan were also in attendance with gas companies such as Santos, Origin, ExxonMobil and Shell.

The meeting took place one day after South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill declared a "go it alone" energy package worth $550 million to discuss head-on the series of blackouts that the state previously faced. Prior to his initial meeting with gas companies, Turnbull said Australians need to be assured of reliable and affordable energy. “Government and industry recognise the need to work for secure and competitive energy markets that bring forward gas supplies and help to lower emissions,” Sydney Morning Herald has quoted him saying.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said all viable options to secure domestic gas supply should be considered. Malcolm Roberts, Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association chief executive, recognised that the country is in need of more gas supply, and insisted that the problem should be fixed by solving the underlying causes instead of creating new problems. "Australia has ample gas reserves that can be developed to supply local and international customers,” he said. Roberts argued that policies to expand supply were what the country needs.

The Sydney Morning Herald/Accenture

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