The Australian Workers’ Union sent a delegation to Canberra this week to campaign on behalf of fuel industry workers and seek bipartisan support to keep the nation’s last two refineries open.
The delegation led by AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton and Assistant Secretary Misha Zelinsky met Energy Minister Angus Taylor and Labor frontbenchers in Canberra to nail down measures included in the recent federal budget.
AWU delegates Mick Denton from Ampol in Lytton and Scott Grimes from Viva in Geelong spoke directly to government makers on behalf of hundreds of members working in our critical refining industry.
“We are here to make sure the government commits to keeping Australia’s fuel refining capability,” Mr Walton said.
“We’re down to two refineries now, and the loss of another would be a serious sovereign risk.
“The basic commitment to refining was there in the budget, but they haven’t told us how much money is going towards it or the mechanism they will use.”
The Federal Government first agreed to support Australia’s remaining fuel refineries following AWU lobbying last year, and after the union commissioned a report by BIS Oxford Economics that outlined how, with strategic financial support, State and Federal Governments could intervene and save the ailing industry.
“We hope the meetings turn out to be as promising as they appear to be,” Viva delegate Scott Grimes said. “We’re looking to get a legislative package that will help secure Australia’s fuel security and achieve certainty for the remaining refineries and the future of downstream industries.”
Ampol delegate Mick Denton said the AWU deserved most of the credit for what had been achieved in the past 12 months.
“Our union has worked tirelessly to bring workers, industry leaders and government together to address what is a national crisis,” he said. “Ensuring that we continue to have domestic refining capacity is essential to our nation’s fuel security and in turn our national security.
“We are very hopeful that we have done the work to not just secure the livelihoods of our members at these refineries but also to protect Australia’s security into the future.”
Mr Walton said while the AWU welcomed the budget announcements and applauded the role union members played in campaigning to secure these commitments, the battle to protect the refineries was not over.
“We will keep working with our members, employers, and the government to ensure these policies are continuously reviewed to ensure Australia retains its fuel refining capacity,” Mr Walton said.
Mr Walton said the AWU was also talking to the Government and Opposition about policies covering the nation’s fuel reserves, and steps to help refineries cope with expensive upgrades.
“It’s great to see the Government moving to address the long-neglected issue of fuel security,” he said.
“Nothing is more important than fuel security, which is central to everything we do, and the $50.7 million in the budget to improve Australia’s fuel stores is welcome.
“But we also believe the two issues – refining and storage – are linked.
“Storage and refining go hand in hand and Australia’s refineries should be the first place we turn to in the hunt for new crude-oil storage.”
Mr Walton said the AWU would also be pressuring the Government to honour its commitment to help both refineries deal with big costs brought on by mandated requirements to cut the sulphur content of their fuels by 2027.
“This change will come at a significant cost to Australian fuel refineries that are already under pressure.
“The Government says it will support the fuel refineries to reduce the amount of sulphur in fuel.
“This is welcome as it is key for both refineries to survive.”