Apr 23, 2020







SUBJECTS: Fuel supply; need for economic independence; need for a plan for fuel security.


DAVID BEVAN, HOST: Anthony Albanese joins us right now. He’s the Federal Opposition Leader. Good morning, Mr Albanese.




BEVAN: What do you think of this idea?


ALBANESE: Well, it’s about time that Minister Taylor woke from his slumber on this issue. When he said that Australia has, depending upon how you measure it, between 50 and 80 days’ supply is of course completely wrong. What he’s doing there is counting the stock on water that includes, essentially, fuel that might be on a ship somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere crewed and flagged by a foreign flag. There’s no fuel security here in Australia. It is a major issue. We actually have 18 days reserve of petrol at the moment, 22 days of diesel and 23 days of jet fuel. And we are in breach of our international obligations as a member of the International Energy Agency. And most importantly, it is not in our national security interests. And we’ve been reminded by the COVID-19 crisis, that you can have unexpected events on the world stage that impact on Australia. And we need to be able to be independent so that if there is a world event be it a conflict on the seas that see the closure of sea lanes, we don’t run out of fuel, which we would at the moment in literally 18 days if such an event occurred.


BEVAN: So, Anthony Albanese, those figures that you’ve given, the 18 days for petrol, 22 days for diesel, 23 days for jet fuel. That’s actually the fuel that we have sequestered here in mainland Australia. That’s actually in our country.


ALBANESE: Correct. And it’s not much good saying, after we run out of fuel in 18 days saying on the 19th day for Angus Taylor to do a press conference saying, ‘It’s okay, because we have some fuel that’s off the coast of Norway on a Panama flagged vessel. And that counts as Australian reserves’. It’s just an absurd definition. We need to make sure not just in terms of fuel located here as well, but also the capacity to transport it and store it. So, we need, at the last election we campaigned very strongly for a strategic fleet. We need ships that can supply that fuel around our own coastline and one of the issues that we should have been reminded on by this COVID-19 crisis is the need for us to have economic independence at a time in which there could be shocks, particularly for essential services and assets. And fuel is certainly one of those.


BEVAN: But we would have to spend some serious money building storage, wouldn’t we? In this country?


ALBANESE: Well, one of the tragedies, of course, is that that we have had storages at refineries that have been shut down. And we’ve lost some of that infrastructure. But we need to do it, and we need to do it as an absolute national security priority.


BEVAN: Okay, so just get on and build the stuff.


ALBANESE: Absolutely. It is an essential part of the security of our nation to be able to not be dependent on international events. And the absurdity, frankly, of Minister Taylor saying that it’s okay because we’ll buy fuel for Australia and we’ll store it in the United States. If there is conflict and issues in the Pacific, the idea, it is not New Zealand, it’s the United States. It is the other side of the world, particularly in terms of the Gulf Country of the United States, which is where he’s talking about. The other side of the Panama Canal is not an area of the world in which you can just ring up and say, ‘Oi, can you just deliver it in the next couple of days?’ The basic step of acknowledging we have a problem with our fuel reserves is a good one that the Government has acknowledged. It is certainly the right time for us to be purchasing fuel because in the United States at the moment we have an extraordinary circumstance whereby the price of fuel is negative.


BEVAN: But isn’t it negative because they haven’t got anywhere to store it? Which begs the question, well, how do we think we’re going to be able to buy storage space in the United States?


ALBANESE: Well, it certainly does do that. And what’s occurred is that during this crisis, Russia has intervened in the market as well as the Middle East players. You have a market-based competition going on there. And certainly, we’re very vulnerable on these issues. We actually need to ensure that we have fuel reserves. We need to make sure that we have the Australian flag flying on Australian ships with a strategic fleet that’s able to provide us and add to that supply so that we’re not vulnerable to such a global shock.


BEVAN: Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister’s office is listening, which is great. And they’ve sent us a text saying that Albanese is deliberately ignoring the amount of crude oil on shore, we have 56 days of fuel onshore per the International Energy Agency standards.


ALBANESE: Well, that’s just not right. It’s just not right. The fact is that what the Government is counting is, and he used this term very carefully, I noted in his interview, which he continues to say, he speaks about ‘across the whole supply chain’. And what that means is stock on water. And I say to the Prime Minister’s office, who are just about 200 metres from where I’m speaking, that you are including in that stock on water. This is a Government that has been complacent about this. We campaigned on this at the last election. We raised it in the 2016 election as well. This is an issue that’s been coming for a considerable period of time. And the figures that are there are consistent with what the International Energy Agency says is Australia’s current supply situation.


BEVAN: Is it naive for us to think that the United States will always be there to hand over this fuel?


ALBANESE: Well, what it is obvious for your listeners to say is that if we have something that is urgently needed potentially, and that’s what we’re talking about here, reserves, then it being located on the far side of the world does not make sense. It does make sense to purchase the fuel. And in the short term, because there are issues with storage here, then it has to be stored somewhere and that it’s better to have that asset than not have it. But it really doesn’t provide for a proper solution. And the Government needs to come up with a plan for fuel security for this country.


BEVAN: Anthony Albanese, thanks for your time.


ALBANESE: Thank you very much.