Unions say COVID-19 offers opportunity to secure fuel stockpile

crude oil, fuel

Unions are urging the Australian Government to deliver genuine fuel security to the nation by taking advantage of a unique opportunity to create a domestic fuel stockpile at a fraction of the normal cost, as the COVID-19 pandemic causes a collapse in global oil prices.

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) and Australian Workers Union (AWU) said the current crisis was not only a wake-up call—demonstrating how quickly global supply chains can break down in a crisis—but also an unprecedented opportunity to develop a strategic fuel reserve on Australian soil.

Oil prices in the United States have gone negative for the first time in history as producers run out of space to store excess supplies, while international benchmark Brent crude has dropped to its lowest price in nearly two decades.

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MUA assistant national secretary Ian Bray said the COVID-19 crisis was both a warning and an unprecedented opportunity to improve Australia’s resilience.

“This pandemic has exposed how vulnerable Australia’s supply chains are, how quickly an unforeseen crisis can develop that drastically impacts global trade, and how important it is to have stockpiles of essential products on Australian soil,” Mr Bray said.

“More than 90 per cent of our liquid fuel comes from overseas, we have less than three weeks worth of supplies in the country at any point in time, yet without fuel our economy would grind to a halt.

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“Instead of tapping into the United States’ Strategic Petroleum Reserve … the Morrison Government should take advantage of the unprecedented collapse in oil prices to build our own domestic fuel stockpile.

“The government should also commence the process of developing a strategic fleet that includes Australian-owned oil tankers, ensuring supplies can keep flowing during times of crisis.

“Instead of viewing the International Energy Agency’s 90-day fuel stockholding obligation as a technicality that needs to be ticked off, Energy Minister Angus Taylor should take steps to deliver genuine fuel security with a readily-accessible government-owned stockpile on Australian soil.”