Ladies and gentlemen, apologies for my absence at your APPEA conference today.
I was looking forward to seeing you all in person.
But I’ve had to change my plans.
I’m going to Gove – in north-eastern Arnhem Land – with the Prime Minister.
We’re attending a memorial service for Yunupingu – one of our great Indigenous Australians.
So, thank you for the opportunity to provide a recorded message.
To all of the delegates here today representing our vital oil and gas industry – and those who can’t be – thank you and thank you sincerely.
You quite literally energise our economy and power our nation.
The government has just announced a surplus budget which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of your sector.
When US President Ronald Reagan came to office in 1981, he inherited an oil crisis.
A week after Reagan took office, he ‘decontrolled the price of domestic oil’.
He ‘stopped the government from putting ceilings on its pricing and production’.
And he did these things ‘despite all the scare tactics and dire warnings’.
Five years later, Reagan spoke about the success of these policies.
He let ‘freedom solve the problem through the magic of the marketplace’ – as he said.
That episode in US history is an important lesson about the perils of government intervention.
It’s a lesson ignored by the Australian Government in 2023.
Now we’re witnessing one of the most interventionist governments in our nation’s history.
Labor is deeply sceptical of the free market, of individual enterprise and autonomy.
Labor sees businesses and industry as instruments of the state.
It wants to use the chains and whips of regulation and tax to control and cannibalise the private sector.
Nowhere is this more visible than in energy policy and its interference in the gas industry.
Just consider what the government’s done since coming to power – and I know many of you know this story very well:
The government’s first budget in October last year was an all-out attack on the gas sector.
It ripped up funding for gas exploration.
It withdrew financial support for gas infrastructure projects.
It allocated almost $10 million dollars to activists to wage lawfare on gas projects.
In December, the government intervened in the gas market with price fixing.
That measure was meant to shield Australian families, businesses and manufacturers from price spikes.
But as we know, power prices continue to go up.
At the same time, the government proposed a Mandatory Code of Conduct.
That code will see the government dictate gas prices in the east coast market.
In December too, we saw the most radical shake-up of our industrial relations system literally in decades.
The government’s compulsory multi-employer bargaining will undermine employment growth, investment and productivity.
Your sector with its highly skilled workers and high-paid jobs, I think will be among those most targeted.
These laws are a mechanism for unions to gain control over more of the labour market and the economy.
In March, with the help of the Greens, the government banned funding for coal or gas infrastructure from its $15 billion-dollar National Reconstruction Fund.
In the same month, the government worked with the Greens to pass reforms to the Safeguard Mechanism.
It’s a new carbon tax – let’s call it for what it is – and it’s three times more than the one put forward by Julia Gillard.
The Coalition trusts industries instinctively to set their own pathway to net zero emissions by 2050.
The markets require that. The media requires it. Your investors require it.
We understand that you need to balance commercial viability with national environmental goals.
Yet Labor’s new carbon tax will force businesses and industries to meet aggressive emissions reduction targets or pay hefty fines.
And for many, by design, this tax will be financially crippling.
There will be no choice but to pass that cost onto consumers, which impacts in a negative way on inflation.
Or worse, pack-up shop and move offshore where it’s cheaper to operate.
In such cases, there won’t be any environmental benefit.
In fact, there will be more emissions into the air.
All this carbon tax will do is damage our own economy and have a de-industrialising effect.
Most recently, the Treasurer has increased the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax.
Your sector is already a significant tax contributor, paying a 40 per cent tax rate on offshore oil and gas projects.
But because the Labor government can’t manage money, it wants to hit you with the hammer of taxation.
The worst is yet to come with the government’s proposed changes to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Yes of course, we all want to protect and improve our environment.
But we also have an obligation to promote the longevity of Australian industries and businesses which underpin our economic prosperity.
The government’s planned Environment Protection Agency will impose new regulations, powered by hundreds of new bureaucrats.
Environmental approvals will be harder to obtain, slower to authorise and certainly more expensive.
Bureaucrats in this new agency will be delegated powers by the minister to approve or reject projects.
In such an agency, the balance will always tip in favour of environmental preferences at the expense of jobs, regional development and economic imperatives.
So, consider all of these things collectively:
IR laws which favour unions.
A new carbon tax.
Increased taxes on offshore oil and gas projects.
And a new bureaucracy with a pre-determined agenda.
It’s more intervention, more regulation, more control.
Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen will say publicly that they’re behind the gas industry.
But of course, their actions betray their words.
Labor wants gas gone.
The government’s not on your side – let’s be very clear about it.
And Labor’s energy policy I think is driven by renewable zealotry.
It’s doing everything possible to shut down coal and frustrate the gas sector.
The two systems which provide around 65 per cent of our power today.
Even President Biden acknowledged that his country’s enduring need for gas is a reality given America undergoes an energy transition like most other developed nations.
The road to net zero emissions – for Australia, the region and the world – is one we can only travel with gas.
But gas remains in the government’s crosshairs.
The ACCC and AEMO remain concerned about inadequate gas supply for winter and over the longer term.
As households are encouraged to move from gas to electricity appliances, AMEO estimates that gas-fired electricity demand will nearly double between 2023 and 2042.
But concerns are also coming from other quarters.
With Australia supplying under half of Japan’s LNG imports, the former Japanese Ambassador candidly expressed his unease about supply issues.
The Japanese Prime Minister even travelled to our country specifically to raise this issue with Prime Minister Albanese.
The chief executive of Inpex has also spoken about a deteriorating investment environment in Australia – the creation of sovereign risk.
The government’s policies I think are detrimental at so many levels.
They’re undermining reliable and affordable baseload power for Australians.
They’re creating that sovereign risk that we just haven’t seen in our country, but as I say, is being raised by many of those who have relationships with us.
They’re jeopardising Australia’s energy security and they’re discouraging foreign investment.
I want to say to you today that a returned Coalition government will work once again with your sector to put more supply into the domestic system.
To make sure that we have more gas available for export so that we can continue to grow the sector.
Just like Reagan, we will wind-back government intervention.
We will put trust back in your sector and the free market.
You can trust us based on our record.
We supported you when we were in government.
Unlike Labor, the Coalition at a federal level doesn’t take for granted the contribution our oil and gas sector has made to our country:
Almost $500 billion dollars in economic activity annually.
And, over the last decade, around $80 billion dollars paid in tax and approximately 80,000 direct and indirect jobs created.
The contribution is deeper than that.
Whenever an elderly Australian couple turns on their heater in winter, they can do so because of your sector.
Whenever a mum and dad prepare the evening meal for the family, they can do so because of your sector.
Whenever we get into our car to travel to work, we can do so because of your sector.
And we should always remind ourselves of that.
So, the Coalition will fight for your sector with energy and enthusiasm.
But we also need you to fight for yourselves.
We need you to speak up frankly and more avidly.
And to have a discussion with the Australian public just outlining the facts.
I know it can be difficult.
I know it can be difficult, I understand why, particularly in an age of social media, where companies have absented themselves from the public debate.
And I appreciate the corporate constraints and public relations reasons.
But if you don’t speak up now, I think it’s just going to put the sector at even more risk.
It’s our country’s future prosperity that we’re talking about.
And we need you to work with us to push back against this government’s detrimental policies.
We need you to work together to promote nuance and inject reason into the public debate.
We need you to lobby your local representatives.
And to do all these things with solidarity in your sector.
I think now is the time to seize the opportunity to speak up.
I want to say thank you very much for your time today.
I wish you every success for the conference.
Thank you so much for what you do for our country.
And I look forward to catching up with you in person at the first available opportunity.
View the Opposition Leader’s video message here.