This government stands shoulder to shoulder with our manufacturing industry in wanting to develop our resources sector to make sure we can continue to support high-paying jobs not just in our resources sector but also in the manufacturing sector, because so many of our jobs rely on having adequate supplies of energy—in particular, gas—to support those high paying jobs in manufacturing.
Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (14:58):
My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. How is the Liberal-National government working to deliver further development of the gas industry and ensure Australia's long-term gas supply, and how do the efforts help to create a strong economy and guarantee essential services without raising taxes?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:59):
I thank Senator Williams for that excellent question. This government stands shoulder to shoulder with our manufacturing industry in wanting to develop our resources sector to make sure we can continue to support high-paying jobs not just in our resources sector but also in the manufacturing sector, because so many of our jobs rely on having adequate supplies of energy—in particular, gas—to support those high paying jobs in manufacturing. To that end, it was great privilege to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Northern Territory government in the last month to help develop the Beetaloo Basin, one of the most exciting prospective gas basins in this country. To explain how important this is, this would be Australia's first major shale gas basin to be developed. You can see what shale oil and gas are doing for the United States and their manufacturing sector. It would be good to have some of that here as well in this country.
At the moment, the Beetaloo Basin is estimated to have more than 200 years supply of gas in it for this country. It's a huge amount of resource for us. It'll also possibly open up more export markets as well, and, most importantly, the Beetaloo Basin is possibly liquids-rich. There are certainly some liquids there. I'm looking at Senator Molan. I know he knows there is a significant problem in this country with adequate supplies of liquid fuels to support our national security interests as well as our broader economic interests as well. We should seek to develop these resources to support industry in Australia, to support jobs and to make sure that we can secure supplies of important energy, like oil, to Australians. We are working with the Northern Territory government, with the CSIRO and with our departmental officials to develop this in unison to make sure that we can provide benefits to the Northern Territory as well as to the broader Australian people.
Senator Williams, on a supplementary question.
Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (15:01):
I thank the minister, and I ask: what has the government already done to ensure the gas security of the east coast?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:01):
These efforts of ours, as I said, in unison with the Northern Territory government, are all about bringing more supply of gas to the market. But, in the short term, we have had an issue because new supplies of gas do take time to bring to production. Last year, given that we had a shortage of gas, this government introduced gas export controls for the first time in our nation's history through the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism. That has had a significant impact on gas markets to the benefit of Australian consumers and to the benefit of Australian businesses. Indeed, the average price of gas in February last year at Wallumbilla—which is a hub for gas in Australia—was $12.49 a gigajoule. Last month, the price at Wallumbilla averaged $9.95 a gigajoule—a 20 per cent reduction from last year. Now significant amounts of gas are flowing from Queensland to southern Australia, helping to alleviate that shortage and helping to take pressure off prices. But more needs to be done, particularly to bring on the supply of more gas.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, on a final supplementary question.
Senator WILLIAMS (New South Wales—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (15:02):
What more can be done to meet Australia's long-term gas needs and bring down prices for Australian households and businesses?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (15:02):
Increase supply—that's what we must do. It's pretty simple. If we want to bring the price of something down, we need to increase the supply of that in the marketplace. We need to increase supply. That is why we need all states and territories to develop their resources in a sensible way.
In the last decade, there've been 18 separate reviews into unconventional gas. All of those reviews—at least 18, that we know of—have concluded that unconventional gas can be developed with appropriate regulations. So it surprises me that the Victorian government are proposing to put in place a no-fracking ban in their constitution against all the science and against all the reviews. Apparently the Victorian constitution in the future will read something like, 'Equality before the law, habeas corpus, and no fracking.' That's going to be up there. We might have to translate it into Latin just so it can make some sort of sense, because this decision is potentially going to cost thousands of jobs in Victoria. This decision shows that the Labor Party does not support manufacturing and they do not support resources, and it's at a great cost to our country. (Time expired)