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Doorstop - Viva Energy Refinery, Geelong

18 May 2021

Interviewer: 
Doorstop

Subject: Government support for Australia's refining sector

E&OE

SARAH HENDERSON – SENATOR FOR VICTORIA: Good morning, everyone. It is wonderful to be here at the Geelong Refinery with Minister Angus Taylor and the CEO and MD, Scott Wyatt, for the celebration of an incredible announcement for our city and our region. Our fuel security package is so incredibly significant for local jobs, for our national security, and of course, for better quality fuels. This is a really important part of the Morrison Government's investments, not just in our city, but in our nation. I'm absolutely delighted to be here celebrating this great outcome for our workers here in Geelong. Some 700 workers are here based at Viva Energy's Geelong refinery. I'm now going to hand over to Scott and then to the Minister.

SCOTT WYATT – CEO, VIVA ENERGY: Thank you, Senator. Look, on behalf of the team here at Geelong Refinery, I'd like to welcome Senator Sarah Henderson and Minister Angus Taylor to our site today. The announcement by Minister Taylor this week is great news for Geelong Refinery after a very difficult year. It will see us continue to refine here in Victoria for at least the next six years and undertake one of the most significant investments in Geelong refinery for over a decade to meet new fuel standards and better outcomes for the health and the environment. We're really proud of what we do here at Geelong. We make over half of Victoria's fuel, about 10 per cent of the country's fuel requirements. And as I said before, the announcement this week, this is fantastic news for the site and for all the team here at Geelong. Thanks very much, Minister Taylor, for your support of the sector and our refinery, and welcome to the site.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, Scott. It is great to be here with you. Great to be here with Sarah, who is a hardworking senator and who is a great advocate for this region. And it's great to have had the opportunity to work with Viva to get to this point now, where yesterday, subsequent to our announcement of this package, Viva have committed to the future of this refinery, just as we saw with Ampol yesterday committing to the future of their refinery at Lytton in Brisbane. Of course, that is absolutely fantastic news for the 700 people who work here at the refinery and the many others who rely on the refinery for their jobs. Places like LyondellBasell, right next door, where you've got workers who rely on the refinery for their jobs. But it is also incredibly important for all of those Australians who rely on fuel for their work every day. So whether you're a truckie or a tradie, a farmer, emergency services worker, you need that reliable, affordable supply of fuel. This package is about ensuring that that is in place when it's most needed, in a more uncertain world than we've had for a long time. We've seen what's happening in the Middle East now. We saw what happened to a fuel pipeline in the United States where there were cyber-attacks just last week. This is a world where having access to fuel when you really need it, having self-sufficiency when you really need it, is enormously important. So, it is great news to see this commitment from the refineries to their future. Now, there's a couple of features of this deal I do want to highlight. Number one is it is structured carefully. So we pay the refineries when they really need it in those very tough times to make sure we've got the fuel when we need it, but if things are good and the refinery is doing well, they don't need taxpayers' money. That's a very important part of the way we put this together. It's good for taxpayers and good for the refineries. I should also highlight - and we've seen this today - the commitment as part of this from the two refineries is to upgrade their refineries to reduce sulfur in our fuels. That makes for cleaner fuels, less maintenance on our cars, we can get higher grade cars into the country, engines into the country, but also, importantly, this is very positive for health outcomes. We've had estimates of about $1 billion of health outcomes that are improved as a result of having the lower sulfur fuels, and that is great news for all Australians. Now, it's crucial we get legislation through the Parliament before 1 July, which is when the temporary production payment ceases. We do need support from not only the House, but the Senate, and that means we'd like to see, very much like to see Labor's support for this. It is important that this be bipartisan, that there be support from across the Parliament for these extremely important reforms that are about Australia's self-sufficiency in tough times, fuel security when we really need it. Thank you again, to Viva, for your commitment to the future of this refinery and to fuel security in Australia.
    
JOURNALIST: Minister Taylor, every time there is an industry struggling in Australia and the government steps in with some sort of subsidy arrangement, there's a debate as whether or not the government should be helping private businesses out. Why was this such a necessary move?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Because fuel security matters. Self-sufficiency in tough times matters. We know that we can supply a significant amount of fuel to all Australians, even if Australia is cut off from imports, if we have refineries processing our own crude oil. We need to make sure we have enough of that crude oil coming from Bass Strait to Cooper Basin, in time the Beetaloo Basin. But we also have to have refineries to process that, and having two refineries in Australia puts us in a position where those core services and goods that we need in a very tough time are available. It's that self-sufficiency when it really counts. That's the policy objective here. It's enormously important. It really counts in a more uncertain world. And that's why we're focused on it.

JOURNALIST: Obviously, fuel and oil is highly needed right now, but looking down the path into the future there's, people are saying there's going to be increased demand for electric vehicles and therefore less demand for things like oil and fuel. I mean what do you see the life of something like this being in the long term?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are seeing a very rapid uptake of hybrid vehicles, and we're starting to see the uptake of electric vehicles in this country. We support that choice, people making those choices. But we're going to need liquid fuels in this country for many years yet. Heavy vehicles in particular, and the use of diesel, which is the fuel you really need in the toughest of times. We saw that during the pandemic. Diesel consumption barely budged when we saw very sharp reductions in jet fuel and gasoline, and so having that fuel supply when we really need it for many years to come is going to be essential for this country.

ENDS