Interview with Leon Byner, FiveAA Adelaide

Leon Byner
Boosting Australia's Diesel Storage Program

LEON BYNER: No doubt you've heard me over time talk about the fact that sometimes we don't store enough essential products, particularly fuel. We, we normally have maybe 10 days, 12 days. I see that there's going to be a $260 million investment to expand our diesel storage capacity, because diesel is where the heavy industry is doing the work, and of course, in agriculture. So Scott Morrison's Government is going to partially fund 10 projects across the country which they are hoping will support about a thousand new jobs and see the diesel stock holdings increase by 40 per cent, and that'll take about three years. Angus Taylor, good morning. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: G’day, Leon. Thanks having for me. 

LEON BYNER: Tell me about these new projects? About a thousand new jobs that could come from them?

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is all about more diesel storage, ensuring we have the fuel we need - the reliable, affordable fuel - in the worst possible circumstances. Of course, we've shored up the future of our remaining refineries; we've set minimum stock holding obligations to make sure there's enough stock being held by our petrol retailers. But this is about having enough storage in place. A total of 780 million litres of new diesel storage, $636 million dollars of total investment. Of course, Adelaide will be getting one of those new storages, 80 million litres, at Port Adelaide. 133 jobs created during construction, and of course there'll be ongoing jobs in managing that storage. Importantly, for the fuel consumers of South Australia, particularly those diesel users - our farmers, our miners, our tradies, truckies, they will have access to the fuel they need when they need it through the additional storage that we're putting in place. 

LEON BYNER: It'd be the case, wouldn't it Minister, that the oil companies would find it very convenient to run a just-in-time system, which guarantees the price stays up? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well look, the truth is that we haven't had enough storage being held in Australia and for whatever reason, it hasn't been good enough and the result is that there are impacts on reliability and affordability and that's why we need to get more storage in place. This became very apparent to us during the worst of the pandemic last year when we’d run out of storages and it was clear that we needed more. This will by virtue of having more stock in place, prevent those situations where a retailer can push up the price because there's not enough stock around, or you just simply can't get the fuel in. Leon, you remember those years back in the 70s where there were days when odd number plates could get fuel and even number plates could get fuel. I mean we never want to go back to that again. 

LEON BYNER: No. So really, is this a Government mandate? Because it would seem the oil companies would be smart to try and sell product. But of course, if they hold it back to get the price up, that's not fair. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: It is a Government mandate. So there's a 40 per cent increase in diesel storage requirement for petrol retailers and then we're pitching in to make sure there's enough storage to hold that extra diesel, so that is exactly what we're doing. As I say, that's about not just the worst possible circumstances, there are [indistinct] disruptions where you might run out of stock, but certainly it is there to make sure in the worst possible circumstances we still have the fuel we need to keep the wheels of, of industry turning. 

LEON BYNER: Now, you've talked about diesel. What about the other fuel? The petrol and fuel that ordinary motorists rely on? Are we well supplied with this? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah. So we've also set minimum stock holdings for aviation gas and for petrol. Obviously, whilst petrol's obviously enormously important what we know, and we saw this during the pandemic, if you're really in a corner it's diesel where you get into the most serious trouble. We saw during the pandemic last year that the usage of aviation gas obviously, and fuel petrol dropped dramatically, but diesel held up and it's the thing you've got to have now. So that's why we're increasing the stockholder requirement of diesel, but we're also setting minimum stock holding obligations for petrol as well. 

LEON BYNER: How much storage have we got in Australia? Are we really where we should be with that? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah. Look, we're get, we're getting there now. We now have more than is required of us under our international obligations, and so that's good news. But we've got to stay vigilant. The biggest challenge we've had is the rundown of crude oil in Bass Strait. If you go back a few years that was enough fuel to supply much of Australia's needs, and we had refineries that then process that fuel. That run down in Bass Strait has been a huge challenge for us. We're looking for a replacement now. The Northern Territory's looking particularly good for that. But of course, we get some out of Moomba as well, the Cooper Basin. But it is crucially important in addition to that, we have enough local storage. 

LEON BYNER: That's the Energy Minister, Angus Taylor.