Victoria’s irrational anti-gas stance may be starting to crack.
This week the Federal Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, urged Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to “turn on the gas taps”, as The Australian put it.
The reason? Because it was adding upward pressure to electricity prices.
Mr Shorten is a Victorian and a member of the right of the Labor Party.
“We do need to bring gas supply into the market, no question,” Mr Shorten said.
His change of tack prompted an unsurprisingly sharp response from the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, who has consistently criticised the Victorian policy, as we have noted previously.
In Federal Parliament, Mr Turnbull said it was good to see the Opposition “putting a toe into the waters of the real world”.
Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, also a Victorian, has been equally critical of the “mindless” Victorian approach – which has also been labelled “absurd” by Senator Nick Xenophon and lambasted by former Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett and others including small business advocate and former ACT Chief Minister Kate Carnell.
Mr Frydenberg said more gas “would help put downward pressure on electricity prices for Australian families and businesses”.
In Victoria, the State Opposition added to the heat on the Premier.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Victorian Liberals said the state’s wholesale electricity prices had almost tripled since the announcement of the closure of the Hazelwood coal-fired electricity generator, in November 2016.
“Under Labor, Victorian manufacturing and businesses are being forced to either absorb or pass on soaring power costs, or close,” the statement said.
“A Liberal Nationals Government will scrap Daniel Andrews’ go-it-alone renewables target to prevent electricity prices soaring even higher.”
The Victorian Nationals noted the loss of 750 jobs at Hazelwood a 22 per cent loss of baseload electricity generating capacity.
“Increases to average annual power bills for homes and businesses have been far worse than the Andrews Labor Government predicted. There are new warnings every week of further power bill pain and blackouts in the summer ahead.
“Victorian jobs will continue to be at risk if we do not have a reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of baseload power for our state. Renewable energy plays a role in that future, but the move must be strategically managed to protect Victorian jobs.”
“Urgent action” was needed to secure Victoria’s energy future, the Nationals said.
This is a call which the gas industry and others including unions, the manufacturing sector and bodies such as the ACCC having been making for a long time.
It is encouraging the political class in Victoria seems at last to be catching on.
Victoria’s Herald Sun newspaper appears to have taken a more keen interest in the topic as well. In its editorial yesterday, it described the “needless gas ban” as “short-changing the state on energy security and affordability”.
Gas was “being ignored” in Victoria at the expense of business and consumers.
“Greater gas harvesting, as a transition from brown coal, together with combined cycle plants, has the capacity to provide Victoria with cheap, cleaner, reliable energy,” it said.
“Daniel Andrews should listen to his federal counterpart and drop the freeze on conventional gas development.”
That would be a good start.
A better move would be to drop the blockages on both conventional and unconventional gas. As we have pointed out previously, the Victorian Government need only listen to the advice of its own experts to realise it is a red herring to be fearful of the implications of hydraulic fracturing in Victoria – or anywhere else for that matter.