AWU chief Paul Howes Photo: Louie Douvis
Australian Workers' Union chief Paul Howes has taken a swipe at Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson for rejecting calls to reserve gas supplies for domestic use.
Delegates at the AWU national conference passed a motion on Tuesday demanding an expansion of the natural and coal seam gas industry, while ensuring a scheme to reserve supply for domestic energy use.
Mr Howes, the union's national secretary, said gas supply should be expanded but more of it should be available to use in Australia.
Mr Howes said resources ministers ''should be there to talking about what resources can do for this country not for the companies that extract them in the first place''.
''Why is it that we have a federal resources minister in the form of Martin Ferguson who is actively campaigning against this?'' he said.
Western Australian branch secretary Stephen Price argued Australia was allowing its reserves to be dominated by international oil and gas companies.
Mr Howes also condemned the ''bizarre alliance'' of Greens and farmers who were combining to oppose coal seam gas.
The AWU resolution calls on the federal Labor government to review its domestic energy policy while also demanding the NSW Coalition government ''reduce red tape and existing barriers to the extraction of coal seam gas in NSW''.
It allows Mr Howes to launch a campaign stressing the need to retain gas for domestic use as well as a focus on expanding new supplies.
''This is one of the most important resolutions we'll debate at this conference,'' he said.
''It may all seem a bit pie-in-the-sky . . . but remember two years ago when we launched our anti-dumping campaign at national conference there wasn't much focus on that issue either.''
Mr Howes added: ''It is bizarre that this country has gone through a massive expansion of natural gas right across every state and yet we can't seem to keep any of this gas, to add value here . . .''
The resolution was passed on the second day of the four-day AWU national conference on the Gold Coast.
Mr Ferguson said he welcomed the AWU’s support for the development of the domestic gas industry, but warned a reservation policy "would deter the very investment needed to deliver more gas to the domestic market".
"Furthermore as we have seen in Western Australia, which has the highest gas prices of all states, a reservation policy doesn’t protect against price rises," he said.
"What is needed is to remove the impediments of getting gas to the market, and to that end I support Mr Howes’s call to appropriately streamline environmental processes, and in doing so get more gas into the market."
Earlier, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten sought to energise AWU members ahead of the looming federal election battle.
In a fiery speech, Mr Shorten said he was proud to be an AWU member and said Labor was at its best ''when we remember where we come from''.
The former AWU national secretary held up his membership card and declared: ''I am very proud to carry in the Parliament of Australia every day my union membership card.''
Mr Shorten rattled off a list of achievements including the government's steel and aluminium plans, stronger anti-dumping laws, tax cuts and paid parental leave.
''When you hear people say they're not really doing what Labor governments do, tell them to put that in their pipe and smoke it,'' he said.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard sought to brush off the latest poll slump on Monday night by telling AWU members she would fight every day until the election for the Labor cause.
Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan is set to speak on Tuesday afternoon.