Gas crisis is partly of the Coalition's own making
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Gas crisis is partly of the Coalition's own making

Before the Prime Minister goes too much further with his media assault on the "gas giants" over their allegedly unpatriotic willingness to sell our scarce natural gas to foreigners a short walk down memory lane is in order.

Just over a decade ago the then Coalition prime minister, John Howard, was waxing lyrical about these very same export deals.

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On September 6, 2007, he spoke at a news conference in Beijing where he welcomed a $35 billion agreement to supply China with liquefied natural gas.

On June 29 the previous year he had been in Shenzhen to welcome a $25 billion deal for the same commodity.

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In August 2002 he was credited with playing "a critical role" in persuading China to award a $25 billion contract to the North West Shelf consortium to supply 3.2 million tonnes of LNG to Guangdong Province over the next 25 years.

As far as the current "gas crisis" is concerned the Coalition is a prisoner of its own device. Something that seemed a good idea at the time has come back to bite it viciously on a very tender spot.

Having entered into long-term and fixed-price agreements with other countries in order to guarantee their energy security for at least a generation, the Howard government and its successors painted themselves into a corner where they could not do the same at home.

If, in the months and years to come, Australians have to huddle around candles from time to time as the lights go out, our politicians, from both the Coalition and the ALP, must accept much of the blame.

The Howard and the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments gave their blessing to numerous supply agreements with China, Japan and other high-end energy customers.

The Rudd-Gillard-Rudd and the Abbott-Turnbull governments then went on to turn local energy policy into a political football with the result that vital investment decisions involving vital infrastructure to meet growing local demand were deferred indefinitely.

The conjunction of these two policy failures caused a perfect storm that has now placed Australian energy security in doubt.

Mr Turnbull's concern over the shortfall in local gas availability, now estimated at three times what was first thought, is commendable on the one hand and disappointing on the other.

Yes, it is good to hear the PM does realise if he cannot guarantee heating and lighting to homes and energy to industry he will be punished by the electorate.

That said, the obsession with increasing the amount of LNG available for local energy production is self-defeating in that it is a Band-aid.

Gas, by itself, will not guarantee power to all Australian homes for the next generation, and certainly not for the one after that.

The real need is for a comprehensive, well-thought out and bipartisan energy policy with a strong emphasis on renewables and an eye on the long game.

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