Malcolm Turnbull is expecting a major US strike on Syria as soon as today, amid warnings that major hostilities could disrupt liquid fuel supplies and potentially cripple the Australian economy within weeks.
The Turnbull government anticipates Britain and France will play a significant role in any action against the Russian-backed Assad regime, in a show of unity aimed at sending a strong signal against the use of chemical weapons
The government is bracing for the likelihood of a much larger strike than last April’s attack when 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched at a Syrian air base. The prospect has heightened concerns the world is seeing the most dangerous confrontation with Russia since the Cold War, with the potential to draw in Iran and Israel.
Retired air vice-marshal John Blackburn, a former deputy chief of the air force, yesterday sounded the alarm on the prospect of any broader conflict undermining Australia’s energy security, which he warned was dependent on regional refineries and oil flows from the Middle East.
“We import 91 per cent of all our transport fuels in this way. And Australia has no government-held stocks, has not told industry what stocks they have to keep and there is no plan B in case of an oil and fuel supply interruption,” he told The Weekend Australian.
“If the Middle East security situation blew up or deteriorated — for example, if Syria took off — there is no plan B in this country on how to manage it and the International Energy Agency has stated that much in its February 2018 report on Australia’s energy policy.
“It said it could not see how Australia would cope with a major oil supply disruption that would lead to market failure.
“In a major disruption … we would have major problems within two weeks.”
Australia has the lowest fuel reserves of all member countries of the IEA, which mandates that countries should hold a stock in reserve “equivalent to 90 days of net imports”. Australia has just 43 days of supply.
The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, chaired by Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, last month recommended that the Department of Home Affairs review and “develop measures” to ensure Australia has a “continuous supply of fuel to meet its national security priorities”.
The report, which had bipartisan support, found there was a “serious requirement” to test the “effectiveness of any existing or potential risk mitigations, particularly in scenarios of heightened geopolitical tensions”.
NSW Liberal Senator Jim Molan, the chief of operations for coalition forces during the Iraq War, yesterday said the events unfolding in Syria had global implications, warning that the outbreak of hostilities could have profound consequences for Australia.
“Should there be miscalculation and a serious shooting war occur involving US, Russia, Syria, Iran and Israel, movements of oil from the Gulf may be affected,” he told The Weekend Australian.
“Australia depends on oil moved from the Gulf to China, Japan, Korea and Singapore to be refined and then sent to Australia. If that stops, we have insufficient fuel reserves in this country to meet such an emergency.
“Any function which relies on aviation fuel, diesel fuels or petrol will cease within a few weeks.”
Mr Hastie, a former SAS commander, said there was “significant risk” to national fuel security which, if compromised, would affect all Australians, including those relying on key medicines, because “we run a just-in-time economy”.
Extracted from The Australian.