Labor leader Bill Shorten would immediately move to safeguard Australia’s fuel security by boosting emergency stocks if he wins the next election.

The pledge comes amid warnings the nation is highly vulnerable to global disruptions, such as rising tensions South China Sea, with fewer than 50 days of oil reserves.

Specific fuel stocks are much lower, with Department of Environment and Energy estimates of just 19 days of automotive gasoline supply, 23 days of jet fuel supply and 22 days of diesel supply.

A report from the government-controlled intelligence committee last year recommended the reserves be listed as a critical national security issue with the Home Affairs department handed oversight to increase stocks.

Mr Shorten said the nation had become too reliant on the global fuel market and more vulnerable to international risks and uncertainty.

“National security isn’t just about our defence forces, or our security agencies … national security means investing in our long-term fuel security,” Mr Shorten said.

“This is an insurance policy for the nation, an investment that protects us against international supply shocks.”

Australia has the lowest reserves of member countries of the International Energy Agency which mandates that all countries should hold 90 days in reserve as a minimum.

A five-yearly IEA report into Australia’s energy sector, released a year ago, found that Australia was vulnerable to “significant external supply shock”.

Emergency stocks first dropped below 50 days in 2012 and have struggled to rise since.

Mr Shorten said Labor would commence a detailed consultation process around the design of a government-owned National Fuel Reserve to boost Australia’s fuel stocks of emergency reserves.

“Not only will this increase our national fuel security, it will also help us reach our stockpile target as a member of the International Energy Agency,” he said.

He said a Labor government would consult with industry, oil and gas importers, refineries and with national security experts on the implementation of the government National Fuel Reserve.

The pledge follows as commitment to build a National Strategic Fleet to secure access to fuel supplies, even in times of global instability.

The Fleet is likely to include up to a dozen vessels including oil tankers, container ships and gas carriers.

Over the past 30 years, the number of Australian-flagged vessels has shrunk from 100 to now just 14 compared to Norway’s with 519 vessels carrying the Norwegian flag, Britain’s 1157 flagged vessels and China’s 4608 flagged vessels.

Extracted from The Daily Telegraph

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