That makes trucking and the whole economy highly vulnerable to any disruption in global fuel supply. The Australian Trucking Association, which represents major companies and industry associations with thousands of small trucking-business members, has long urged governments to take responsibility for holding emergency fuel stocks.

The Australian Trucking Association, which represents major companies and industry bodies, has long urged governments to take responsibility for holding emergency fuel stocks.

That objective is now in sight following Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s promise to establish a government-owned national fuel stockpile if Labor wins the coming federal election

Labor will create a public reserve to meet international treaty requirements and “protect us against international supply shocks”, Shorten announced in February

“As a member-nation of the International Energy Agency (IEA), we’re supposed to hold the equivalent of 90 days’ worth of fuel on reserve.

Right now, we have just 23 days of jet fuel, just 22 days of diesel and only 19 days of automotive gas,” he said, quoting Department of Environment and Energy figures.

He said a Labor government would consult with industry and other stakeholders on the design and delivery of a government stockpile and start building tank farms in the next 10 years.

ATA chair Geoff Crouch says that with more than three quarters of non-bulk domestic freight carried by road, Labor’s plan would help protect the economy from international risks and uncertainty.

“Last year, the IEA reported that our stocks are at an all-time low, do not meet our international obligations and limit Australia’s options for addressing a disruption in supply,” Crouch says.

“The ATA has been an advocate for returning Australia’s stock levels to international compliance, and we welcome Labor’s commitment,” he says.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says Labor’s plan could cost “between $10 billion-$20bn” and questions how it would be paid for.

Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler says the cost would depend on the design and size of the stockpile to be determined after consultations. However, it would not impose “obligations or costs” on industry he said.

Australia has been a net importer of crude oil since 2012 and lost almost half its refining capacity with the closure of three refineries earlier this decade.

Yet in contrast with many other IEA members, including the US, Japan, Germany and New Zealand, Australia has chosen to rely on commercially held fuel stocks rather than a public stockpile

The government is yet to release a long-awaited review of how fuel is supplied and used in Australia, including the resilience of supply chains to withstand domestic and international disruptions. The parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security recommended the review in March 2018 and urged it be done within six months.

In mid-March, Taylor told The Australian “the government is committed to addressing fuel security issues, but we won’t approach it in the reckless manner of the Labor Party that plans to put a $20bn fuel tax on all consumers”.

Labor’s promise of a public fuel stockpile builds on its commitment to create a “strategic fleet” of “up to a dozen” merchant vessels including oil tankers, container ships and gas carriers.

The vessels would be commercially operated but could be repurposed by the government to help secure vital supplies in a crisis, Shorten announced in February.

He said the number of Australian-flagged vessels had crashed from 100 to just 13 in the past 30 years.

In 2017, 91 per cent of Australia’s refined petroleum was imported or produced from imported oil, while more than half involved “just-­in-­time shipments” on vessels carrying finished petrol, diesel, jet fuel and other products, according to a recent report by John Francis, former director of the Maritime Transport Policy Centre at the Australian Maritime College.

Commissioned by the Maritime Union of Australia, the report says that of the 677 tankers that visited Australia in 2017, not one was owned, managed or crewed by Australians.

Extracted From The Australian