Fears chronic FUEL SHORTAGES could strike Australia as the supply chain crisis continues to bite
By Sourced Externally
January 12, 2022
Australia’s peak fuel body is warning of chronic fuel shortages if the government does not remove limits on how long foreign workers can work at the service stations.
Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association chief executive Mark McKenzie told The Australian that the government needs to act now to ‘prevent a crisis.’
‘We’ve got a situation at the moment where we have got a latent workforce that has not been used, and is used quite extensively in our industry,’ explained Mr McKenzie. ‘We have been seeking concessions to international visa holders, particularly those on working and student visas, to remove the cap at least for a period of six to 12 months.
He warned Australia could risked a similar fuel crisis to that Britain experienced last year, when panic buying combined with supply chain issues caused petrol stations to run dry, even though there was no fuel shortage.
Our situation in Australia has all the precursors, all the factors, that establish a potential risk. We need to act now to prevent what happened in the UK.’
His comments come as the government looks to solve widespread supply-chain issues caused by increasing case numbers.
Following talks with industry groups on Tuesday and Wednesday, the federal government is set to expand the number of industries that would allow employees to return to work even if they are a close contact of a positive case.
Transport and logistics workers will be prioritised for less stringent isolation requirements.
A negative rapid antigen test result would still be required for workers to return after an exposure.
Similar arrangements have been flagged for food and grocery workers by the country’s top medical advice group, but they may also apply in other sectors.
Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association chief executive Mark McKenzie said the government needs to act now to ‘prevent a crisis’ (pictured, a worker fills the underground tank at a BP Petrol Station in Canberra)
Experts estimate between 20 and 50 per cent of transport and logistics workers across the country have been out of action due to being Covid-positive or forced to isolate (pictured, a person fills up their car at a Sydney petrol station)
Experts estimate between 20 and 50 per cent of transport and logistics workers across the country have been out of action due to being COVID-positive or forced to isolate.
The government is weighing up expanding the definition of essential services to include road, rail and air transport, mental health, education and schooling services, energy supply, and clinics and laboratories.
The isolation changes for food and grocery workers have largely been welcomed by the sector, following recent meetings with the government.
Ahead of Thursday’s national cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is expected to urge state and territory leaders to allow truck drivers to cross borders more easily.
Some states and territories still require interstate arrivals to provide a negative rapid antigen test result in order to move into another jurisdiction.
Transport and logistics workers will be prioritised for less stringent isolation requirements (pictured, people queue for petrol in Queensland in 2017)
As businesses struggle to find staff to fill crucial vacancies, Social Services Minister Anne Ruston flagged the possibility of unemployed people being brought into workforces that are facing shortages.
The government is also set to increase the amount of time international students can work to more than 40 hours a fortnight if they are employed in a sector affected by staff shortages.
Mr Morrison said the rapidly rising number of Covid-19 cases across the country was having an obvious impact on supply networks and distribution chains.
‘The challenge of Covid with escalating cases is keeping things moving. That’s what riding this wave of Covid means,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘With so many people getting Covid, that is clearly going to take more and more people out of the workforce.’
The discussions with industry also brought up whether essential services would need to mandate a booster shot for staff.
Senator Ruston said the government was working towards ‘unshackling’ employment opportunities for cohorts like temporary visa holders and those on unemployment benefits.
‘Many older Australians, I am sure, will (also) be happy to do a few extra hours to help out at the moment,’ she said.
Mr Morrison said the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country was having an obvious impact on supply networks and distribution chains (pictured, a truck driver delivers fuel to a local petrol station in central Sydney)
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australians were already rolling up their sleeves to help cover shortages but they were being undermined by the government.
Mr Albanese said tracing, testing, quarantine and vaccination represented the ‘grand slam’ of the Morrison government’s failures, adding to the staff shortages as cases skyrocket.
He knew of professionals who had come out of retirement to help with the pandemic, he said.
‘Working people have made incredible sacrifices and stepped up. They did their part of the bargain, the federal government has not done its part,’ Mr Albanese said.
The national cabinet is also expected to receive advice from Treasury about the economic benefits of school reopening as scheduled and remaining safely open.