Australian Economy

Labor ‘must back coal, gas’: CEOs

“All that would do is send resources jobs to other countries with lower standards. It is vital that high quality environmental standards are upheld.”

Still, the possibility of the Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate and the resolve of independent “teal” members to push Labor for faster and deeper action on emissions is being seen as a risk for the energy and resources industry, which is forecast to generate a record $425 billion of exports this year.

Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Boak said a “key risk to watch is whether increasingly influential Green and climate-focused independents eventually push the ALP towards more ambitious targets on emission reductions”.

“On the face of things, Labor climate policies were more specific in targeting decarbonisation goals in tighter time frames versus the coalition,” Morgan Stanley equity strategists said.

“Now that Labor is in government, the broad intent will need greater policy in order to placate and satiate a larger Independent and Green vote. We would look for policy that drives faster adoption rates from both consumer and business in the first instance.”

But while the Greens have a policy of “no new coal or gas projects”, the chief executive of oil and gas explorer Finder Energy, Damon Neaves, said no responsible government would even contemplate shutting down existing export projects, and voiced hopes for a Labor government that would support the industry.

“I’m hopeful that a Labor government will be supportive for the industry, and they have said as much in recent comments they have made,” Mr Neaves said.

“I do have concerns though if the balance of power is held by independents and the Greens. That might have some impact but it is yet to be seen.”

“It would be pretty radical to try and shut down existing export projects given the billions of investment that’s been made. I don’t think any responsible government would even contemplate that.”

Consulting with Labor

Mr Flynn said that for the resources sector to play its part to support the economy and help drive decarbonisation, it was “essential the government supports the competitiveness of our export industries, including our more emissions-intensive sectors”.

“This is why we have called for further detail around proposed changes to the Safeguard Mechanism and we look forward to consulting with Labor ahead of any further policy design and implementation,” he said.

Australia had $54.3 billion of committed resource and energy projects under development as at the end of October, with more added since then with Woodside’s $16.5 billion Scarborough and Pluto-2 gas project in Western Australia that has bilateral support across the Coalition and Labor.

Woodside noted that it has all primary federal and state approvals in place for Scarborough and work is progressing as planned.

“Woodside congratulates the incoming senators and looks forward to working with all of them to achieve outcomes that are in the national interest,” a spokeswoman said.

Lucas Dow, the CEO of Adani Australia, said its coal mines would remain in operation for “decades to come”, meaning it would have to work with different governments and thus engaged with the ALP prior to the election.

“The party reiterated its support for Australia’s coal sector and the tens of thousands of men and women whose hard work helps our governments to deliver services like the NDIS, schools, roads, and national security,” he said.

“Obviously we’re still waiting for some of the policy detail on things like the Safeguard Mechanism and the introduction of an independent Environmental Protection Agency, and we look forward to participating in the consultation process Labor has committed to,” he said.

“What is absolutely clear, though, is that current geopolitical uncertainty and economic challenge mean Australia’s resources export industries will be more integral than ever to keeping our national economy strong to guarantee the essentials Australians rely on.”

Stuart Nicholls, CEO of John Poynton-chaired gas developer Strike Energy, voiced confidence of support for Strike’s ventures from an Albanese government, pointing to the strategic importance of Strike’s urea and gas projects in Western Australia’s Perth Basin.

“I suspect that Strike’s ongoing forward strategy will have support across both a Labor government and anyone they may need to engage to pass policy and legislation,” he said, highlighting the importance of domestic urea production to support grain production.

“Right now food security is an incredibly important thematic for the world as well as in Australia…. and I think that’s in every political party’s interest to secure food chains.”

Mr Nicholls said Mark McGowan’s Labor government in WA provided an example of how support for the resources industry can be balanced with the need to reach net zero emissions.

Mr Neaves noted the change in the narrative around energy in the Northern Hemisphere since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine where energy security has become paramount, causing the UK government to actively promote domestic oil and gas production alongside its decarbonisation goals.

“They have very much changed their tune, and it will be interesting whether that new attitude on oil and gas really starts to come out in the narrative here,” he said.

In Western Australia, Paul Everingham. the outgoing CEO of the state’s Chamber of Minerals and Energy, emphasised the importance of WA’s mining and resources sector to the national economy, employing more than 156,000 people.

“CME member companies, including our energy producers, support the emission reduction targets set by the Paris Agreement, including a move towards net zero emissions… [and our] member companies are at the forefront of transformational efforts to reduce emissions,” he said.

“These include the transition from diesel generation to renewable power, the use of electric vehicles and machinery on site, the production of downstream battery minerals, investment in carbon capture and storage, and massive investments in hydrogen as a future energy source.”

Santos, which is building the $5 billion Barossa gas project to feed new supplies to the Darwin LNG export project and is hoping to give the go-ahead next year for the Narrabri coal seam gas project in NSW, said it would “work constructively with the government of the day across all policy areas”.

Morne Engelbrecht, CEO of Beach Energy, a partner in Santos’ carbon capture project in South Australia, said projects such as that would help Australia reach its emissions reductions targets.

Cassandra McCarthy, head of corporate affairs for Glencore in Australia, which employs 17,300 people across the country, said the miner looked “forward to working constructively with his government on key policy matters related to the mining sector”.

“We are one of the largest producers of natural resources including coal, cobalt, copper, nickel, zinc, lead and silver in Australia and each of the commodities we produce will be needed at some stage of the transition to a low carbon future,” she said.

“We have committed to emission reductions (including Scope 3) across our business of 15 per cent by 2026, 50 per cent by 2035 and an ambition of net zero by 2050. We have also indicated that we will responsibly manage a decline of our global coal business over time.”

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