March 4, 2021

WA Election 2021: bipartisan support for a natural gas future

The WA Energy Sector Forum, proudly hosted by APPEA at the Pan Pacific Hotel on Wednesday, highlighted strong bipartisan support for Western Australia’s oil and gas industry and provided some fiery moments as the Government and Opposition went head-to-head just ten days before the state election. 

Minister Bill Johnston, Shadow Minister David Honey, and Shadow Minister Bill Marmion took the stage to outline their vision for the future of the energy sector in front of an invitation-only audience of senior oil and gas representatives. 

Both the Government and Opposition see gas as a crucial enabler to renewable energy technologies and a cleaner energy future, as gas-fired generators can be rapidly started to provide grid stability when renewable technologies are intermittent. The major parties  which have both released plans to transition to a cleaner energy future  recognised the importance of gas to Western Australia’s energy security at yesterday’s forum. 

“Across the political divide the message was clear: natural gas will continue to play a strong role in Western Australia’s future energy mix,” said Claire Wilkinson, APPEA Director, Western Australia. 

“It was particularly pleasing to hear the support for natural gas in both parties’ plans to transition to a cleaner energy future. When the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing or there are peaks in demand, natural gas will continue to provide the reliable baseload power our state relies on.” 

In his opening statement, Minister Johnston said the McGowan Government understood the need for interstate fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers for specialised skillsets and jobs in the oil and gas industry. He committed to ensuring FIFO would continue in those circumstances but made “no apologies” for the Government’s commitment to training a local workforce to reduce the industry’s reliance on FIFO workers. 

Although there was robust debate about the WA Liberals’ New Energy Jobs Planthe most notable moment was when Dr Honey stated that natural gas and blue hydrogen will be important accelerators to develop the technologies required for the Liberals’ proposed green hydrogen industry. 

During facilitated questions, Mr Marmion took the opportunity to critique the Government’s hydraulic fracture stimulation moratorium and said that under a Liberal Government the Black Mountain and Theia Energy projects would already be underway. 

In welcome news to local operators and investors looking to support responsible onshore development, Minister Johnston committed to legislating the recommendations of the Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation as a priority if re-elected. This would pave the way for new job-creating projects across the State. 

Overall, yesterday’s Energy Sector Forum showcased the depth of bipartisan support for natural gas’s place in the Western Australia energy mix, with Liberal and Labor both endorsing the industry in the run up to the state election on 13 March. The message from the evening was clear  natural gas is a dependable choice to stimulate the local job market while continuing to support Western Australia’s continued renewables uptake.