Inaction on fuel self-sufficiency poses a threat to our way of life, and sustenance.
LET’S consider a blast from the past.
With no pun intended, the one to be focused upon is Kim ‘Bomber’ Beazley, now Australia’s ambassador to the US.
On October 19 2005, as opposition leader, Mr Beazley delivered a speech in Melbourne to the Australian Institute of Company Directors, in which he focused upon a crucially important national question – not a phoney one, like his two successors, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, so often do.
On that day, before that eminent audience, Mr Beazley highlighted the threat Australia faced – just over the horizon, so to speak – if it failed to ensure access to economical liquid fuels, namely dieseline and petrol.
When considering these two seemingly mundane commodities, keep in mind the old adage, so often incorrectly used, that “money makes the world go around.”
That, of course, is quite untrue.
It’s not money, but liquid fuels – dieseline and petrol – that, more than anything, make the world go around.
Without dieseline, just about every machine in the Pilbara and Goldfields, from where Western Australia’s two major export commodities are found – iron ore and gold – would shut down.
Bye-bye all those foreign dollars that keep Western Australians prosperous.
Bye-bye also to all the big-taxing plans presently emanating from Ken Henry and Treasury, aimed at bankrolling Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s big-spending dreams.
And bye-bye to all the wheat and other grains that farmers plant and harvest.
Tractors, in case our politicians have forgotten, or don’t know, move by burning dieseline.
Bye-bye also to most of our bus and truck transport and, if there’s no petrol, also to car mobility.
That’s one heck of a lot of goodbyes. But there are lots more.
Perth’s cycle ways and our fairly modest electric train rail network would become clogged.
But back to Mr Beazley, now living in Washington DC, which means he heads a staff of about 620 employees.
If that figure astounds you, as it did me, I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t come from the horse’s mouth.
Mr Beazley revealed it during his valedictory speech at the WA state library’s lecture theatrette, just before departing for the Northern Hemisphere.
Since then, State Scene has listened to an interesting lecture by former US consul-general in Perth, Robin McClellan, who until this month headed The Committee for Economic Development of Australia here, on her term in the US embassy in New Delhi, where staff numbers are well over 2,000.
I’d never realised diplomacy was so labour intensive.
And all those diplomats and staffers, like the rest of us, must get to work each day, which means dieseline and petrol play even a crucial role in diplomacy.
On October 19 2005 Mr Beazley, among other things, made the following now long-forgotten points.
“We must increase the use of Australian transport fuels and reduce our reliance on foreign oil,” he said.
“We must develop and use those fuels that will become cheaper in the future.
“We must make Australia less vulnerable to external shocks.
“We must make Australia less reliant on the foreign oil affecting our trade deficit and foreign debt.
“After 25 years in parliament I see an Australia more exposed than ever before.
“After 25 years in parliament I see an Australia growing more and more reliant on the rest of the world for our fuel, for our money and for our security.
“But in October 2015, if we do nothing, I expect the questions to be even more damning.
“As Australians queue for petrol at around $4, $5 potentially up to $10 a litre even further down the track, the questions will be: How had our governments not seen the writing on the wall? Why didn’t our leaders foresee the soaring demand? Why didn’t our leaders do their sums and realise demand would outstrip supply? Why couldn’t they foresee the threats to supply? Why didn’t they put the national interest first? Why was Australia so unprepared?
“Friends, we need to prepare Australia for such a world now.”
State Scene could not have put it better.
That we need dieseline and petrol for the reasons Mr Beazley so ably stressed in such a statesmanlike manner so long ago has had no impact upon anyone in Canberra – Liberal, Labor, Nationals, and most certainly not the Greens.
No party or politician has lifted a finger on this question.
It’s as if that old worn-out cliché; ‘She’ll be right mate’ has hypnotised all there to continue doing nothing.
That, of course, is just a nice way of saying that most of our national politicians are lazy, so lazy that the Australian public has come to expect nothing of them except spin and meaningless press statements.
So here we are, exactly five years closer to what Mr Beazley warned of, which means we’ve now got five fewer years to get cracking.
As bleak as the Beazley warning is, the solution is not difficult to find; it’s well within our reach, in fact.
And since no-one in Canberra is likely to do anything, it’s up to state governments to lead the way.
All that’s therefore required is for the Colin Barnett-Brendon Grylls team to call for expressions of interest worldwide for construction of two or three coal-to-liquids plants in WA that would ensure the state’s heavy haulage, farming and road transport sectors would utilise home-made, indigenous, fuel within a set time frame.
WA has an abundance of suitable coal for such an urgent program, including north of Perth, near Eneabba, the Collie region, and in the southern Goldfields.
And the technology for the transforming of coal-to-liquid fuels is not rocket science.
It’s been with us since at least the first half of last century. South Africa has utilised it, and Indonesia and China are presently moving down this path.
Instead, Mr Barnett is preparing to dig up the CBD’s foreshore along the Esplanade, while Mr Grylls looks for pet projects to spend his 25 per cent Royalties for Regions bonanza.
Both should be getting down to ensuring WA’s economy is safe and sound from what Mr Beazley warned against in October 2005.
If they don’t then Mr Beazley’s local colleagues, Labor leader Eric Ripper and senior opposition frontbenchers, Ben Wyatt, Mark McGowan and Roger Cook, should pick up the Beazley baton on this crucial question and run with it.
That would not only put WA on the road to becoming self-sufficient in liquid fuels, but may even astonish them by ensuring Labor is the next state government.
Two years of a big-spending Barnett-Grylls government have shown that the two gentlemen heading it are great at dreaming-up Canberra-style schemes on which to spend taxpayers’ money, but are sadly deficient in areas that really count.