24 Feb 2021

WA Election an opportunity for industry-led recovery

This year’s Western Australian State Election is coming at a crucial time. Early voting will open just a few weeks on from the COVID-19 case that sent nearly two million people into lockdown, and the next State Government will face some important challenges ahead to stabilise the economy.

The oil and gas industry in Western Australia has faced its share of challenges over the past 12 months. Powering Western Australia: APPEA’s State Election Platform outlines how the industry and Government can work together to boost the state’s economic recovery and support local jobs.

APPEA Director for Western Australia Claire Wilkinson explained that the election presents an opportunity to unlock policy that will strengthen the economy, build regional communities, reduce emissions, and continue to capitalise on the state’s natural gas potential.

“The ongoing effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a tough year for Western Australia, and the nation in general,” Ms Wilkinson said.

“But Western Australia has tremendous potential to bounce back, and our work throughout the pandemic has put us in an enviable position. Local oil and gas companies have worked closely with the State Government and Opposition to protect jobs and maintain critical energy supply to our homes, hospitals, mines and manufacturers throughout the pandemic.”

Western Australia’s oil and gas industry has seen success in its collaboration with Government on initiatives such as the LNG Jobs Taskforce and the Jobs and Skills WA website, which have helped identify contracting and workforce opportunities to stimulate the economy.

There is an opportunity, however, for further consultation and collaboration with the next State Government, particularly on matters of industry policy.

While large offshore reserves dominate Western Australia’s oil and gas industry, there are also significant opportunities to support jobs and regional development onshore.

The next State Government should finalise any outstanding policy implementation and regulatory requirements from the Independent Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation that concluded over two years ago to allow the industry to attract investment, support responsible onshore development, and create local jobs.

The next government should also ensure consultation with industry to reduce the risk of impromptu decision making. From the current McGowan Government’s abrupt changes made to the Western Australia Domestic Gas Policy in August 2020, to the Opposition’s recent energy announcement, decisions made without industry consultation pose a genuine risk to our state’s energy security and economic recovery. Such shifts in regulatory and policy settings made without the consultation of industry — especially during a time when competition for global capital is high — can deter long-term investment.

Many APPEA members are also supportive of climate change policies consistent with delivering emissions reductions in line with the Paris Agreement.

Natural gas, as a lower emissions fuel, is currently the most practicable energy source to complement the continued uptake of intermittent renewables such as wind and solar by providing baseload power. The industry is also taking considerable efforts towards implementing lower-emissions technologies such as solar, wind, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage technology, which will all contribute to Western Australia’s journey towards a low-carbon economy.

“Oil and gas developments benefit regional communities, not only through direct employment, but also by supporting the wider supply chain,” said Ms Wilkinson.

“By supporting secure, local jobs, responsible development and innovative lower-emissions technologies, the oil and gas industry can help contribute to Western Australia’s economic prosperity as it recovers from COVID-19.”