Federal Labor will replace the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) with a fund to unlock gas supplies from the northern states if elected.
Labor leader Bill Shorten announced he would pledge $1.5 billion for gas pipelines in the Galilee and Bowen basins in Queensland, as well as the Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory, in order to transport the energy source to the east coast and Darwin respectively.
Mr Shorten said only $15 million of the $5 billion NAIF has been spent on infrastructure in the five years since it’s introduction, so he would repurpose the initiative as the Northern Australia Development Fund.
“The NAIF has been an abject failure,” Mr Shorten said.
“[The new fund] would support Darwin as a manufacturing and gas export powerhouse as well as increasing supply to Queensland and the eastern seaboard to put downward pressure on prices for gas users.”
Escalating domestic wholesale gas prices have put pressure on customers along Australia’s east coast, particularly in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, with companies such as Remapak and Incitec Pivot struggling to stay afloat.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has consistently argued that the way to lower prices is to increase gas exploration and develop proved and probable reserves.
Blue Energy, who holds acreage in Beetaloo, Galilee and Bowen, cautioned against gas users expecting more gas to become immediately available, but said Labor’s plans were very encouraging.
Blue Executive Chairman John Ellice-Flint the North Bowen Basin would be the quickest of the three regions to bring gas to market as it contains environmentally approved projects that are already producing.
“Unlocking existing reserves and resources in the North Bowen gas province with nation building gas infrastructure has the potential to bring relief to east coast gas users within the near-term, by providing a large long-term source of new gas to the east coast,” he said.
Origin Energy, Santos, Comet Ridge and Armour Energy are also among those currently exploring or developing gas resources in the three basins.
The NT lifted its moratorium on fracking in April last year.
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