Gas crisis to cost business $6.7b

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 21st July 2008

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Australia’s largest and most representative business organisation, supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia (CCIWA), has called for greater national awareness of the impact on the national economy of Western Australia’s (WA) current gas crisis, which has resulted in a 30% reduction in supplies of natural gas.

This follows a meeting of business leaders comprising the ACCI Council in Brisbane last Friday, which discussed the impact of gas supply constraints in the WA economy and its potential flow on impact across the Australian economy.

CCIWA estimates the current cost of the crisis to the WA economy as $2.4 billion and the likely overall impact to be around $6.7 billion.

The Reserve Bank last week estimated that the impact would reduce economic output in WA by around three per cent for the duration of the disruption, while Australia’s GDP growth would be reduced by ¼ per cent.

ACCI Chief Executive Peter Anderson believes the decreased media attention is reducing public awareness of the crisis. “There is a risk that the rapid media cycle of events takes public attention away from the seriousness of the gas supply restrictions in the West,” he said. “This is the second time this year that WA’s gas supplies have been compromised. Given the importance of Western Australia to the national economy, ACCI supports CCIWA’s call for the WA State Government to develop an overarching state energy policy that considers a full range of energy sources including gas, coal, nuclear and renewable energy.”

The food and beverage sector has not been spared, with businesses struggling to cope and some having to decrease staff hours to limit expenses. Ms Andrea Berteit, Chief Executive Officer of the State’s peak food and beverage industry body, the Food Industry Association WA, has previously indicated that current initiatives do not alleviate the impact on many food and beverage industry players. “Our businesses have reviewed the option to utilise the Gas Bulletin Board to get access to more gas, but it doesn’t appear viable for our situation and circumstances where our businesses need access to secure and consistent supply that allows us to plan a week ahead – not just a day. It doesn’t go far enough in helping our sector deal with the current gas shortages,” she said recently.

“The food and beverage industry relies on a consistent and reliable flow of energy as we deal with perishable goods. Unreliable supplies make it very difficult to plan the production process, and we also risk significant wastage of valuable food products,” she concluded.