In a crisis reach for … socialism?

“We will also invoke the provisions of the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act if required.”

That would allow the Federal Government to declare a national liquid fuel supply emergency, allowing the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, to control the production, transfer and stock levels of crude oil and other liquid fuel.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said he strongly supported the Government’s actions.

Full article here.

11 thoughts on “In a crisis reach for … socialism?

  1. Paraphrasing:-

    “That would allow … Martin Ferguson, to control the production … of crude oil”

    Except that it wouldn’t. He isn’t God. He can’t part the Red Sea. He can’t call on the power of the force of invoke magical words that will deliver forth more oil. Give him a million guns and and sea of new laws and then what?

    Hopefully this is all bluster and rhetoric. However why not provide some positive rhetoric by announcing a preparedness to implement a round of emergency tax cuts if the crisis escalates.

  2. The practical effect is that the government would take control of fuel in WA (and perhaps nationally) in order to ration it.

    It would mainly apply to gas, as it’s the fuel in short supply following the explosion at Varanus Island. However, other fuels are affected (eg Navy diesel reserves).

    Some form of rationing of gas is probably going to be needed. The alternative is for the WA government to remove the guarantee of supply for domestic households and allow the price to rise. There’s an election in WA this year, so you figure out the chances of that.

    I agree it all sounds very socialist and fanciful, but the reference to controlling the “production” of crude oil originates from the days when Bass Strait was a significant source.


  3. The practical effect is that the government would take control of fuel in WA (and perhaps nationally) in order to ration it. ”

    I’d like to see them try. WA is kind of like the American south in this respect. They’d probably trigger a civil war.

  4. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson said he strongly supported the Government’s actions.

    So basically the Libs now are an anti-gay rights party?

  5. Reading this story the other day sent a chill down my spine. I never imagined that Australia had these “emergency plans” in place which would transform the market for energy and fuel into a full scale command economy.

    And I’m nearly finished reading Atlas Shrugged which was written 50 years ago about some hypothetical worst case scenario, only now it doesn’t look so unlikely.

    Looks like I’ll want to get a comfy job with the Bureau of Economic Planning and Resources, and maybe end up on the Unification Board, like Wesley Mouch.

  6. IMHO I think there is considerable merit in Terje flagging this.

    The gas disruption in WA is doubtless a serious impact there.

    And it may have sufficient impact to affect the national accounts in due course.

    But to use this as the pretext to declare a national state of emergency and assume federal control of all liquid fuels seems just a tad of over-reaction, does it not ?

    Controlling distribution of unleaded petrol in Sydney seems hardly likely to keep the lights on and industry working in Perth – even if the gas pipelines are empty and diesel generators are running 24/7 ??

    The cynical view ( moi ) might be that this is another Thought Bubble from Dear Leader so as to be seen to be doing something while actually nothing of any consequence.

    However, the willingness of both sides of the political class to suggest deploying what are effectively wartime control powers on this basis suggests an extremely worrying precedent as to where the Canberra political classes will look for solutions to the unfurling challenges in energy, food, economics and the like that are piling up.

  7. Kevin Rudd: you are working too hard. Roll your sleeves back down.

    Anyone who knows about the 1970s and US oil will remember that rationing and price controls led to more shortages as the cost of transportation became prohibitive.

  8. Jono, at the back of my copy of that book, she points out that many of the ‘laws’ in ‘Atlas Shrugged’ were already in place in the US. And in the X-Files movie, they talk about the powers that FEMA could use in the right emergency. The US has had the seeds for a more powerful government for a long time.

  9. ‘The Australian’ keeps coming up with gems! An opinion on the back page of the ‘Business’ section talks about the adverse effects of the Fuelwatch scheme. And there was also a piece about a High Court Judge saying Australia didn’t need a ‘Bill of Rights’!

  10. I believe that Keating used these powers briefly during the first gulf war to put a ceiling on petrol prices. It had little effect because the market rate didn’t reach the ceiling anyway. However if it had of then we would have seen shortages just like in the USA in the 1970s under Nixons price controls.

  11. Wow, its really comforting to think of someone like Martin Ferguson in control of our fuel supplies in an emergency. After working for the Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union, the ACTU, and as a member of parliament, the guy has to have just what it takes to think he can do it better than anyone else.

    I mean those bloody oil company experts who have been supplying us for years just are not the sort of people who will fix it according to the public interest, they’ll only rush to fix it to keep making a profit, and thats bad, right. It is important to remember that in the rectification of crises the important thing is the motives of the ‘fixer’ not the results.

    This gives us a real chance of getting those carbon quotas implemented via our ration cards, who says there is no silver lining?

    Brendan Nelson has just proven himself worthy of all of that confidence I have in him, and hopefully someone more competent will take over soon if the Libs have one.

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