Gas industry's strategy man

THE FEDERAL government minister responsible for regulating the Australian oil and gas industry for most of the past six years has joined the industry less than a year after resigning his portfolio.

Under the ministerial code of conduct a government minister is banned from acting as a lobbyist for 12 months after surrendering his or her portfolio.

However, the industry’s national lobby group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, has moved quickly to bring former Labour minister Martin Ferguson on board.

APPEA has created a new position – chairman of the APPEA advisory board – for Ferguson, who has been happy to accept.

The appointment was formally announced by APPEA chief executive David Byers at the opening session of the APPEA Onshore Gas Conference in Adelaide yesterday (Oct 1).

Byers told delegates that as chairman of the APPEA Advisory Board, Ferguson would be responsible “for providing strategic advice . . . and for assisting in the industry’s promotion of the benefits it delivers to the wider Australian community”.

Ferguson told journalists later that he took the code of conduct seriously and would respect it.

Ferguson became resources minister in November 2007 under then prime minister Kevin Rudd, and resigned in March this year after supporting a failed bid to depose Julia Gillard and reinstate Rudd as prime minister.

He chose not to stand for re-election in his safe seat of Bateman in the federal election last month and is no longer a member of parliament.

In his speech to the opening plenary session of the conference, Ferguson told delegates that “enormous opportunities lie ahead. . . we as an industry should be excited about the opportunities that lie ahead of us”.

But he warned delegates that the industry had only about two years to seize those opportunities. He reminded them that the US was going through a transformation, thanks to the production of gas from coal and shale, and that massive reserves were being discovered off the east coast of Africa.

The gas resources off the coast of Mozambique had been estimated at around 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf) – and one trillion cubic feet would be enough to power a city of a million people for 20 years.

About 7tcf had been found off Tanzania and the first LNG from there was expected to be shipped out in 2018.

Australia, however, had good resources and a strong track record, and should be able to develop its resources safely and sustainably.

“We must build relationships between policymakers, industry and community to produce affordable gas.”

Coexistence between the gas industry and other land users was both essential and achievable.

“Strong political leadership is needed at federal level . . . Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory have led the way.”

“We cannot afford to have regulations guided by activism and the media.”

Adelaide Independent Reporter 2013