Labor to announce national interest test for gas developments

The opposition will today announce a national interest test policy for new gas projects or expansions, claiming that Australia is the only developed nation on earth that allows exporters dictate the terms of LNG production and sale.

The Australian Financial Review reportsthat shadow treasurer Chris Bowen will announce the policy during a visit to an unnamed manufacturing plant in Melbourne today.

In recent years industrial users and the AWU have led calls for reform of the local gas market, which has seen prices rise, increased exposure to international pricing, and an ACCC report last month finding that suppliers and pipeline operators were abusing an uncertainty of supply.

The change in policy would be “light touch” regulation according to Labor, and see new developments overseen by a Foreign Investment Review Board-style panel.

Bowen told The AFR that, “If elected, Labor would follow the lead of other gas-rich nations, like the US and Canada, and introduce a domestic gas National Interest Test for new or significantly expanded natural gas export facilities.

“The basic idea would be that every time a company wanted to create a new gas project an independent board, appointed by the Treasurer, would assess what impact it might have on the national interest.”

The issue divides the business community, with resources companies and the Business Council of Australia opposed to any new regulations, and the Australian Industry Group, PACIA and other industry bodies requesting intervention.