The factors that influence whether the businesses pursuing these activities are competitive go well beyond those related to gas. They include a raft of other input costs, the impacts of regulations and much more – but a non-trivial issue is the availability of gas and its price.
An astonishing amount of time and effort over the past few years has gone in to efforts, often spearheaded by plastics and chemicals companies, to pursue reservation of gas resources for domestic use – an activity reviled by the upstream petroleum industry as seeking a return to protectionism and a leg-up for manufacturers at the expense of gas producers. However, despite trade union attempts to impose this step on the Labor Party as national policy, the issue is sliding off the table as its flaws become ever more apparent.
However, appreciation of the need to bring a lot more gas in to the east coast market, and to do so as efficiently as possible, is gaining ground, supported by manufacturing business lobbies, the Federal Government and the Productivity Commission.
Of course, this is not a promise of ‘cheap gas’, because the costs involved in finding, producing and transporting the fuel are higher now than they were, for example, five years ago.