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‘Backflips and turmoil’: Shell CEO urges business to take lead on climate

Shell Australia chairman Zoe Yujnovich said industry must help to direct government to create a durable energy policy after more than a decade of failed energy and climate policies. CREDIT: BEN RUSHTON

By Cole Latimer: 

Shell has blasted the federal government over climate and energy policies saying business needs to take the lead on climate action, and the Coalition blaming high gas prices on exports “cannot go unchallenged”.

In a speech, Australia chief Zoe Yujnovich lashed the government’s performance on climate change and threats to cut off gas exports, saying industry needs to take the lead on climate and energy as governments are unable to “sell” their constantly changing policies.

Ms Yujnovich, speaking at the Melbourne Mining Club on Wednesday, said the last five Australian prime ministers had been ousted, in part, due to climate and energy policies and these continual failures means business must step in to ensure continued energy investment.

“Energy and climate policies look set to be prime battlegrounds for the hearts and minds of voters. The last thing this industry needs are policy backflips and turmoil,” Shell Australia chairman Zoe Yujnovich said.

“We’ve all seen how difficult it is for all parties, irrespective of their ideology, to explain and sell these policies to political opponents and disenchanted voters.

“The challenge for industry is to advocate that Australia needs policy that continues to attract investment opportunities. As an industry we should encourage the next government – no matter what political persuasion – to introduce policies that encourage business to invest in solutions required.”

She said it was up to industry to work together to lead the way.

“We are the ones who will need to advocate in a united way for parties to take a politically durable, bipartisan approach: our united advocacy can send strong signals for policy direction to provide investors with comfort and security.”

The Coalition government has been under fire from industry groups following the dumping in 2018 of its own energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG), which has since been picked up by Bill Shorten’s Labor Party as its energy policy ahead of a federal election later this year.

Shadow minister for climate change and energy Mark Butler said the Labor Party would continue to push the NEG as an energy policy.

“Labor’s preference is to achieve a bipartisan agreement on energy policy but Scott Morrison and the Liberals are too divided and too out of touch to agree on an energy policy that can lower prices, boost renewables and address climate change,” Mr Butler said.

“Labor will continue to pursue a bipartisan National Energy Guarantee – a plan supported by every business group in the country, the young Liberals, and every state government, including the NSW Liberal government.”

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said Labor’s aggressive climate policies would damage industry.

“Australians have a clear choice at the upcoming election – Labor’s reckless economy wrecking 45 per cent emissions reduction target that will drive up power prices, and will slash jobs, wages and industries, or the Coalition’s “appropriate and achievable” 26 per cent target which, according to Australian National University independent research, we will meet in 2025 – five years early.”

Last year, industry leaders lashed the government’s policies as “ad hoc and extreme”, as the government sought to bring in a raft of new interventionist policies in order to drive electricity and gas prices down.

Both the Morrison government and the Opposition have put forward potential gas export restrictions as a way to increase domestic supplies and reduce historically high gas prices, blaming gas producers for the high costs of gas.

Shell rejected these claims.

“I have heard and read the demands for government intervention. I have heard and read the demands to halt gas exports,” Ms Yujnovich said.

“But blaming the increase in the price of gas on exports is wrong and cannot go unchallenged.”

She said while gas prices are higher, they would be significantly higher if new gas projects weren’t developed on the back of potential exports.

“Without exports, $200 billion worth of investment by gas companies would never have happened,” she said.

“Without exports, Australia would be relying on imports, despite having huge gas resources in the ground. Without exports, Australian consumers would be paying far more than they do today to cover the cost of exploration, development and distribution.”

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