China has branded Australia “laughable”, mocking the Government and former prime minister Scott Morrison in the wake of a “damning” gas report.
The comments were made as part of a scornful article published by the CCP-controlled Global Times.
The piece mocks a suggestion that Australia could step in and help with supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European allies impacted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
At the start of 2022, the then-prime minister Mr Morrison said his government was looking at options that would allow Australia to fill international demand for gas if Russia stops exporting to Europe.
“Awkwardly, some in Australia are now warning of a potential shortage in the country and urging to set aside gas for Australia’s own electricity network before selling to the rest of the world,” the Global Times article noted.
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On Monday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) gas inquiry 2017-2025 interim report warned businesses could shut down and there could be a record shortage of gas in the southern states next year unless something is done about the nation’s energy crisis.
The ACCC predicted a 56 petajoule shortfall in east coast gas supply by 2023, a figure it called a “significant risk to energy security” that was equivalent to 10 per cent of expected domestic demand.
China said the situation currently facing Australia was both “laughable and serious”.
“Laughable, because this reflects Australian officials’ overconfidence and arrogance in making empty promises it cannot deliver; serious, because a potential move could significantly affect already disrupted global energy supplies, given that Australia is known as one of the world’s top LNG exporters,” the newspaper noted.
Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine has seen international demand for LNG soar, with Beijing claiming a decision from Australia to impose export restrictions could “hurt some of its European and Asian allies the most”.
The article blasted Mr Morrison for his “empty promises” for saying Australia will help its allies when they are in need.
“It is clear that a possible reduction in Australia’s LNG exports would further exacerbate the global energy crisis and push up prices, while increasing the energy anxiety in countries that used to see Australia as a reliable source of supplies,” the Global Times said.
“Some of its allies may also be annoyed by Australia’s inability to actually offer help in areas where it apparently has an advantage.”
The article noted that China has recently made efforts to diversify its energy imports following recent tensions with Australia, with Beijing last year signing new LNG contracts with the US instead.
However, the outlet assured readers that any decision by Australia would not “fundamentally undermine” China’s energy security.
Government reacts to ‘damning’ gas report
Australia’s Resources Minister Madeleine King branded the new ACCC report as “damning” of gas exporters after it found they were not engaging locally “in the spirit” of the heads of agreement.
“We remain concerned that some (liquefied) natural gas LNG exporters are not engaging with the domestic market in the spirit in which the heads of agreement was signed,” the report said.
“LNG producers will need to divert a significant proportion of their excess gas into the domestic market.”
Ms King said gas producers “know” the report is “damning for them”.
“The ACCC report is damning, no doubt about it,” she said.
“It sets out patterns and instances of behavior that are clearly not acceptable in an environment where we do have an international and domestic energy supply crisis.”
The ACCC described the outlook for 2023 as “very concerning” with gas prices likely to increase.
“The outlook for 2023 is very concerning and is likely to place further upward pressure on prices, which could result in some commercial and industry users no longer being able to operate,” the report said.
“It could also lead to demand having to be curtailed.”
This shortfall will mainly affect NSW, Victoria, South Australia, the ACT and Tasmania, where “resources have been diminishing for some time”, though Queensland may also be impacted.
– with NCA NewsWire