The Australian oil and gas industry has been “demonised” by activists, Shell Australia Chairman Andrew Smith said at a conference in Brisbane yesterday.
Speaking at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s (APPEA) 2016 Conference and Exhibition, Mr Smith said the industry’s future is “questioned” despite the petroleum industry being a significant driver of the country’s growth for more than a century.
“And despite bringing billions of dollars of capital to monetise Australian resources, create jobs and revitalise our regions – our investments are increasingly less welcomed,” he said.
“Allow me to be clear. I am not suggesting the oil and gas industry is being run out of towns across the country. Far from it. There are excellent examples of long term coexistence in parts of Australia stretching from Gippsland to Gladstone and across to the north of Western Australia.
“But there is no doubt our industry is the subject of an orchestrated, organised and well-funded campaign to hem in its further development.”
Mr Smith said complacency and manipulation sit at the centre of the “concerning situation”.
“Complacency from our industry that in too many cases believed it could simply woo communities with new investments and well paid jobs – and when that didn’t work believed governments would simply sort things out,” he said.
“Complacency from communities that thought their prosperity was guaranteed regardless of whether industry invested in their regions or not.
“And manipulation from activists that have unfairly demonised both investors and workers that have contributed to the economic success of our nation.”
Mr Smith pointed out that the Australian LNG industry, which has seen the construction of 15 new LNG trains across the north of the country, has created more than 40,000 jobs and 13,000 after construction.
“…it is more important than ever that our industry clearly articulates to the Australian people the benefits that these investments will have in the decades to come,” he said.
“The resource reliant economies of Western Australia and Queensland, along with regional economies across the nation, require more investment and new projects to complement traditional industries such as agriculture.
“But despite this obvious benefit to many of our most remote and often disadvantaged communities, we still face significant social challenge in entering frontier regions.
“This challenge is one that we must face head on, through open dialogue. If we fail to tackle this challenge growth opportunities for these regions will not be realised.”
Mr Smith said the greatest challenge in the LNG industry is how we continue to prosper in a carbon-constrained future.
“Legitimate concerns about the impacts of climate change are not only among the most vocal criticisms of our industry’s investments – but also are the inspirations behind many of the more tangible, albeit sometimes fanciful, points of protest,” Mr Smith said.
“In my experience it is the same activists that express concern about carbon emissions, that take aim at the impact of potential spills, the impact of drilling on aquifers, the insistence that landholders be given a power of veto – or even that superannuation funds should divest their interests from natural gas companies.”
The APPEA 2016 Conference and Exhibition continues until Wednesday.