Australia holds an enviable supply of natural gas. But, unlike every other gas-exporting country, it has no laws to keep a certain amount of extracted gas onshore, driving up prices and hurting consumers and manufacturers, campaigners say.
On Monday, the Reserve Our Gas campaign was launched to demand the federal government to pass laws to ensure a percentage of gas is kept for domestic use rather than being exported and linked to global prices.
Such laws could stop local gas prices from rocketing, with one projection showing prices could triple next year when LNG exports ramp up.
A BIS Shrapnel report found a rise could see one in five manufacturers shut down over the next half-decade. It also showed households gas bills could rise by 26 per cent over three years from 2015.
As a consequence, exporters were unfairly selling Australian gas back to consumers at global prices, it said.
While Australian gas has traditionally cost around $3-4 per gigajoule domestically, it could sell for up to $18 per gigajoule on Asian markets.
"We currently have a situation in which our abundant gas reserves are hurting Australian jobs and households instead of helping them," said AWU National Secretary Scott McDine said. "That's crazy and it's no wonder no other gas-exporting nation allows it."
Israel, Indonesia, Egypt each have laws requiring that a percentage of gas extracted must stay within their domestic markets. The United States has a public interest test for gas exports.
The union says state-owned companies dominate gas industries in Norway, Qatar, Russia, Algeria, and Malaysia, ensuring domestic advantage.
"Australians have a right to know their rapidly rising gas bills are actually completely preventable. We just need to do what every other gas-exporting nation does and bring in laws to look after the local population," he said.
BIS Shrapnel found gas extraction had a spectacularly high profit ratio of 66 per cent, compared to iron ore with 32 per cent and coal with 3.4 per cent.
"We are throwing away hundreds of thousands of jobs, and our national competitive advantage, simply so gas exporters can squeeze a little extra profit out of what is already a spectacularly profitable business," he said.