Mafeking relieved — again! The Prime Minister, flanked by his Kiwi deputy, yesterday declared that the gas crisis was over and he wouldn’t have to impose a reservation on gas exports after all, because gas exporters had assured him there would be enough gas for the domestic market.

“They have given us a guarantee that they will offer to the domestic market the gas that was identified as the expected demand shortfall, by AEMO, in 2018,” the Prime Minister said. 

Splendid news. Except, that’s very similar to what he announced just over six months ago, too. On March 15, he announced “we’ve just finished a meeting with east coast gas producers. They have given us a commitment – a guarantee – that gas will be available to meet peak demand periods in the national electricity market… It is utterly untenable, unacceptable, for us to be in a position where domestic gas consumers – whether it’s generators, whether it’s businesses and industry, or whether it’s families – cannot have access to affordable gas.”

Of course, yesterday the Prime Minister went on to blame the states for banning gas exploration, and… oh wait, he did that back in March, as well. “We must continue the pressure on State and Territory governments to revisit the restrictions on gas development and exploration,” he said back then, singling out Victoria. Now he singles out both Victoria and NSW as well. There’s one other difference, however. Back in March, or about 10 Newspolls ago, Turnbull went the entire media conference on gas without mentioning Labor once. Yesterday, Labor was mentioned no less than a dozen times. That follows the 16 times Labor was mentioned at Monday’s media conference.

As the Financial Review’s Angela Macdonald-Smith sceptically noted “there’s the same volume of available today for sale for east coast users as there was yesterday – and it still comes at a price tag that many industrial buyers say they can’t afford to pay.”

Still, if the point was to kick Labor yet again, the press conference was useful. Though “Blackout Bill” has been retired, if only temporarily — someone in the PMO worked out that if you start getting mocked for your incessant use of a nickname, it’s probably a good idea to give it a rest.

Peter Fray

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