(Image: Private Media)
(Image: Private Media)

In an economy that suffers from far too much concentration, Australia's gas cartel is one of the worst examples of an industry oligopoly allowed to operate unchecked in a policy environment shaped by neoliberal deregulatory ideology.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been examining the lack of competition in east coast gas supply since 2020, and its latest report -- which has caused such a flurry this week for suggesting a 2023 gas shortfall -- further details the anti-competitive nature of gas supply. Having previously concluded that competition was basically a non-issue when it came to gas supply, the ACCC now says: "Competition between producers is ineffective and has had an adverse effect on the ability of [commercial and industrial] users to procure gas on competitive terms."

Eighty-five per cent of gas is produced by just five firms, and three account for more than two-thirds: APLNG (35%) owned by ConocoPhillips, Origin and Sinopec; QCLNG (26%), which is mainly Shell; and GLNG (10%), owned by Santos, Petronas and Total. Moreover "these metrics understate the true degree of influence that LNG exporters have in this part of the market, because they do not account for the interests of their associates".