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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 6146

Ms MARINO (9:42 AM) —The current gas crisis in Western Australia is taking a significant toll on small to medium enterprises, especially those located in my electorate of Forrest, in the south-west of Western Australia. South-west industries utilise over 40 per cent of the gas supplies from Apache in the north-west. With 30 per cent of gas supplies being wiped out three weeks ago as a result of the explosion at Varanus Island, the south-west is bearing a significantly disproportionate burden of gas rationing, and it is crippling industry and productivity. South-west businesses are being starved of or drip-fed gas as a result of the shortages, and there is growing frustration, even anger, at the lack of transparency and fairness and at how the planning capacity in Alinta is allocating gas.

The Western Australian Premier has recently said that the gas shortage would have an impact on the state but that households and emergency services would not be directly affected. There have been various calls from the Premier as to what has been going on. However, he has been particularly quiet on any announcement of relief to small and medium businesses, which have been forced to drastically scale down their operations and lay off workers while the major companies are able to carry on. In this instance, in my electorate potentially between 700 and 800 businesses overall are affected by this. They are in manufacturing, mining, agriculture, general manufacturing, the timber industry, beef processing, the pork side of town, chemical plants, the transport industry, bakeries, job agencies, mechanical businesses and courier services. Anybody who is associated with any form of small to medium business within my electorate and more broadly is affected by this.

We have also heard very little from the federal level, and I would like to see the federal Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy come to Forrest and talk directly to those businesses that have been so badly affected.

What I am really struggling with is that it is the small to medium businesses that can least afford to carry the cost of this that have been and are being most badly affected. They are bearing the majority of the cost of this crisis. As major economic contributors, south-west businesses deserve to know whether they will receive gas and how much they will get. They also deserve to know who else is receiving a gas allocation and how much. The problem is that the allocation method is not transparent and is perceived by those dangling at the end of the hierarchical chain as being very unfair. I confirm that those small to medium enterprises in my electorate of Forrest are continuing and will continue to wear the cost and carry a very disproportionate load compared with the rest of the state. (Time expired)