In the event of an actual or likely fuel shortage with national implications, the Governor General may declare a national liquid fuel emergency under the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (the Act).
The Act gives the Minister for Climate Change and Energy powers in an emergency to control:
- industry-held stocks of crude oil and liquid fuels
- production by Australian refineries
- fuel sales across Australia.
States and territories must be consulted prior to the declaration of a national emergency. An Intergovernmental Agreement (2006) sets out parameters for a co-operative response, and the National Liquid Fuel Emergency Response Plan and supporting documents describe these arrangements.
National Liquid Fuel Emergency Response Plan
The National Liquid Fuel Emergency Response Plan (the Plan) reinforces established industry and market strategies for returning Australia to normal fuel supply levels. It includes a communication plan designed to support the successful management of any liquid fuel emergency. The Plan can be used to bring powers under the Act into operation, if a national supply disruption is severe or may last for a long time. It aims to ensure:
- fuel is allocated in the most efficient and fair way
- the impacts of any shortage on fuel users are minimised
The Plan encourages users of large volumes of fuel to prepare contingency plans, to understand how fuel is used and how less essential activities could use less fuel.
Essential users under the Act
If fuel rationing is needed during a liquid fuel emergency, some essential goods and services need to continue to be made available to avoid seriously damaging the health or safety of the community. The providers of these essential goods and services are known as ‘essential users’. Essential users may be exempted from rationing during an emergency. They are:
- Australian defence services
- ambulance services
- corrective services
- fire or rescue services
- police services
- public transport services
- state emergency services or equivalent organisations
- taxi services
For more information, please see the Liquid Fuel Emergency (Activities-Essential Users) Determination 2019.
Retail Rationing under the Act
The Retail Rationing Framework governs the way liquid fuel is rationed in Australia. It works by limiting the volume of fuel a motorist can buy up to a pre-defined daily dollar-value.
A Guidance Note on Retail Rationing was agreed by the National Oil Supplies Emergency Committee (NOSEC) in 2016 to help retailers and members of the public plan for the unlikely event that retail rationing is required.