Woodside eyes growth, slams govt policy

Energy giant Woodside Petroleum say it is keen to develop Australian resources in the longer term but has called on the government to review its policy towards the energy sector.


The oil and gas producer on Friday reaffirmed its target to increase production by 15 per cent by 2020, focusing on its existing operations and currently approved projects.

Chief executive Peter Coleman said the company will prioritise near-term value growth, with a focus on developing or expanding existing projects.

He identified the company’s two biggest liquefied natural gas projects in Western Australia, and the exploration work planned in Africa and Myanmar.

“You will hear us talk a lot about Wheatstone, Senegal, Myanmar and Pluto,” told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Perth.

“That’s not to detract from the other opportunities we are pursuing, but we see these as priorities for this year.”

Woodside said last month it is likely to meet its full-year production guidance despite bad weather hurting first-quarter production and sales.

The oil and gas giant’s output dropped nearly 10 per cent in the three months to March to 21.4 million barrels of oil equivalent, but it still expects to deliver the full-year production forecast of 84 mmboe to 90 mmboe.

Mr Coleman also confirmed the company’s longer term plan to build a pipeline from the Browse gas fields off the WA coast to the Karratha gas plant in the North West Shelf.

“As operator of both Browse and the North West Shelf, Woodside is well-placed to make this happen and we are talking to joint venture participants in both assets,” he said.

The company called on Canberra to ensure a fiscal regime for development of Australian resources and to avoid any policy changes that could deter investment.

Woodside chairman Michael Chaney flagged “several issues of concern” including the government’s impending review of the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax, recent changes to the 457 visa programme and delays in corporate tax cuts.

He said it will get much harder to attract highly skilled international employees to Australia if they are not confident of being able to stay beyond an initial two-year period, a result of the federal government changes to visas.

He particularly slammed the Labor and minor parties for opposing the government’s proposed cut in the corporate tax rate for all companies.

“It is very clear to anyone involved in business that having a corporate tax rate higher than that in other countries would result in Australia missing out on new investment,” Mr Chaney said, urging all political parties to ensure that the country’s international competitiveness does not suffer further.

Brisbane bid falls flat for Coates

John Coates’ lone gunslinger style is under a spotlight again after he shot from the hip about a Queensland Olympic bid.


Australian Olympic Committee president Coates has put the nation’s next bid back on the agenda – without telling anyone he was going to do it.

“We have authorised Brisbane and six supporting cities to do a feasibility study,” he told ABC television on Thursday night.

“I have got the experience and what I want to do, whether it’s 2028 or 2032 is to champion that, both in Australia and internationally.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Friday there have not been discussions with the AOC or the federal government about a bid.

And Coates rival for the AOC presidency, Danni Roche, says his comments highlight his autocratic style.

“I would work in a more collaborative manner. And I certainly wouldn’t be making a unilateral decision about the Olympic Games,” Roche told reporters on Friday.

Coates’ remarks are traced to south-east Queensland region councils approving a feasibility study into a potential Olympic bid.

The AOC last September offered its in-principle support but won’t help fund the $2.5m study, slated for completion within 18 months.

Roche, a 1996 Olympic hockey gold medallist, said she would welcome any bid, if it had government backing.

“I would work collaboratively with the governments if that was their interest, both federal and state. And also I wouldn’t be making unilateral decisions,” she said.

No decision on a bid is required until early 2019 when the IOC requires an expression of interest for the 2028 Games.

Trump and Turnbull meet after lengthy delay

Donald Trump’s decision to remain in Washington longer than planned saw him shift the meeting with Malcolm Turnbull from a Manhattan hotel in favour of a shorter, 30-minute meeting on board the USS Intrepid on the Hudson River.


Trump: “Oh, it’s a very big day. I appreciate you waiting.”

Turnbull: “Well, I know the feeling, we have challenges with our parliament too. We have only 29 seats in a Senate of 76 so you need a lot of work to get legislation passed.”

Trump: “That means you’re doing a good job.”

Turnbull: “When you get it passed, you are!”

Donald Trump labelled the reports of a terse phone call with Malcolm Turnbull over the refugee deal as a little bit of fake news.

Trump: “We had a good telephone call.”

Turnbull: “We had a great call!”

Trump: “You guys exaggerated that call. That was a big exaggeration. I want to tell you, we had a great call. I mean, we’re not babies. But we had a great call.”

The February phone call saw Mr Trump tweet that the refugee deal was dumb but the United States eventually decided to honour the refugee agreement forged by the Obama administration.

The two leaders talked trade, national security and immigration during their truncated meeting in New York ahead of a gala dinner commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.

The four-day battle between the Allies and Japan was fought off Australia’s northeastern coast between the 4th and the 8th of May in 1942 and was the first air-and-sea battle in history.

The Allies managed a strategic victory which put an end to the Japanese seaborne invasion of Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

It was the first time the Japanese had failed in a major wartime operation.

During the dinner, Malcolm Turnbull paid tribute to those who served.

“We thank all those Australians and Americans who served and remember the more than 600 who died in the Battle of the Coral Sea. And to all those who serve in the United States and Australian Defence Forces we honour you, we thank you. You and your families, with your courage and your service, you keep us free.”

Donald Trump offered similar sentiments.

“They saw enemy planes flying toward them by the dozen. They saw the flames erupt in to the air and they saw the true cost of war in the faces of the heroes that never returned. On this special gathering, on this special night, we remember the courage of these men and every man, Australian and American who fought in the Battle of the Coral Sea.”



NSW Hunter Valley looks to US region’s transition from coal

The Newcastle and Hunter region of the New South Wales Central Coast is known for its beaches, wines and mines.


Coal mining has a long history here – the industry in Australia began in Newcastle in the early 1800s.

But some in the region are now imagining a different future.

The environmental group Lock the Gate recently hosted Lisa Abbott, coordinator of a group working on the transition in the Appalachian region of the United States.

Centred in the state of Kentucky, it was once the country’s largest coal-producing area.

Ms Abbott, head of the Empower Kentucky Project, says coal mining is deeply ingrained in the Appalachian communities.

“Coal mining is more than just a job. It really is a part of our culture. It’s something that people have sacrificed their health (for) in many cases and have taken extraordinary risks to provide for their families.”

Once a significant employer, the coal industry in the Appalachian region now supports only a few jobs.

The community is in the midst of transitioning away from coal.

Ms Abbott, who works with the social justice organisation Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, says the Empower Kentucky Project is working to reshape the region’s economy.

“That includes supporting local agriculture, supporting the arts and tourism in the region. We believe there’s a lot of opportunity in energy efficiency and helping to retrofit homes and businesses to use less energy, which, in turn, keeps more money in the local community and creates jobs.”

In Appalachia, much of the coal has already been mined, but that is not the case in the Hunter Valley.

New data shows the global demand for New South Wales coal is continuing at near record levels.

In 2016, exports increased by 1.5 million tonnes.

The industry accounts for around 13,000 jobs in the Hunter.

But local miner Kerry Moir, who has worked in the industry for over 35 years, says the industry’s reach is far greater.

“A lot of people supply here to the coalmines, repair gear for the coalmines, do maintenance for the coalmines. So, if the coalmines go down, in the short term, I think a lot of people will be out of work in Newcastle.”

The Federal Member for the Hunter, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon, says coal mining remains crucial to the economy but a transitional fuel is needed to eventually move away from coal.

He suggests gas is the logical alternative.

“Our future is in renewables, but the transition to renewables, given the technology constraints, will be a long one, and we need a transitional fuel. Obviously, that’s gas. The Hunter is so well-placed to provide that gas generation. We have the land and the buffer zones of the existing coal-fired generators. The high-voltage transmission lines are there. We have the skilled workforce.”

But Lock the Gate Hunter coordinator Steve Phillips says he disagrees.

“Switching from one unsustainable, unreliable fossil fuel to another is not what our region wants. We want sustainable industries. The agricultural industries that have always been here can grow back. Innovative industries in engineering and social services already exist in the Hunter. We are a leader in these things. These can transition us away from coal if they’re allowed to grow. “

What the region does want is employment, and Ms Abbott says that needs to be the focus.

“Regardless of your views about coal and the coal industry, all of us need to be thinking about what’s a just transition for these workers and communities.”


Safe-zone plan for Syria, but rebels walk out

The talks in Astana involving armed Syrian rebel groups are part of efforts to try to end the country’s civil war that has killed more than 300,000 people since it began in 2011.


Russia’s plan involves setting up four so-called de-escalation zones in rebel-held territory in Idlib, parts of Homs province, an opposition enclave near Damascus and Syria’s south.

Rebels and government soldiers would be stationed at checkpoints around the four zones, and foreign troops could also be used in observer roles.

Russian president Vladimir Putin says Syrian and Russian planes would end their bombing in the four districts if opposition groups stop their attacks there.

The plan would allow for aid deliveries and the return of refugees.

United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura says he supports the agreement.

“The most important thing is that this initiative today is actually a step in the right direction, because it’s pushing for a concrete de-escalation in addition to the ceasefire in four areas.”

Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Ja’Afari, has also spoken in favour of the plan.

“The Syrian Arab Republic supports the Russian initiative on the de-escalation zones and stresses its commitment to the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on December 30, 2016, including not shelling those areas.”

Kazakhstan foreign minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov says the zones would help improve the de-escalation process ahead of a round of talks in Astana in mid-July.

“(We have) adopted the memorandum on the creation of de-escalation areas in the Syrian Arab Republic, which foresees the establishment of de-escalation areas with a view to putting an end to ongoing violence, improving the humanitarian situation, creating favourable conditions to advance the process for a political solution of the Syrian conflict and an effective fight against terrorism.”

But as Russia, Turkey and Iran gathered to sign the pact, Syrian rebel delegates shouted in protest and walked out.

Syria’s armed opposition says it cannot accept establishing the safe zones, saying they threaten the country’s territorial integrity.

And Syrian opposition delegation member Osama Abu Zaid says the rebels do not recognise Iran as a peace guarantor.

“In the name of the Syrian people, one of whose members, Major Yasser Abdul Rahim, who has objected on Iran signing, is present, we refuse any role for Iran and militias affiliated with it. We refuse for (Iran) to play any role as guarantor, considering it is a nation with hostilities against the Syrian people.”