The Australian government is unable to answer how many jobs its gas-led recovery will generate despite hyping and announcing the program more than six months ago.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison spent months pumping up the gas industry before officially unveiling his gas-fuelled plan as the centre of the coronavirus recession recovery.
“As we turn to our economic recovery from COVID-19, affordable gas will play a central role in re-establishing the strong economy we need for jobs growth, funding government services, and opportunities for all,” Mr Morrison declared in September.
But seven months on, the government still hasn’t told us how many jobs this gas plan will create.
The New Daily asked the government for an analysis on how many jobs it expects to create – these repeated requests were ignored.
Instead, we were pointed towards the Prime Minister’s original announcement from September.
Australia Institute climate and energy program director Richie Merzian has been watching the ‘recovery’ closely and says we’ve seen no hint of job numbers.
“They’ve put nothing out about the number of jobs,” Mr Merzian told TND.
“It’s been over a year (since it was first mentioned). What are they waiting for? This is a simple piece of analysis about the best way to invest in job creation. They have how many employees in the Treasury?
“Do your job.”
Job line grows
Data from Roy Morgan, which has a different methodology to the official labour force figures, suggests 1.93 million Australians were unemployed in February and an additional 1.14 million were underemployed.
This number is expected to climb when JobKeeper ends on March 28.
Currently, the gas industry employs no more than 30,000 people, and modelling from the Australia Institute shows investing in any other industry would create thousands more jobs than gas.
“Gas is the worst sector you can invest in for job creation. You can throw money in any other sector to make more jobs,” Mr Merzian said.
Principal adviser at The Australia Institute Mark Ogge said gas was among the very worst options for job stimulus.
It compares poorly to every other industry, with female-dominated industries such as education and health care creating the most jobs for every $1 million of spending.
“If they’re giving out $100 million of taxpayer money, you would expect them to model the impacts,” Mr Ogge said.
As previously mentioned, TND has asked the government for this modelling. We didn’t receive a response.
On top of this, the number of Australians working in renewable energy is three times larger than the number working in coal and gas power stations, according to the 2016 Census, even though renewables only service 25 per cent of the national grid.
“They should be comparing how many jobs you get from gas and how many more from renewables energy,” Mr Ogge said.
So far, the gas-led recovery has consisted of paying $9 million to an American consulting firm, Boston Consulting Group, the ABC revealed on Tuesday.
The office of Energy Minister Angus Taylor ignored multiple questions from TND about what this money would be used on, and why an Australian consulting firm wasn’t partnered.
Tony Wood from The Grattan Institute said he was “not surprised at all” that the government had been shy on releasing any information in relation to jobs.
“Could we create a lot of new jobs? The answer is: The probability of gas being able to create a lot of jobs is low,” Mr Wood said.
“The government will struggle to demonstrate there are new jobs coming.”
He said we may be able to protect some jobs that exist now, but in the end gas has to go.
“Gas will have some significance in the power sector for some years yet, but in the long term we can’t keep burning it,” he said.
“Building assets that use emissions has to stop in the next 30 or so years.”
Labor climate change and energy spokesman Chris Bowen said the recovery plan was full of “hot air”.
This is part one of The New Daily‘s three-part series investigating the nation’s gas industry, and its future