Originally written by JULIE GRIFFITHS
A DIESEL fuel shortage across Victoria is threatening to interrupt hay cutting, grains harvest, and the delivery of food, retail and other supplies to the south-west.
The shortage was sparked after a routine maintenance shutdown at Mobil’s Altona refinery was extended due the work required being “greater than anticipated”.
A spokeswoman for Mobil said the extended shutdown had reduced supplies beyond the company’s planned contingency, with the shortage compounded by supply and production issues at other Australian refineries.
As a result diesel shortages were likely to continue throughout the state until late December, she said.
With the busy Christmas period approaching, local transport company owner Leigh Allen said he was outraged that the shortage was at a stage where service stations and fuel distributors were being “drained of diesel supplies”.
“Something should have been done about this shortage before it got to this stage,” Mr Allen said. “We had absolutely no prior warning.”
Mr Allen said he was concerned retailers and other industries in Portland would be left without essential deliveries as transport companies found it increasingly difficult to obtain diesel supplies.
“This could have a lot of repercussions for Portland,” he said.
Mr Allen condemned the State Government for failing to take action to prevent the shortage.
“If there is a strike at a refinery, the government moves to (implement fuel) restrictions. But since this issue is not a strike, they’ve taken no action and we are all left here to suffer,” he said.
Member for Portland Denis Napthine supported the call for State Government to take control of the issue. He demanded country Victorians be the first to receive diesel supplies.
“We need to get diesel back on line as quickly as possible and returning supplies to country areas first should be a priority,” he said.
“Country people are almost entirely reliant on diesel for trucks, buses, farming equipment, commercial fishing boats and a whole host of other applications. On top of that, distances are much greater in the bush than in the city.
“Unless supplies are restored quickly, this issue could have a devastating effect on primary industries, transport companies and retailers.
“I call in the Bracks Labor Government to ensure that the needs of country Victorians are met first with the re-introduction of diesel supplies.
The Mobil spokeswoman said the company expected its Altona diesel refinery to be “partially back online” today. Full production was not expected until mid to late December.
The company has begun importing diesel into Victoria from WA, QLD and Singapore.
The spokeswoman said the shutdown had also led to “tight” supplies of unleaded petrol, but she anticipated the market would be able to adequately meet those supplies.
Diesel shortages at service stations and fuel distributors in the south-west include Portland, Hamilton, Warrnambool, Camperdown and Colac.