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Gas producers seek urgent talks with Australian prime minister

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MELBOURNE — Australia’s gas industry lobby group on Sunday called for urgent talks with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese after learning that the government’s plan to cap gas prices for one year, announced on Friday, includes long-term measures to limit profit margins.

The head of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), whose members include global majors such as Exxon Mobil Corp and Shell Plc, said she wrote to Albanese, warning that the government’s proposed package would undermine investment, reduce new supply and drive up gas prices.

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“APPEA seeks an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Albanese so we can address the serious concerns we have over his proposed dismantling of the gas market and Australia’s reputation as an open, market-based economy,” APPEA Chief Executive Samantha McCulloch said in a statement on Sunday.

Parliament is due to hold a special session this week to vote on the government’s plan to cap gas prices at A$12 ($8.15) per gigajoule (GJ) and coal prices for power producers at A$125 per tonne for a year.

The package to drive down energy bills includes a move to force gas producers to fix sales contracts based on their production cost plus an agreed profit margin after the one-year price cap expires.

“The powers provided through the bill are extraordinary, providing for the Government to control the entirety of the market and intervene in an essentially unlimited way,” McCulloch said.

Albanese’s office was not immediately available for comment, but Energy Minister Chris Bowen on Sunday said: “I don’t find the complaints from APPEA convincing in the slightest.”

“This is Australian gas, under Australian soil and Australians should pay a fair price for that, but they shouldn’t be paying a war-time price … leading to very high profits for a few companies and endangering industries right around the country,” Bowen told Sky News. ($1 = 1.4717 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)



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