The vigorous response to Mr Fitzgibbon’s expression of opinion came after he aired his support for government measures that would increase the capacity of gas pipelines and transport more gas to industry and households.
The chair of the COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board, business executive Nev Power, told a Senate committee on Tuesday the “guaranteed off-take” for gas pipelines had been put to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Santos is seeking state and federal approval to develop a new gas field near the NSW town of Narrabri, raising the question of building a new pipeline to transport the gas to Sydney. Mr Fitzgibbon’s electorate of Hunter is the closest Labor seat to the project.
While Mr Fitzgibbon told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Mr Power was “absolutely right” on the need for more gas, Mr Butler was cool on the idea.
“Why would we give support to a secret report the government refuses to show the Australian people – and whose central recommendation appears to be a taxpayer funded gas pipeline from WA?” Mr Butler said.
“This would be the longest white elephant in Australian history.”
Labor backbencher Josh Burns, the member for Macnamara in Melbourne, said regulators expected a fall in demand for gas-fired electricity and that new gas projects would only make money if Mr Morrison used taxpayer funds to pay for them.
“The Labor Party policy is not to blindly accept whatever the commission has put forward to Scott Morrison,” Mr Burns said.
“We haven’t seen anything from the commission yet and there are lot of questions that need to be answered before we take a position.