An overwhelming majority of voters would support the Turnbull government if it implemented a reservation policy where a percentage of Australian gas is held back from being exported and quarantined for domestic use.
The latest Guardian Essential poll shows 75% of the survey supports a reservation policy, with the strongest support registered among Coalition voters.
The federal resources and energy ministers have, until very recently, expressed public opposition to a reservation policy, but that opposition has softened in recent weeks as concerns have escalated about looming energy shortages because of insufficient supplies of gas.
The prime minister met last week with senior executives from the gas industry in an effort to secure a guarantee that more gas would be made available for domestic use after the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) warned the country would face energy shortages by next summer.
The Turnbull government has now warned the gas industry it is prepared to use commonwealth export powers “in the national interest” if gas companies don’t increase supply to the domestic market.
Two-thirds of Australia’s gas is currently exported.
The chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, has warned manufacturers will go to the wall unless action is taken to boost the domestic supply of gas.
The new Essential survey also indicates the South Australian premier Jay Weatherill’s plan to boost energy self-sufficiency in South Australia has gone down well with voters.
Last week, Weatherill unveiled a $550m plan to address instability in the state electricity network over the last six months.
The Weatherill plan includes a new $360m state-owned gas-fired power plant, a $150m renewable technology fund and $24m for gas exploration grants. The premier has also committed to providing 10% of gas royalties to landholders who allow access for conventional gas and fracking development.
Canberra blasted Weatherill’s move, and the plan led to a swingeing public confrontation between the premier and the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, in Adelaide last week.
But the public has looked through the political controversy and given the South Australian plan the thumbs up.
The Essential survey indicates 68% of people approve, with strong support for the plan across all voting groups.
The new poll indicates Australian voters are very conscious about rising power bills. Seventy-seven per cent of those surveyed indicated their power costs had increased over the last few years, including 32% who said their costs had increased a lot (down from 45% in 2012).
The new data also underscores the fact coal seam gas exploration divides the Australian community.
Thirty-one per cent of those surveyed think coal seam gas mining on farming land should be restricted and 25% think coal seam gas mining should be banned completely.
Only 14% of the sample think there is sufficient current regulation of coal seam gas mining.
Coalition voters lean towards the proposition that CSG extraction on farming land should be restricted (39%) while more than half (53%) of Greens voters think it should be banned completely.
The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, is attempting to work up a policy that would see other states following Weatherill’s plan to give landholders royalties if CSG extraction happened on their properties.
Last week, Joyce called for the state governments to lift the current moratoria on gas development, and urged them to follow the Weatherill compensation model.
“Landholders have a right to a greater annuity from their land. By paying a royalty it means the value of a farmer’s land increases as a result of gas extraction, rather than decreasing,” Joyce said.
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