Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has dared the Gillard Government to support local jobs by opposing floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) technology for the $40 billion Browse project, prompting Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson to call for a truce in public bickering over the issue.
But in a sign the contentious gas project north of Broome is set to be the next local content flashpoint for the union movement, Mr Barnett (pictured) has been backed by his previous critics, the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, which said it was "traitorous" to support FLNG.
In an interview with _WestBusiness _, Mr Barnett said the prime reason he wanted Browse gas to come ashore was so Australian industry could participate in construction.
"If it is built offshore, it will be built in the Philippines or Korea or somewhere with no local jobs at all . . . that would be totally unacceptable to Australians," he said.
"I can hardly imagine a Federal Labor government agreeing to total offshore construction of what is Australia's natural resource."
AMWU State secretary Steve McCartney said yesterday that in a bid to stop Australians watching the project's benefits "from the beach", unions would fight hard to stop the technology on Browse.
"The role of governments and ministers like Martin Ferguson is to build wealth for the country and build skills that take the country on to a better future," Mr McCartney said.
"Anyone that supports floating (LNG) is a traitor to their country."
The giant floating platforms, one of which has already been sanctioned by the Federal Government for the smaller Prelude field, are being pushed by Woodside's joint venture partner in the development, Royal Dutch Shell, as a "saviour" against rising WA's construction costs. Shell yesterday announced it was backing a new professorial chair at UWA to support research in the offshore sector.
The issue has sparked a running public spat over the past week, after Mr Barnett said that the technology carried more risks than a land-based venture, and that it was his right to argue for the best interests of taxpayers over shareholders.
Browse's operator Woodside, which unveiled its latest international ambitions in Israel yesterday, has been caught in the middle.
It says it is committed to an obligatory review of the financial viability of the site by June, although another JV partner, BHP Billiton chief Marius Kloppers, took a thinly veiled swipe last week at the inflexible lease conditions set by Federal and State governments.
Mr Ferguson urged calm on all sides yesterday.
"I have no intention of engaging in ongoing commentary on what the joint venture partners might present to the Government, as I am a decision maker and I will not prejudice this issue," he said.
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