Oil use sending Australia broke

The growing cost of oil imports is a major factor in Australia’s trade deficit and household financial stress, a coalition of transport groups warned today.

“Australia’s annual oil import bill has blown out from under $5 billion per year a decade ago to over $23 billion in 2007,” said Public Transport Users Association President Daniel Bowen. “Surging oil use is one of the key drivers of our huge trade deficit and a major drag on the economy.”

The Australian Bureau of Statistics today released December 2007 figures on Australia’s international trade in goods and services. The figures showed one of the largest calender-year trade deficits in history and the largest annual import bill for fuels and lubricants ever.

“State and federal governments have really been shedding crocodile tears about pain at the petrol pump,” said Mr Bowen. “Real relief comes from alternatives to car dependence like frequent, reliable and fast public transport and safe, connected cycle routes. Yet the vast majority of funding is going into more and bigger roads to encourage even greater growth in car and truck traffic.”

Together with sustainable transport groups around Australia, the PTUA has called on the federal government to make a major investment in expanding urban and regional rail networks to cut oil dependence and chronic congestion. The groups have also recommended that all future transport funding be contingent upon integrated transport and landuse planning to reduce car dependence.

“At the same time as billions are flowing off-shore to pay for our oil addiction, federal fringe benefits tax laws offer the biggest concessions to company cars that are driven the greatest distance,” said Mr Bowen. “Our tax system needs an overhaul to encourage public transport and efficiency so we can cut oil imports, greenhouse emissions and congestion.”

As well as growing consumption, the rising cost of importing oil is also being driven by rapid growth in global oil prices. Many analysts now believe that conventional oil production is peaking and that a peak in total conventional and non-conventional production is not far away. “China and India are now competing with other ‘oil gluttons’ like the USA for limited oil supplies and driving up global prices. Australia must wean itself off this oil addiction to avoid even more serious economic pain on inflation, the trade balance and household financial stress,” concluded Mr Bowen.


1. The joint transport group budget submission is available at:

2. Historical data and charts on petroleum imports are available at:

3. Other relevant releases:

Contact the PTUA