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At the time of the explosion Rick Wilkinson was General Manager Southern Australia Business Unit at Santos Ltd

The following press release retrieved from the Australia Worker's Union Website on 16th November 2013 is published in full:

AWU calls for Moomba inquiry

Wednesday 07th January 2004 11:00 - The Australian Workers' Union has called for an immediate inquiry into safety at the Moomba gas plant, fearing workers at the Santos facility were being placed in peril.

The main union at the Moomba facility, the Australian Workers Union (AWU), demanded the inquiry into safety levels at the plant in South Australia's far north-east.

Gas flows from the Moomba plant have been restricted since an explosion and fire at the site on New Year's Day.

AWU national secretary Bill Shorten said the union was concerned at about safety at Moomba.

He said the union would meet on Wednesday with the SA government, which toured the damage at the Moomba plant, about the need for an immediate inquiry.

AWU SA branch secretary Wayne Hanson and Mr Shorten wrote to the government expressing their concerns about safety at the Moomba plant.

"The New Year's Day explosion is not the first significant safety problem that has arisen at the Moomba facility," Mr Hanson and Mr Shorten wrote.

"In June 2001, a Santos employee and AWU member and representative, Colin Jeremy Sutton, was tragically killed when he was performing routine maintenance work on the liquids pumping station at Moomba, and a leak ignited which also burned another employee on the face and hands.

"The Industrial Relations Court found that Santos had `failed in its most basic responsibility as an employer' and fined the company $105,000.

"These incidents suggest to the AWU that Santos may be suffering from `corporate pathology' - that is, that the organisation is unhealthy and this is a problem that needs to be rectified before a bigger problem emerges.

"We are familiar with these sorts of problems within organisations - particularly from the explosion and fire at Esso's refinery in Longford, Victoria."

In 1998, an explosion and fire at Esso's Longford plant killed two workers and cut gas supplies to Victorian homes and businesses for two weeks.

No one was injured in the Moomba blaze.

The AWU said the SA government should immediately enact a number of measures, including establishing a tripartite working group or inquiry with Santos, the government and the union to identify any systemic problems at Moomba.

The union also wanted the government, with the union, to hold a series of meetings with Moomba workers, and also investigate the possibility of introducing major hazardous facilities regulations comparable to those in existence in Victoria.


Below is an extract from the speech delivered by AWU Greater South Australian Branch Secretary to the SA Delegates Conference, 31 August 2004 in Adelaide.


Only seven weeks ago our members working in the Oil and Gas Industry up in the Cooper Basin were negotiating an Enterprise Agreement. Our members had resolved to take “protected industrial action” because the bosses wouldn’t improve their offer. Within only a few hours the boss had notified the Federal Court and summoned the AWU and organiser Peter Lamps to appear for the purpose of having injunctions issued against us.

Santos was preparing to take us to the cleaners, and why? Because Peter and our members wanted to legally advance the terms and conditions of employment for AWU members. Peter was only doing his job, and for that he and the AWU were being threatened by Santos in the Federal Court.

The boss was hoping that they could apply enough pressure on the individual to get the members to accept the Santos offer. Well the boss’s tactics backfired and they failed, in fact they couldn’t intimidate Peter and it made the members more resolute. In fact my mail is that the boss/worker relationships at Moomba today, have been wound back by at least ten years.

So what is the point I’m making? I want you to know that the boss’s attitudes have not improved over the last fifty years, in fact they have gotten progressively worse. And I’m here to tell you, we need unions just as much today, if not more so now, than any part of our working lives.


From what I’ve said today you may have noted that a significant portion of our disputes are not resolved in the Industrial Commission, they are argued in the courts. This tactic was designed by the current ultra conservative Federal Liberal Government to reduce the power of the Industrial Commission and force unions and workers onto a judgmental system that uses lawyers, QC’s and judges and of course, truck loads of money.

The following press release retrieved from the Australia Worker's Union Website on 16th November 2013 is published in full:

No More Moombas - AWU Delegates to Debate Workplace Incidents

Tuesday 31st August 2004 10:00 Over 200 workers and AWU members from across South Australia will meet this morning to discuss strategies to tackle the contentious issue of preventing incidents at South Australia's major hazardous facilities.

The workers, from local government, manufacturing and the petro-chemical industry, will meet at the AAMI Stadium in Adelaide and hear from speakers including Premier Mike Rann, SA Industrial Commissioner Mick Doyle and National AWU OHS Director Dr. Yossi Berger.

AWU National Secretary Bill Shorten, who will be in Adelaide for the conference, said that South Australian AWU members are worried by the increasing number of major workplace incidents, and want the SA Government to tackle the issue head on to avoid another disaster like the blast at Santos' Moomba plant in January.

"Over the last five years AWU members have had their lives placed in jeopardy by serious incidents at major hazardous facilities across the country. In January a major explosion at Moomba placed hundreds of workers at risk and this was followed by a major ethanol explosion in Wollongong" Mr Shorten said.

"Thankfully these incidents didn't result in the death of any workers; however we fear it is only a matter of time before one of these incidents will result in the devastation and fatalities we experienced after the Longford Gas Plant explosion in 1998.

Today we will be putting our demands on the table and will be calling for the State Government to introduce Major Hazardous Facilities legislation to avoid these types of incidents in the future."

AWU South Australian Secretary Wayne Hanson said, "AWU members across the state have personally told me how concerned they are about the Moomba incident being repeated at their workplaces - we are meeting today to make sure it never happens again."


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