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Sorbent joins call for action on gas prices

November 21, 2022

Consumers and workers could be caught short after a famous Aussie toilet-paper brand warned that its gas bill will triple next year.

And while its products may mop up nearly anything, the company behind Sorbent toilet paper said they would struggle to absorb the price hike and consumers would pay at the checkout.

Solaris Paper said the contract with its current gas provider ended this year, and the best new deal it had been able to get would be a staggering 290 per cent more expensive.

Sorbent products have been made in Australia since the early 1950s, and many of Solaris Paper’s workers at its Melbourne and Sydney plants have been with the company for decades.

Chief executive Steve Nicholson would not put a dollar amount on the company’s new gas bill, but said it would increase by “many millions of dollars”.

“This is an icon toilet paper you’re talking about,” Mr Nicholson said on Sydney radio. “We are one of the largest producers in this country of toilet paper and facial tissues.

“It’s a tremendous challenge. We don’t want to pass on these costs but we’re going to have to.

“We can’t absorb these costs. Not 300 per cent in gas. This is a real crisis.”

AWU National Secretary Dan Walton said the situation at Solaris Paper was being mirrored nationwide, with other well-known Aussie companies such as Snack Brands (which makes Cheezels, CCs, Kettle and Thins chips) and Qenos (Australia’s only polyethylene and polymer maker) also facing soaring energy bills.


Mr Walton said that unless resources companies were forced to earmark affordable gas and coal exclusively for Australian use, hundreds of Aussie manufacturers would go to the wall.

“These resources belong to the Australian public and should be available to Australian businesses and households, not just a handful of multinational companies making obscene profits by exporting them,” he said.

“If we don’t tackle energy prices right now make no mistake: tens of thousands of good-quality, hard-working manufacturing workers are going to be out of a job.”

The AWU has put five simple steps to the Government that, without needing new legislation, would provide immediate relief to manufacturers and households. 

They include a gas price cap enforced by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, in the same way it sets a maximum price for retail electricity, and putting the code of conduct “in the hands of the ACCC, taking it from a toothless paper tiger to an enforceable set of rules to rein in cartel conduct by the gas industry”.

The AWU also recommends a price trigger into the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (the “gas trigger”) to force exporters to divert more product to the domestic market when a price point is reached. At the moment it must only guarantee adequate supply.

And it wants a crackdown on gas exporters “who game loopholes in the heads of agreement by only making short-term offers for uncontracted gas, instead of ensuring that offers are long enough to give confidence to manufacturers”.

The issue was highlighted by an AWU delegation of workers from a range of energy-dependent industries who went to Canberra recently to tell the Government how the energy crisis is affecting their employers and putting their jobs at risk.

All their employers are at risk of closing if they are can’t to get affordable long-term energy contracts.

Mr Walton said delegation was well received, and the message was getting through to those in power, but the AWU was pushing for an outcome by end of this year.

Listen to the full interview below:

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