THE Australian government must step in to support the Caltex refinery at Kurnell in the interests of national security if the company attempts to shut it down, says union leader Paul Howes.
Mr Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, said the Caltex review into the union had left workers at the refinery "rightly worried".
He said it was important for Australia to maintain the ability to refine oil, as relying solely on Asia could leave the nation vulnerable in the case of any regional conflict or instability.
"It is not outside the realms of possibility that there could be a conflict between China and Taiwan, instability in Indonesia or along our shipping routes," Mr Howes said.
He said the refinery was "hugely important" for the workers and the whole country.
Federal Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson told the Leader he was watching the review process closely but could not pre-empt what Caltex would do.
He did not comment on Mr Howes' call for government intervention, but said an assessment of energy security last year had found Australia had "robust liquid fuel security".
Caltex spokesman Sam Collyer said the company continued to evaluate all options to improve refinery operations but could not comment on whether government intervention would influence the final outcome at Kurnell.
Federal Cook MP Scott Morrison said that the federal government's carbon tax had made it harder for Caltex to compete.
Should the government step in?