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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13487

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (18:24): I will speak briefly on this bill, because in fact it is a matter that I spoke on in the House only yesterday, when I presented the advisory report on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Significant Incident Directions) Bill 2011 to the House after the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts had in fact inquired into this bill because it had been referred to the committee for inquiry. So most of what I need to say I said when I was presenting that report. But I just want to highlight a couple of matters in relation to it. Firstly, this bill arises as a result of both the Productivity Commission report and the commission of inquiry into the Montara incident. Both those reports recommended the establishment of a single national regulator to regulate offshore mining operations in this country. Both the member for Groom and the member for Moreton, I believe, have quite adequately talked about the importance of this mining sector to our nation, and there is no question that it is important and that it is growing. But both of them also, quite rightly, highlighted that not only are there huge opportunities in respect of offshore mining but there are also huge risks attached to those opportunities. Again, they referred to both the Montara incident and the incident in the Gulf of Mexico only a couple of years ago. Both of them highlighted not only the risks that are there but also the damage that can be caused as a result of those incidents not being properly managed at the time. The damage was indeed extensive in both cases and more so in the Gulf of Mexico incident where the livelihoods of the local fishermen were affected for a long time after those events and perhaps are still being affected as a result of damage to the fish breeding in the area.

This bill is one of five bills which are associated with amending the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006. It responds to those matters and responds to them in a way which I believe in the future will ensure that, when an incident does occur, it will indeed be much better managed and much clearer directions will be issued in the shortest possible time. The shortest possible time is of significance because sometimes, when these incidents occur, time is of the essence and each day of delay causes additional damage. As we saw with Montara, each day of delay in plugging the well was adding to the damage being caused.

I want to finish by talking about one matter that was brought to the attention of the committee in the course of its inquiry and that is the submission from the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum. The Western Australian government believed that having a statutory authority managing the process was not necessarily the best way to do it and that perhaps it should have been a Commonwealth minister or that there should have been a joint arrangement between the Commonwealth and the state ministries.

The committee wrote to the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism in respect to that very matter. I want to read into the Hansard the response that is relevant to this particular matter because it was, in my view, the only issue of any significance that was brought to the committee's attention in the course of the inquiry. The department, quite rightly and I think quite properly, pointed out as follows:

The Commonwealth considers NOPSEMA, as the regulator for the offshore petroleum industry, the most appropriate body to determine whether a significant offshore petroleum incident has occurred and whether a direction is required. As the day-to-day regulator for the safety and environmental matters, and also for structural integrity of facilities and wells, NOPSEMA will have expertise in understanding potential risks to environment and human health and safety that may result from an incident, and actions that may be required to prevent, as far as possible, significant impacts from such an incident.

I would also note that there are provisions in the OPGGS Act that establish accountability of NOPSEMA to the responsible Commonwealth Minister.

It goes on to talk about how the responsible Commonwealth minister can in fact issue directions if the need arises. Having responded to that submission from the Western Australian government, I support the bill in its current form. On behalf of the committee that inquired into it, I feel comfortable in saying that the bill should be supported by the parliament.