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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13489


Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (BatmanMinister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (18:29): I welcome the opportunity to say a few comments on behalf of the government in response to the contributions to this brief but all-important debate on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Significant Incident Directions) Bill 2011. I extend my appreciation to the members for Groom, Moreton and Makin for their valuable contributions and their thorough understanding of the importance of this bill.

The bill delivers on the Australian government's commitment to improving the protection of human health and safety and the protection of the marine environment to ensure that Australia's offshore petroleum industry is the best and safest in the world and is able to contribute to Australia's ongoing energy security and economic prosperity.

Following the uncontrolled release of the hydrocarbons from the Montara Wellhead Platform in August 2009, which has been referred to by all those who have contributed to the debate, it became evident to the Commonwealth that a clear and specific power is required in the event of a significant offshore petroleum incident resulting in the escape or possible escape of petroleum to enable the regulator to give directions to a petroleum titleholder to deal with the escape of petroleum and the effects of that escape. In particular, a direction would require action to be taken either within or outside the title area.

This bill will therefore amend the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 to specifically enable the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Administrator to issue directions of this nature. This will provide a clear legal basis on which to issue directions following a significant offshore petroleum incident that extends to requiring action outside the title area.

With those few words, can I not only commend the bill to the House but also clearly indicate that great progress has been made with respect to the establishment of a single national regulator, side by side with the formation of NOPTA, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Authority, in Perth, with effect from 1 January 2012.

I extend my appreciation to my department, to NOPSA and to the industry for their valuable support, enabling us to make great progress over a very short period following the Montara incident. I am very mindful of the need for a strong regulatory environment and therefore I am confident that, from 1 January 2012, NOPSEMA, the new agency in place with extended responsibilities, together with an additional person appointed to the advisory board with special skills with respect to environmental management, we will potentially be better placed than we have previously been to handle similar incidents to Montara. Obviously, our objective is to avoid another incident similar to Montara, but I think we have a strong regulatory environment in place to ensure that we achieve that objective. I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Ordered that this bill be reported to the House without amendment.