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Thursday, 9 October 2003
Page: 21099

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (11:03 AM) —in reply—I thank members—including the member for Kalgoorlie, who is a wellknown advocate of the resource industry particularly in the seat of Kalgoorlie but of course in all of Australia—for their comments, and I also thank those members of the opposition who have supported the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill 2003 and the Offshore Petroleum (Safety Levies) Bill 2003. Their contributions to the debate have been both welcome and constructive.

I hope we will now see agreement to these bills which will lead to the establishment of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority, more commonly known as NOPSA. In establishing the authority, these bills will provide increased certainty for a major Australian industry and a consistent safety regulatory regime across all Commonwealth waters and state and Northern Territory coastal waters. The establishment of NOPSA represents a major achievement by the government in responding to the wishes of the offshore petroleum industry and the work force and will improve offshore petroleum safety regulation.

The specific election promise of 2001 made a commitment to the Australian offshore petroleum industry to deliver a uniform national safety regulatory regime which would improve safety outcomes and reduce the regulatory burden faced by the industry participants. Amendments to the occupational health and safety provisions of the act will improve safety administration on offshore petroleum facilities and pipelines and will reduce risks to the environment. These improvements in the safety of the working environment will provide an obvious benefit to the industry in the form of a greater level of confidence that their safety systems are robust. Operating as a 100 per cent cost recovery enterprise, NOPSA will be funded by the industry.

Operating funds will mainly come from safety case levies, with only the operator concerned required to pay the safety investigation levy in the event of a major accident or incident. This will avoid the situation where others are required to cross-subsidise lengthy and expensive investigations. It will be an independent national agency accountable to the Commonwealth minister and, through him or her, the state and Northern Territory ministers. It will also have an independent advisory board whose function will be to oversee NOPSA's activities. Because of this, it will be very difficult for the industry to exert undue influence over the authority even though it is the source of the funding.

It is refreshing to see the Commonwealth, the states and the Northern Territory working together to establish an independent national regulatory body, which will operate seamlessly across two levels of government. All too often we have seen different governments operate only in their own narrow interests, so I welcome the agreement of the Ministerial Council on Minerals, Petroleum and Resources to focus on what must be best for the national interest. I would particularly like to thank the Western Australian Minister for State Development, the Hon. Clive Brown MLA, for the valuable role he undertook as chair of the MCMPR during this important period. Again I congratulate everybody who has contributed to the establishment of this important new statutory authority.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

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