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Thursday, 18 August 2005
Page: 133

Mr ENTSCH (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources) (10:52 AM) —I thank the members for Batman, Fisher and Rankin for their contributions to this debate and for their recognition of the critical importance of the offshore petroleum industry to our nation, particularly its value to our national economy. Unfortunately, the member for Rankin has just left. I was most interested in his comments on the PNG pipeline. I confirm that I share with him the strong view that the pipeline provides wonderful opportunities. We hope that in the future that option is delivered. The creation of that pipeline certainly would be a major step closer to the creation of a national grid for our gas resources.

Australia’s marine jurisdiction is extensive, as are the hydrocarbon resources it holds, and their contribution to our economy is significant. Again, this was highlighted by all of the previous speakers. It is therefore not surprising that a substantive legislative package such as this is needed for encouraging exploration and managing Australia’s offshore petroleum industry. The member for Batman commented on the size of the Offshore Petroleum Bill 2005. I concede that it is extensive, but a large part of the increased length of the rewritten act is due to the greater use of white space, the inclusion of more headings and notes, and the breaking up of a dense sentence structure to create more readable segments of text.

The offshore petroleum bills have been written keeping particularly in mind the needs of new entrants to the petroleum industry, such as young industry lawyers and new administrators in the Australian, state and Northern Territory governments. This legislation is conspicuous for the thoroughness of the consultation that was undertaken with both the offshore petroleum industry and the state and Northern Territory governments in its drafting. I am grateful that the Prime Minister has given approval for exposure drafts of the bills to be widely circulated to stakeholders during the drafting process. I am also particularly grateful to those industry members and officials who examined the draft bills and provided critical comments and constructive suggestions about them. This was important with a view to avoiding inadvertent changes in rewriting provisions from the current act to the new text.

The member for Batman quite rightly pointed out that Australia is thirsty for oil and that further exploration for reserves is necessary. This was also highlighted by the member for Rankin. Of course, this government is well aware of these issues. By rewriting the old Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act it has delivered a coherent modern piece of legislation which will contribute to continuously addressing these issues. Policy issues have arisen as a result of this rewrite, and this now presents an opportunity to have these issues addressed.

While we now have these best practice items of legislation before the House, technological developments, global energy markets and the world economy all exert an impact which means the regulatory framework for offshore petroleum exploration and development is unlikely to stand still for long. Change is inevitable; at times it will involve subordinate legislation and at times it will involve the act itself. That said, I have no doubt that, if the bills we are voting on today are passed, their titles will become part of the vocabulary of the energy resource sector for a long time to come. More than that, I am confident that this legislation, by reducing compliance and administration costs for industry and governments, will help make Australia a more attractive place for petroleum exploration and development. I congratulate everyone who has contributed to this very significant project.

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.