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Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Page: 205

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (1:14 PM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill was introduced during the last sitting of parliament and was passed by the Senate, but not by the House prior to parliament being prorogued. Given the important but technical nature of the amendments, I am now pleased to reintroduce it into parliament.

Members would be aware that the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 received royal assent on 29 March 2006. The Offshore Petroleum Act was a rewrite of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967, which has been the primary legislation for the administration of Australia’s offshore petroleum resources for 40 years. The Offshore Petroleum Act is a more user-friendly enactment that will reduce compliance costs for governments and the industry.

This amendment bill has three elements: firstly, to clarify provisions to ensure they operate the way that was intended, to make some technical corrections and a minor policy change; secondly, a policy change repealing section 327 which gives the minister certain emergency powers in the Bass Strait; and, finally, to convert geodetic data references of the area descriptions in the act from Australian Geodetic Datum to the current Geodetic Datum of Australia.

I would now like to take members through some of the key measures contained in the bill.

The bill ensures that the duration of certain production licences remains unchanged. While it was the intention that production licences due for their first renewal be renewed for 21 years, the effect of amendments made in 1998 to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act is that licensees on their first renewal are entitled to licences of an indefinite duration. This error has been corrected in the Offshore Petroleum Act. These amendments ensure that the licensees who renewed their production licences for the first time since 1998 but before the Offshore Petroleum Act comes into force will have the indefinite term licences they are entitled to.

The bill also clarifies the definition of ‘coastal waters’. The Offshore Constitutional Settlement provides that the states and the Northern Territory have control over the ‘coastal waters’ adjacent to their land territory. These coastal waters are three nautical miles from a ‘baseline’; this is essentially the low water mark of the coast. These amendments ensure that the baseline that the ‘coastal waters’ are measured from is the correct three nautical mile baseline.

The bill also proposes a minor policy change and repeals section 327 which allows the minister to exercise his emergency powers in the Area to be Avoided, offshore Victoria in the Gippsland Basin. The minister has never exercised these powers. The section is proposed to be repealed because a more comprehensive and broader security regime has been implemented under the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003.

The amendments to the datum are part of the government’s Australia Spatial Data Infrastructure Program. Amendments made to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act in 2001 paved the way for the move to the Geocentric Data of Australia, known as GDA94. GDA94 is essentially a response to increased use of the Global Positioning System for surveying, navigation and similar purposes. It is important to note that there will be no shift in the position in any petroleum title area as a result of the changes.

The bill incorporates the conversion of all of the points describing the ‘offshore areas’ in schedule 1 and the ‘area to be avoided’ in schedule 2.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Anthony Smith) adjourned.