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Thursday, 19 March 2009
Page: 3236

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (10:14 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill amends the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (the act) to address the minor policy and technical issues identified during consultative processes reviewing the operation of the act over the past two years. The bill also provides corrections and clarifications to a small number of provisions in the act introduced during the parliament’s consideration of greenhouse gas storage provisions and from formal renumbering of the act.

The effect of the proposed amendments is to reduce regulatory burden while maintaining an effective and consistent regulatory system.

Minor policy amendments include changing the decision maker who can declare a petroleum location and grant a scientific investigation consent from the designated authority to the joint authority. The decision maker is changed from the state or territory minister acting on behalf of the Commonwealth to a joint decision between the relevant state or territory minister and the Commonwealth minister.

Scientific investigation consents are provided for in the act in recognition of Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to allow marine scientific research on the continental shelf. As these are Commonwealth obligations it is appropriate the Commonwealth minister, as part of the joint authority, has a role in granting these consents.

Other minor policy amendments proposed in this bill are to:

  • provide an expedited consultation process for the granting of an access authority to titles in adjoining offshore areas where the title holders have consented to the access;
  • to require notification of a petroleum discovery in a production licence area, as is required for other titles and extend the period to notify a discovery of petroleum in all title areas from immediately to 30 days.

Technical amendments included in this bill include changes to the occupational health and safety (OHS) requirements set out in the act in schedule 3, clauses 9-15. The bill provides that the fault element that applies to the conduct and result elements of these offence provisions is negligence. Also absolute liability will apply to the element in these provisions that a person is subject to an occupational health and safety requirement.

This is to provide a regulatory regime that is enforceable and is consistent with fault elements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991 (the OHS Act). The penalties set out for these offences do not change under these amendments and are themselves consistent with the OHS Act and other Commonwealth legislation such as the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.

Other technical elements include new maps showing the extension of Australia’s offshore areas following recent findings of the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf which confirmed Australia’s claims.

This bill removes references to the pipeline safety management plan levy and removes a consent to operate a pipeline. These two amendments are linked to planned amendments to regulations in force under the act which will see regulatory arrangements for the construction and operation of pipelines being incorporated into safety regulations.

This bill also removes the requirement for data management plans. Plans already in force will continue until they terminate at the end of their five-year lives. The collection of petroleum data is a very important part of attracting petroleum companies to explore Australia’s offshore waters. It is, however, sufficient that regulations require companies to collect, store and provide this valuable data without requiring a plan to set out how that is to be achieved.

The bill also amends the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 to include in schedule 3 of that act the Western Australian mirror legislation to the act.

The bill also includes amendments to the greenhouse gas provisions of the act, which were passed in November 2008 with a number of late changes being made in the Senate. The amendments contained in this bill are needed to more clearly give effect to the policy intention surrounding the Senate amendments and are technical in nature and remove ambiguities. They do not change the intent of the bill.

There are also minor amendments to fix grammatical or punctuation errors and correct references to provisions in the act. An amendment is required to several related acts to correct the references to the definitions section of the act. This arose through renumbering of the act.

The amendments I introduce today bring into effect solutions to issues identified over the past two years from reviews of the offshore petroleum regulatory regime conducted by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. These reviews involved the upstream petroleum industry, the states and the Northern Territory and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority.

The amendments also provide improvements to the recently introduced regulatory regime for greenhouse gas storage.

Whilst each of these amendments are in themselves quite small they together bring effective improvements to the act and allow for further streamlining of regulations in force under the act.

Debate (on motion by Mr Wood) adjourned.