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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7296

Mr HALE (11:56 AM) —I note the contribution from the member for Flinders and note his knowledge in the area of environment, carbon capture, greenhouse gases and the like. It was interesting to hear him say that he had to put his political career on hold while he has had this knowledge. If he can possibly do anything about preselection in the seats of Tangney, the Kimberleys and O’Connor, that might make it a little bit easier for him to get this vast knowledge out there in party room and to get a little bit of support. Probably from the member for Mayo, who would be—

Mr Adams interjecting

Mr HALE —Well, he is a young bloke and he has got a young family. I think environmental issues should be important to him as well, so maybe they can start to change the mindset of those opposite, when it comes to the environment and the different things that we are endeavouring to do as a government after waiting for 12 years and nothing happening.

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 and the cognate bill propose to amend the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Act 2003. The amendments are technical and minor policy changes which streamline requirements, provide clarification and will reduce the overall regulatory burden on this industry. It is certainly an industry that is very important to the Northern Territory. It is an industry that is growing in the Northern Territory and, obviously, with regard to the Inpex proposal that is moving forward there, there are also a number of other companies that are looking to invest in the Northern Territory and these types of changes will benefit them greatly.

These changes result from three reviews of the different aspects of the offshore petroleum regulatory system which have been conducted by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism over the past two years. There are no adverse effects on industry from these bills or any additional costs, and I appreciate the fact that those opposite are supporting this bill.

A number of the changes relate to altered arrangements for pipelines, commencing 1 January 2010. These arrangements will be set out in a revised regulation to come into effect next year. They will see pipelines being treated on the same basis as other facilities under the safety regulations. This will see the removal of pipeline management plans and pipeline safety management plans from regulations. As such, the pipeline safety management plan levy will become a safety case levy. This change in levy arrangements is set out in this bill, with amendments to both the act and the safety levies act. The removal of consent to operate a pipeline is part of these overall changes, and will also take effect from 1 January 2010.

Several changes, such as providing a consultation process on the granting of access authority, and making the joint authority the decision maker in relation to the declaration of locations and the granting of scientific investigation consents, are designed to streamline current arrangements. Moving the power to vary coordinates based on the current datum from regulations into the act will streamline regulatory process. It is about cutting red tape. This bill is housekeeping, if you like, cutting through the red tape. It removes the data management plans and changes the timing notification of petroleum discoveries, reducing some of the regulatory burden that is already on the industry. Often some of these things have already been agreed to. They have been debated and discussed within industry. This bill streamlines the process of companies being able to move forward and get their proposals up and running.

A couple of questions have been asked and I would like to talk to those for a moment. What are the advantages of allowing decisions on the nomination of a declaration of a location to be made by the joint authority? This authority will be able to streamline, as I said. Also, by making decisions on the nomination of the blocks and declaration of location joint authority matters, these amendments create a consistent and agreed approach on what is a key matter in the development of the petroleum title.

The declaration of a petroleum location is a necessary step before an exploration company applies for a retention lease to retain title over a currently non-commercial discovery or applies for a petroleum licence to develop a commercial discovery. The granting of a retention lease and a production licence are joint authority decisions. This amendment benefits the petroleum industry, as agreement between the state, the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth from the outset on the location removes any potential conflict on the decision later in the development of the petroleum project. Overall, this provides more certainty and should not lead to longer decision making.

Why is it necessary to change the authority for making decisions on setting conditions for scientific investigation consents and granting scientific investigation consent from a designated authority to a joint authority? The granting of scientific investigation consent helps Australia fulfil an international obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This convention provides that all states have the right to conduct marine science research on the continental shelf with the consent of the relevant coastal state. This can include petroleum exploration operations. Given this, it is appropriate that the responsible Commonwealth minister should be part of the decision to grant scientific investigation consent or to set conditions for such consent.

Further questions may be asked in regard to why these amendments are being put in place. Why is it necessary to notify the discovery of petroleum in petroleum production areas? Why is the period for notification being extended to 30 days? The reason is that discoveries in exploration permit areas or retention lease areas are already required to be notified each year. Each year a few new discoveries of petroleum are found in petroleum production areas. It is therefore consistent to require the notification of these discoveries. However, the government is not seeking through this amendment to get further information on existing accumulations of petroleum but on new, discrete accumulations.

The rule on immediate notification with a report on the discovery within three days, while not onerous, does not provide the government with useful information. Any discovery, whether commercial or not, is required to be notified. If a company has had no time to assess the discovery, and yet the company does not provide this barely-useful information, it has committed an offence. This amendment allows a reasonable period of time for a company to assess its data and ascertain what it has actually discovered by increasing it to 30 days. These rules will apply to the discovery of petroleum in greenhouse gas titles.

An interesting part of this legislation is to increase that time required of companies on making a discovery. They are given that extra time, some 27 days further, so that the information can be compiled and is of substance, complies with the act—they are working to the letter of the law in regard to the discovery that they have made—and is able to be put forward to the correct authorities. What happens to the funding for the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority if the pipeline safety management levy is removed? A levy will continue to be raised for pipelines, but as a safety case levy. New levy arrangements will apply from 1 January 2010, which will be the start of the next levy year following the passage of the amended bill. There are a number of other areas in this bill but, as I have said, it is a non-controversial bill. It is just a little bit of housekeeping to streamline and tidy up the act to make it better for industry and less complicated with less red tape that has to be worked through.

I was listening to the discussion from those opposite and it was interesting to reflect on some of their comments and some of their own history on climate change. For me, there is no silver bullet to climate change. It is a matter of looking at carbon capture and looking at the emissions trading scheme as well as renewables. I was out doorknocking a couple of weeks ago—something that would be foreign to the member for Mayo, being in a safe Liberal seat, but when you are on 196 votes you have to go out and meet the punters—and a lady yelled out to me saying that she was very disappointed that we had dropped the emissions target from 20 per cent to five per cent. As she was verballing me over her fence, I noticed that she was using a Gerni to wash down her driveway. I thought it was quite ironic that she was washing down the driveway. I saw her a couple of weeks later at a school fete and I said, ‘I remember you as the lady with the Gerni,’ and she was a little bit sheepish. I have digressed. I will go back to what I was actually talking about. It is everyone’s responsibility to address their own energy consumption and their own use of water initially. The education programs that have been run by both sides of government are important in this debate and need to be addressed. In the Northern Territory we have a lot of rain, but we are in drought for probably six months of the year—we do not have any rain—and certainly we do waste a lot of water. To see somebody washing their driveway down instead of using a blower or something like that is indicative of the attitude when you live in an area that gets over 100 inches of rain in six months.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to climate change. We need to continue to invest in the renewable energy sector—some $500 million is being invested in that—in clean coal technology and in carbon capture. We should also look at alternative sources of power—wind, geothermal hot rocks and tidal—in areas such as those of the member for Canning and other members from Western Australia. Big tidal changes go through Broome and Darwin, where you get seven-, eight- and 10-metre tides.

There are alternatives and we need to continue to invest in them. It is a real shame—it is disappointing when you are a new member in parliament and you do want to make a difference—that the CPRS bill is once again bogged down in the Senate. We are now not going to be able to get it through until the August sittings. It is just this blocking of legislation, and this is important legislation; yet, those opposite have blocked it in the Senate and decided not to have a vote.

Ms Grierson —Dinosaurs!

Mr HALE —That is the problem—it is dinosaurs. It is a really narrow way of thinking. When we have the debate on economics and the opposition talks about debt and deficit, all you hear is: ‘The burden that is being placed on our children’ or ‘$9,000 for every man, woman and child!’ It is all this ‘burden of debt’ and gloom and doom and fear.

As we have seen this week, it has now gone from fear onto smear, and to the interjections we have had to the last speaker, when the member for Flinders was talking about not being able to debate the legislation. We have spent three days in this House bogged down in a debate about an email that was false, fake and fraudulent. We have spent three days wasting taxpayers’ money in this House when we should have been putting legislation through that would move this country forward; we have been bogged down in a grubby witch hunt. The only person that is really going to lose out from the whole last three days is the poor old Treasury official; I think everyone else will move on with their lives except that bloke. And we have spent three days doing it. Then we have those opposite saying, ‘We have no time to debate this’ and ‘We have no time to debate that,’ because we have just wasted so much time on this other issue that will end up coming to nothing by the end of the week. As I said, it will be one person that will pay the ultimate price for what has gone on this week. For what?

Mr Briggs interjecting

Mr HALE —Yes, there is not a lot of cooperation coming from your side of the House, from what I have heard in today’s reports. The thing is, with climate change—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Order! Can I ask the member for Solomon to stick to the debate, which is the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill 2009. And let me also remind the members on both sides to address their comments through the Chair.

Mr HALE —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I had sort of forgotten what we were talking about there. It is just typical of those opposite when it comes to issues like climate change. There are very few alternatives. I brought out a bit of paper to write down the member for Flinders’ alternatives and, as you can see, it is fairly blank. A global rainforest recovery program—yes, it has a nice ring to it and probably could work. Unfortunately, they had 12 years to do something about this but did nothing, and we are actually acting on climate change. We believe in climate change while, on their side of the House, they still have their sceptics. I know that it makes it very difficult for the member for Flinders—who has got an extremely good intellect and a real passion for environmental issues—to be hamstrung by the attitudes of other members.

Getting back to the bill, it is a non-controversial bill. It does not have an adverse effect on industry at all, and there will be no additional costs. It is about streamlining the operation so that both industry and government can work together to make sure the legislation allows industry to operate, to keep progressing and to keep moving forward. It gives that little bit of flexibility, in regards to being able to report the data back on discovery—you will find that an extra 27-odd days in the change in the legislation will enable industry that extra time to collect their data. I commend the bill.