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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9162

Mr CHEESEMAN (11:05 AM) —I would like to take this opportunity to speak to what I would certainly classify as another climate change related bill because of my interest in this area but also, importantly, because of the impact climate change has on my electorate. Corangamite and its surrounding area is one of the areas most affected by climate change—economically and in a geographic sense. The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill 2009and cognate bill respond to the amendment of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Act 2003. The amendments can be described as technical and minor policy changes to one of the biggest policy issues confronting us today.

The bills streamline requirements, provide clarification and reduce the overall regulatory burden on the industry. That, of course, is very important. Whilst we absolutely have to bring about change to reduce climate change, we also have to bring about change that does not bog down the industry in regulatory regimes where people and industry end up being mired in red tape. Measures to address climate change have to happen in a fast and efficient way. It is worth noting that it would be very easy to get bogged down in excessive regulation. We are dealing with a relatively new industry when we talk about greenhouse gas storage. We are talking about significant infrastructure—hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in pipelines and the like—and we want to make sure that the regulatory environment is simple and easy to follow, with clear regulations. So with these reforms we are setting up the necessary framework to provide business with what it wants, which is clarity and certainty when it comes to regulation.

The changes proposed here come from three different aspects of work undertaken by the department over a period of time. There are no adverse impacts on the industry when it comes to these bills and I do not believe there are any additional costs. A number of the changes relate to alternative arrangements for pipelines commencing from 1 January. These arrangements will be set out in revised regulations to come into effect next year. Pipelines are being treated on the same basis as other facilities under the safety regulations. This will see the removal of the pipeline management plan and the pipeline safety management plan from the regulations. The removal of consent to operate a pipeline is a part of the overall changes which will take effect from 1 January 2010.

There are several other changes such as providing an expedited consultative process on the granting of access authorities and making the joint authority the decision-maker in relation to the declaration of locations and the granting of scientific investigation consents, designed to streamline current arrangements. Moving the power to vary coordinates based on the current datum, from regulations into the legislation, will streamline the regulatory processes. Other changes are to remove several inconsistencies and ambiguities arising from amendments made in the Senate.

These bills provide clarity and, for some, simplicity in the regulation of a new industry. It is likely that some greenhouse gas storage activities will take place in my electorate of Corangamite and right along the southern coastline of Victoria. I note the member for Gippsland, who has significant petroleum not far from where he lives. In my view, carbon capture is not a silver bullet that will resolve the carbon pollution problem that we currently face. But it may be an important step in helping with carbon pollution abatement for the period ahead in which we rely upon coal whilst we move to more sustainable energy generation processes. This legislation is integral to making sure the framework exists to develop and implement this important carbon capture and storage process. Doing nothing, which many might suggest is the right way to go, is a risk that I believe will threaten our economy and, of course, our sustainability.

In my electorate, areas such as the Great Ocean Road, the surf coast and parts of the Bellarine Peninsula surrounding Port Phillip Bay will be adversely threatened by sea level rise. As I said earlier, I want to again put on the record a few important facts about my region and the effects of climate change. The Great Ocean Road is an icon of Australia and the engine room of our local tourism economy and will be largely impacted by sea level rise. It will be breached in many places if sea level rise does take place, as we expect. Huge swathes of the Bellarine Peninsula will be inundated. Current areas of the mainland will be cut off, forming a ribbon of islands, particularly in the Queenscliff, Point Lonsdale, Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads area where there are parts of that coastline. Also, there are private properties that will reside in harm’s way if there is sea level rise. Key public infrastructure facilities such as caravan parks and other private properties will be inundated and lost. Many private homes will also be lost as a consequence of sea level rise. That is why it is important that we get the regulations and the operation right for greenhouse gas storage, because it is those climate change gases that we need to remove from our atmosphere to avoid the worst aspects of climate change and sea level rise.

In Victoria, particularly within my region, we are among the largest emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per head of population as a consequence of the nature of the industries that we have. It is important that we take advantage of the opportunities for offshore greenhouse gas storage to ensure that industries in my region and across the nation can take up alternative arrangements whilst we go about creating new opportunities from new industries. Victoria is very well placed to take advantage of this legislation. We have a very substantial gas industry, particularly off the Bass Strait, and I think there are significant opportunities for Victoria to play a role. I certainly wish the industry in Victoria and across this nation all the best in responding to these particular challenges. I commend these bills to the House.