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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2480

Mr CHEESEMAN (6:36 PM) —I too rise to speak on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Regulatory Levies Legislation Amendment (2011 Measures No. 1) Bill 2011 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Regulatory Levies (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011. These bills will play an important role in future development of industries in Australia and industries in my electorate of Corangamite. They have implications for jobs, the environment and future investment. They are about the Australian government putting down a regulatory framework for good governance and good corporate citizenship.

There are substantial investment opportunities within the Otway Basin, which of course contains a very significant gas resource, for us to exploit in future generations, particularly with the setting of a price on carbon and investment migrating from brown coal in Victoria to baseload gas, providing enormous investment opportunities within my region.

These bills impose levies on the offshore petroleum titleholders to enable the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority to recover costs associated with undertaking its assessment, monitoring and enforcement functions. That is very important work in ensuring that we are able to exploit these gas reserves in a way that is sustainable and safe for the environment and in a way that enables us to invest in this important economic opportunity for Australia and of course for my region. It is important that regulatory action is undertaken to ensure safety and good governance take place within this environment.

These bills change the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Act 2003—the safety levies act—to impose levies on offshore petroleum titleholders to enable the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority to recover the costs associated with undertaking regulatory functions in relation to wells and well-related equipment, which of course is critical to exploration. Importantly, the bills also make consequential amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 to enable effective calculation and collection of the new well levies. The imposition of these levies will ensure that NOPSA—which is funded on a cost-recovery basis from levies raised from the offshore petroleum industry—has sufficient resources to effectively perform its functions.

This legislation is about Australia and the Australian government not only making sure that this industry is well regulated in order to protect our environment but also ensuring that there is a suitable environment for investment as we go forward. It would be very easy to not regulate in this area, but of course that would have substantial consequences, particularly in light of the many offshore accidents that have occurred throughout Australia’s history and in many other countries that have been able to exploit their environment for gas and other petroleum-related products. These bills are another important cog in the wheel of policy that the Gillard government is moving to address.

This industry has the opportunity to create many jobs and future investment opportunities throughout our nation. It is important that we look at this in the context of many areas like Corangamite, where there is a very substantial resource that we will be able to exploit in the years to come, particularly as we move from baseload energy—being largely derived in Victoria from brown coal—to being able to take up the economic opportunities that come from offshore gas. The Otway Basin, in my electorate, has been developed in recent times and I am sure that, as we place a price on carbon, there will be further investment in this field, creating jobs in my local area, enabling us to reduce our carbon footprint in Victoria and providing investment opportunities and wealth for our nation and for my region. It is important that we put in place the necessary regulatory steps so that this industry can develop safely and so the financial community has certainty that we can exploit these resources in a way that enables investment to flow and opportunities to be taken up.

Getting this framework right is important and will also flow to other bills that this parliament will debate in the months to come in terms of putting in place the necessary steps to set a price on carbon. It is important that we take these steps. In recent times we have seen many examples where things have gone drastically wrong, creating uncertainty here in Australia—as other speakers have alluded to—and in many other jurisdictions around the world where incidents have occurred. In many regions in Australia and around the world it is true to say that we are drilling at distances further from the coast at depths greater than what we have been able to drill to historically. But, with that, comes some very substantial risks. That is why it is important that we put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure that it is done safely and that there is proper oversight. We of course want to exploit these resources but we need to make sure that we do it in a safe way.

For many years whilst I was at university I studied geology. I am probably one of the very few people in this place that has a connection to the earth sciences. Certainly, there are very substantial investment opportunities right throughout this nation. In my electorate we have the Otway Basin off my coast that has huge opportunity for us in Victoria, but there are many other parts of Australia where there are huge opportunities for investment, opportunities to create jobs and export a resource to the rest of the world that will help them reduce their carbon footprint as they hopefully migrate from coal and other more heavy carbon footprint products to gas.

In my region in recent times exploration has taken place. It is true to say that there are huge investment opportunities that will take place in the months and years to come. But we need to make sure that we have proper regulatory oversight in place. We do need to make sure that there is a cost-recovery mechanism put in place so that the regulator has the necessary resources to ensure that this industry is undertaken and developed in a way that is sustainable and, importantly, safe.

There is no doubt in my mind that with the gas industry being further developed we can substantially reduce our carbon footprint. Of course, we do know that many areas such as mine do have a large carbon footprint. Any mechanism, any industry that is developed that assists in reducing our carbon footprint is something that people in my electorate of Corangamite, and I am sure in the electorate of the member for Corio, certainly will embrace.

Within our region we do have very substantial low-lying coastal communities. When I talk to those communities they certainly encourage me to raise these issues within the parliament, and I certainly take every opportunity to do that where I can. We have areas such as the Great Ocean Road, the Surf Coast and the Bellarine Peninsula which will be at threat of coastal inundation with sea level rise. It is for those reasons that I take every opportunity to encourage the development of a future gas industry off my coastline because I believe that it can play a very substantial role in reducing our carbon footprint.

As I said earlier in my speech in this debate, it is important that we do have proper regulatory oversight and that it is done in a way which goes to cost recovery. In a broad sense that is what these amendment bills do, and I therefore commend these bills to the House.