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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 260


Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Groom) (16:59): I apologise for the inconvenience to my colleagues but I am not the fastest over 100 metres. I never was when I played football and that is why I played in the front row. The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Compliance Measures) Bill 2012 amends the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 to strengthen the offshore petroleum regulatory regime with respect to compliance, safety, integrity and environmental management objectives.

The amendments are largely in response to the report of the Montara Commission of Inquiry. As I have said previously in this House on a number of occasions, it is important that the oil and gas industry in Australia operates not only within its permits and licences but also within its social licence. This legislation is important in ensuring not only that we have the regulatory regime which provides the safety and integrity and environmental management that we need but also that we have regulations in place to ensure that the public have confidence in this industry. The Montara incident was an extraordinary incident. The industry had operated for almost 30 years without incident in Australia.

Public concern on this matter was increased by what happened in America in the Gulf of Mexico with a major blowout of the BP oil platform. So the coalition will support the government in its move to bring in easy amendments. They will clarify and strengthen the compliance monitoring, investigation and enforcement powers of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Environmental Management Authority, NOPSEMA, and ensure that enforcement measures for contraventions of the act are appropriate in application and severity in the context of a high-hazard industry.

The Montara Commission of Inquiry recommended a series of amendments to the offshore petroleum regulatory regime. The government undertook a review of the legislation and this bill is the result of that. The amendments will see the introduction of a civil penalty regime and an increase in the current criminal penalty levels under the act. This will bring about some consistency with compliance offences in other major hazard industry legislation. These amendments ensure that penalties, including custodial penalties, for occupational health and safety offences under the act will be harmonised with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

Redrafting the NOPSEMA inspectorate powers will provide greater clarity and consistency between the various powers of each category of inspector and remove unnecessary procedural requirements that are likely to impede NOPSEMA's ability to effectively perform its enforcement functions. The bill also implements a decision to remove the responsible state minister for Tasmania—and I hasten to point out that that is partly at the request of that state's jurisdiction.

This bill does not complete the process and the minister has already signalled his intention to introduce further amendments later in 2013. As I say, the coalition will support these amendments. The proposals are sensible and necessary to improve a regulatory regime that was seen to be plainly inadequate in its present form. We must ensure that this industry is able to operate not only effectively and efficiently but also with the highest degree of safety and integrity—and at the same time ensure that environmental protections are in place. It is an industry which provides a great deal of wealth to Australia and an industry which provides a great deal of employment to Australia. We must ensure that the public have confidence in it.