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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7675


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (21:17): I rise in support of this legislation and the provisions it makes in dealing with recommendations from the Montara inquiry relating to environmental and safety standards. These bills also introduce measures that respond to recommendations in the 2009 Productivity Commission report into regulatory burdens on the oil and gas sector. The Montara incident was one of the worst environmental and ecological disasters in Australian history. It had a profoundly damaging impact on the delicate environmental and ecological balance in the Timor Sea. What is more, it put at risk the health and safety of the many Australian men and women working on the West Atlas oil rig.

Between August and November 2009, over eight million gallons of lightweight crude oil spewed into the Timor Sea, affecting an area of over 6,000 square kilometres. Additionally, some 10,000 litres of chemical dispersant was subsequently sprayed over the contaminated water as part of the disaster response effort. All of this occurred in an area the Wilderness Society has rightly described as a 'marine superhighway', an ecosystem that is home to over 19 species of marine life that do not appear elsewhere. It is a high priority of this government to ensure that this type of incident is prevented from occurring in Australian waters. This legislation is part of the government's ongoing campaign to establish not only the highest level of compliance with environmental standards but also the highest level of compliance with safety standards to guarantee the safety of the men and women who work in the offshore oil and gas industry.

In 2009, the Productivity Commission's Review of regulatory burden on the upstream petroleum (oil and gas) sector stated that the current regulatory system was burdensome, slow and lacking in consistency across designated authorities, resulting in an inefficient approach to regulation. These bills take action to rectify these shortcomings by reducing the cost of compliance for the Australian oil and gas sector while streamlining and expanding the government's safety and environmental monitoring capab­ilities across the nation's maritime territories. It does this by introducing full cost-recovery funding models for the newly formed National Offshore Petroleum Titles Admin­istrator, NOPTA, and for the expanded National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, NOPSEMA.

The National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator, NOPTA, will handle petro­leum titles and advise designated authorities on key title decisions. Currently, petroleum titles are administered by individual state and territory authorities, resulting in an ad hoc system of administration. The formation of NOPTA will streamline the administrative process and reduce the cost of compliance for the oil and gas sector. This is in line with the Productivity Commission's upstream petroleum review, particularly its recomm­endation that a national offshore petroleum regulatory body be established.

It is my understanding that the Western Australian government has raised concerns relating to the intergovernmental negotiation process for determining the NOPTA and NOPSEMA authorities over maritime jurisdictions. The detail of this legislation should allay any such concerns. NOPTA will advise and liaise with local designated authorities comprising Commonwealth, state and territory ministers, which will provide for appropriate state and territory govern­ment input to the system of administering petroleum titles. On this point, I would like to reiterate that this government is implementing an important recommendation of the Productivity Commission's upstream petroleum review and that this legislation will benefit the oil and gas sector, an important Western Australian industry.

This bill also provides for the expansion of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority's jurisdiction to include environ­mental concerns, an important reform and a critical regulatory improvement if we are to guard against incidents such as the Montara oil spill occurring in the future. The new National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority will act as the federal regulator for safety and environmental matters on all offshore drilling activities in national maritime waters. This action by the government to form NOPSEMA and expand the purview of the regulator is a necessary and responsible measure.

Additionally, I congratulate the minister for forming NOPTA and NOPSEMA on a full cost recovery basis, which requires that the cost of regulation be shouldered by industry and not by the Australian taxpayer. However, I note that as of 2013, when the cost of forming NOPTA and NOPSEMA has been recovered, the existing registration fees paid to the government on transfers and trading of offshore titles and the fees that would be used to recover the start-up costs will be scrapped, representing a significant saving to the oil and gas sector from that point onward.

The provisions in these bills are sensible and measured. They represent a significant step forward in the regulation and administration of the offshore petroleum industry. These bills have been formulated after consultation with industry and environmental groups, and represent a well-calibrated response that takes into account many and varied considerations.

In their submission to the Montara inquiry, the Cape Conservation Group called on the government to introduce five measures to help safeguard against possible future environmental catastrophes. These measures include the formation of a series of marine sanctuaries, the closer regulation of the oil and gas sector in state and federal maritime jurisdictions and a stronger emphasis on the use of renewable and carbon neutral technologies. Since the submission of the Cape Conservation Group report, this government has taken action to protect Australia's rich and diverse marine environment through the release of the marine bioregional plan for the south-west, currently out for public comment. This long-awaited national reform will, in due course, extend to cover Northern Australia and other parts of Australia. As I noted in my recent motion relating to marine parks, debated in this place on 30 May:

Thanks to international agreements, Australia now has responsibility for oceans double our 7.7 million square kilometres of land. Only the oceans of Canada and France are larger. Australia's oceans are big but their size is not all that matters. They are special for many other reasons. The area of our marine environment brings together three of the world's most important oceans—the Southern, the Indian and the Pacific.

… … …

Australia has the world's largest area of coral reefs, the largest single reef—the Great Barrier Reef—and the largest seagrass meadow, in Shark Bay. We also have the third-largest area of mangroves and more than half of the world's mangrove and seagrass species. Our oceans provide life support for six of the seven known species of marine turtles, 45 of the world's 78 whale and dolphin species, and 4,000 fish species, which is 20 per cent of the global total. … Here in Australia we have the lot—tropical, subtropical, temperate, subantarctic and antarctic.

We are really very blessed and we need to look after what we have. The government has also announced a $3 billion clean energy fund to encourage the private sector to invest more in renewable and carbon neutral technologies, and now of course the government is taking action to streamline offshore petroleum industry regulation and establish a higher level of regulatory compliance. The Wilderness Society, in their submission to the Montara inquiry, called for 'strong independent compliance enforce­ment'. These bills provide that.

The formation of the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator, NOPTA, will streamline administration and reduce the cost of compliance for industry. It will also remove much of the burden from state and territory governments, whilst allowing them input into matters that may affect their state interests.

The expansion of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Environmental Manage­ment Authority, NOPSEMA, will implement a single compliance standard to apply across Australia, thereby decreasing the cost of compliance for industry and establishing a higher standard of safety for Australian men and women who work in the offshore oil and gas industry. Additionally, by including environmental management into the purview of the organisation, the government will provide a further safeguard for the ongoing protection of Australia's fragile environ­mental and ecological treasures. As I said on 30 May:

In the tropical north, coral reefs, extensive tidal flats, seagrass meadows and mangroves fill the seascape, shelter the shoreline and provide critical habitats for Australia's rich tropical ocean life. Moving south, the water temperatures gradually decline. Subtropical waters are wedged between the tropical and temperate zones, where they are shaken and stirred into a remarkable living cocktail.

The oceans are living poetry and must be protected. It is for all these reasons that I support these bills. I commend my colleague the Minister for Resources and Energy for bringing this legislative response forward in a comprehensive and timely manner.