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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 16454

Senator ALLISON (10:22 AM) —I indicate Democrat support for the legislation. The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill 2003 will make long overdue changes to the way in which occupational health and safety issues are managed and regulated on offshore petroleum facilities. At present the states and the Northern Territory regulate occupational health and safety issues associated with offshore petroleum operations in their coastal waters. With respect to Commonwealth waters, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 allows the states and the Northern Territory to extend their OH&S laws to offshore petroleum activities in adjacent Commonwealth waters. I understand that all jurisdictions except Western Australia have exercised this option. As a result, operators of offshore petroleum facilities are subject to a range of different OH&S laws in relation to offshore petroleum operations in Australian waters. This creates a confusing situation for workers and employees and imposes unnecessary costs on operators.

I also indicate that the Democrats would like to see this bill go into committee, even though we do not ourselves have an amendment. There are some practices which I would like the minister to clarify with regard to what is being proposed on occupational health and safety issues relating to the removal of naturally occurring radioactive material, otherwise known as scale, on pipes and so forth.

This bill will enable the establishment of uniform occupational health and safety laws for offshore petroleum operations throughout Australian waters. It will also establish a single OH&S regulator for these activities, namely the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority. This will be facilitated by the enactment of mirror state and Northern Territory legislation after this bill has been passed. The creation of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority and the establishment of uniform OH&S laws in Australian waters is a very important initiative which the Commonwealth and the states should be applauded for, as should the ACTU and the industry groups that have been involved in these changes. Workers on offshore petroleum facilities face many dangers. If administered appropriately, this new regime should allow for the improvement of safety conditions associated with these activities.