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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 16455

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads) (10:25 AM) —It is very good to be here to close the debate on the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill 2003 and on the Offshore Petroleum (Safety Levies) Bill 2003, which is an associated bill. Mr Acting Deputy President, when you looked around the Senate for speakers on this bill and looked my way I was engaged in conversation with the Manager of Opposition Business in this place, Senator Joseph Ludwig, and we were discussing the last-minute changes to the program this morning. I take this opportunity to put on record my apologies, as Manager of Government Business, to the opposition. After the bells rang to summon us to the chamber this morning we were informed by parties who had an interest in item No. 1 on the program, which deals with some superannuation matters, that they were not ready to proceed with that debate. It was very last-minute advice and I was assured that we could go on with the next bills. This did, however, leave some communications undone.

I think Senator Ludwig would admit that on most occasions communications between the parties are excellent. We try to advise each other with plenty of notice about changes to the program—which does change quite regularly—but this change was at very late notice to the government. Clearly it is hard for all parties to have to change speakers at the last moment when you come into the place expecting to do one bill and are told, `We are going to do another.' Having said that, I am very pleased that the Senate has been able to make good use of the first hour this morning in dealing with some important measures. Of course, none is more important than the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill 2003 and associated bill.

Senator Crossin —Keep going. You've got 18 minutes left—talk it out. Unless you tell us what's happening, we don't know what's going on.

Senator IAN CAMPBELL —That is not what I am here to do; I am here to close the debate. I was making a very frank apology to the Manager of Opposition Business, taking the opportunity do so in summing up on this bill. I thank those senators who have contributed to the debate on these measures—measures that will establish the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority. This will increase certainty for a very important Australian industry. It will ensure that there is a consistent safety regulatory regime across all Commonwealth waters and state and Northern Territory coastal waters.

The establishment of the authority represents a major achievement by the government in responding to the wishes and needs of the offshore petroleum industry, and of the work force in this unique and important industry, in relation to safety regulation. As you would recall, Mr Acting Deputy President, it was an election promise made prior to the last election in 2001—a commitment to Australia's offshore petroleum industry and all of those outstanding Australians who work in that industry—to deliver this uniform national safety regulatory regime to improve safety outcomes and reduce the regulatory burden faced by industry. It is in essence a win-win measure. It means a safer environment for an important industry and will at the same time lighten the regulatory burden.

I think all Australians, particularly those who are driving around in their vehicles on the roads of Australia listening to the parliamentary news network this morning—who are in fact burning the fuel that is often brought to the shore from the petroleum industry—can drive happily in the knowledge that the fuel that they rely on, and quite often take for granted, is, as a result of these measures being discussed in the national parliament today, going to get there in a better way. Those who are involved in the important business of extracting the petroleum products on offshore rigs through the offshore petroleum industry can do so under a much safer environment. Again, I do repeat my thanks to senators for their contributions to this debate. I wish the bill a speedy passage and reiterate my apologies to opposition and other senators for the late rearrangement of the program earlier this morning.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.