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Monday, 27 February 2006
Page: 111

Senator COLBECK (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (8:47 PM) —That was an interesting presentation by Senator Milne. I thought that some of the things she put on the record she might have been au fait with—certainly in relation to the tissue sampling. My advice is the guidelines on that have been completed. I am sure that you will look forward to getting some advice on that particular matter and some of the others that you raised in your presentation. It is disturbing that issues like blaming the Navy for whale strandings around Tasmania in the last 12 months were placed on the record in the way that they were. The Navy were in the area during two of the whale strandings but they were in fact in port.

Senator Milne —No, they were not.

Senator COLBECK —They were in port for the first two of the strandings, Senator. They were actually at sea during the third. Obviously, there are investigations going on with that, but to place carte blanche blame on the Navy for all of the events that occurred is, I think, quite disingenuous. It does nobody’s cause any good, including the Greens, to make comments of that nature. I think the public would expect more of us, that we would put these sorts of matters on the public record correctly rather than making broad, sweeping statements that apply blame rather than deal with the specifics of the issue as they stand. It stands us all in poor stead. It certainly does not help those who are genuinely involved in looking at these issues on a proper basis.

I would like to thank everyone who took part in this debate. Australia’s marine jurisdiction is extensive, as has been said, as are the hydrocarbon resources held within those areas and their contribution to the nation’s economy. It is therefore not surprising that a substantial legislative package such as this is needed for encouraging exploration and managing Australia’s offshore petroleum industry. This legislation is also conspicuous by the thoroughness of consultation that was undertaken in its drafting, both with the offshore petroleum industry and state and the Northern Territory governments. I express my gratitude to the Prime Minister, who gave approval for exposure drafts of the bill to be widely circulated to stakeholders during the drafting process. I am particularly grateful to those industry members and officials who examined the draft bills and provided critical comments and constructive suggestions about them. This was important with a view to avoiding inadvertent changes in rewriting provisions from the current acts into the new texts.

We now have before the Senate these best practice items of legislation. Technological developments, global energy markets and the world economy all exert impacts which mean the regulatory framework for offshore petroleum exploration and development is unlikely to stand still for long. Change is inevitable, at times involving subordinate legislation, at times the act itself. That said, I have no doubt that if the bills we are voting on today are passed their titles will become part of the energy resource sector vocabulary for a long time to come. More than that, I am confident that this legislation, by reducing compliance and administration costs for industry and governments, will help make Australia a more attractive place for petroleum exploration and development. I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.