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Thursday, 17 September 2009
Page: 6925

Senator ARBIB (Minister for Employment Participation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery) (4:47 PM) —I thank the Senate for its contribution to the debate on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Legislation Amendment Bill 2009 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety Levies) Amendment Bill 2009 and for facilitating the speedy passage of the legislation. The legislation makes minor policy and technical amendments and reduces regulatory burdens on the offshore petroleum industry as well as streamlining and clarifying administrative processes. It also removes ambiguities and makes some minor technical corrections.

These amendments bring improvements to the legislative framework for the offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage industries without increasing the regulatory burden and, in some specific provisions, reducing that burden. Most importantly, particularly in light of recent events, this legislation creates a standing power enabling the responsible minister to appoint a commissioner to undertake a commission of inquiry into the operational, human and regulatory matters specific to or incidental to a significant offshore petroleum or greenhouse gas storage incident. The power is limited to where a significant offshore petroleum or greenhouse gas incident has occurred and where it would be appropriate to consider operational, human and regulatory issues related to that incident. The purpose of the amendments is to correct an administrative gap in the provisions of the act for the investigation of these matters.

Recent incidents involving uncontrolled release of hydrocarbons jeopardising human and environmental health and essential infrastructure have demonstrated that the existing investigatory powers are insufficient. An inquiry for the purposes of determining operational, human and regulatory factors would inform regulators and operators of causal factors contributing to significant incidents relating to offshore oil and gas exploration, development, production, greenhouse gas storage and/or their commissioning. This power will enable the government and industry to learn from incidents and to be better prepared to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future. I thank senators for their support of the legislation and commend it to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.