Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1950

Mr COHEN (Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment)(11.50) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

There have been several proposals for establishing off-shore installations on the continental shelf beyond the territorial sea, mostly in the Great Barrier Reef area. Some of these can be dealt with simply enough under the current arrangements, involving the Great Barrier Reef ministerial councils, both of which involve continuing Commonwealth and Queensland co-operation on policies and day to day management. However, there is no similar arrangement for other areas, and proposals are now being made which require regulation beyond the scope of those arrangements.

The Sea Installations Bill provides a framework to ensure that new developments are technically sound and environmentally acceptable. It provides a basis for the application of important Commonwealth laws, and for State or Territory laws to be adopted as Commonwealth laws. These provisions are parallel to those already applying under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, which regulates off-shore petroleum and mineral exploration and extraction. That Act and the Sea Installations Bill, the Sea Installations Levy Bill and the Sea Installations (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill are based on the belief that the most efficient approach is to adopt State and Territory laws and to develop administrative arrangements involving State and Territory administrations. This approach also takes account of the satisfactory arrangements we have with the Queensland Government for day to day management of Great Barrier Reef Marine Park activities by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service.

It is important that off-shore installations not be used as a basis for evasion of Australian laws, particularly those regulating customs, migration, taxation and quarantine. The proposed legislation will deal with this by requiring contact with the installations to be from the mainland, and by including provisions to ensure that the laws in question can be efficiently and effectively applied. The Bill before the House does not cover sales tax and income tax, both of which will be the subject of separate legislation in accordance with the announcement made by the Treasurer (Mr Keating) in January this year.

The approach taken in the legislation is to require proponents of off-shore installations to seek permits from the Minister. They will have to provide information about the purpose of the installation, structural and technical issues, the extent of use and occupation by people, insurance arrangements and so on so that proper standards can be applied and assessments made of the impact on the environment. Where necessary, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act will be invoked, as has already been done in the case of the proposed floating hotel off Townsville. Permits will be accompanied by whatever safeguards are necessary to ensure that safety and environment considerations are paramount in day to day operations. Variation, revocation and renewal provisions have been included to provide a means of continuing monitoring and to allow changes to accommodate any new factors which arise.

The application of State laws and the use of State administrations will be an important part of this monitoring, in areas like health standards and others which will normally apply to similar operations on the mainland and the Sea Installations Bill makes clear that the States will be paid for their participation. There are already several cases of small installations such as those used as navigational or meteorological aids which do not require further regulations. It would be possible under the regulations to exempt these from the new legislation. A provision has been included to allow exemption from particular aspects of the regulatory scheme. This will also ensure there is no unintended interference with existing regulatory arrangements directed at matters not within the objectives of this Bill, such as commercial fishing. On the other hand, care has been taken in defining sea installations to include ships which remain constantly or continuously in the seas in question and thereby provide a basis for evasion of the legislation. These provisions acknowledge our obligations in respect of foreign shipping.

The development of off-shore installations is already a fact of life. We are committed to harmonising conservation and sustainable development in the natural environment. This includes the seas. This legislation will be part of the Government's policy of protection, wise use, understanding and enjoyment of the environment. This approach is already being applied by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to installations subject to its regulations. I commend this Bill to the House. I present the explanatory memorandum to this Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Carlton) adjourned.