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Thursday, 5 March 2015
Page: 1308

Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (13:08): These bills are supported by Labor as they are technical amendments that improve offshore petroleum safety and environmental oversight. The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, NOPSEMA, was established in January 2012 as part of the Labor government's response to the Montara wellhead blowout in the Timor Sea in 2009.

The Montara Commission of Inquiry contained 100 findings and 105 recommendations. A key recommendation related to the establishment of a single, independent regulatory body responsible for safety, well integrity and environmental management, and to consolidate functions of the state and Northern Territory authorities. The new regulator created by Labor continues the existing offshore safety role of its predecessor, the National Offshore petroleum Safety Authority consolidated the oversight of well integrity and incorporated the new function of environmental management, previously regulated by the states and the Northern Territory.

Since that time NOPSEMA has continued to independently and professionally regulate offshore safety, well integrity and environmental management. The establishment of NOPSEMA allowed the Australian Government in February 2014 to commence a new streamlined approach for offshore petroleum activities making NOPSEMA the sole environmental regulator for offshore petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters. These arrangements have significantly increased regulatory efficiency in respect of petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters, and delivered clarity and certainty for industry participants.

An audit report released by the Australian National Audit Office in June 2014 found:

NOPSEMA has appropriately integrated administrative arrangements for the new function of environmental management and has established a sound framework for the regulation of the offshore petroleum industry.

It was the former Labor government that commenced the work to implement the changes and there is bipartisan support from the current government in seeing these changes through to completion.

With NOPSEMA's established track record it is timely that the government is moving amendments to make it easier for the states and the Northern Territory governments to confer occupational health and safety, structural integrity and environmental management functions and powers upon NOPSEMA under their respective legislation in respect of those waters of the sea within their jurisdictional reach.

The proposed amendments to the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Act will expand the definition of 'designated coastal waters' to include all areas enabling the states and the Northern Territory to confer functions and powers over the widest possible geographic area within their respective jurisdictions.

Labor recognises the important role of NOPSEMA in reducing regulatory burden on industry and the potential to deliver improved regulatory outcomes.