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Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Page: 6121

Senator SHERRY (TasmaniaMinister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation, Minister for Small Business and Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) (17:44): It is with great pleasure that I conclude the second reading debate on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (National Regulator) Bill 2011 and associated bills on behalf of the government and my ministerial colleague Mr Martin Ferguson, the Minister for Resources and Energy and the Minister for Tourism. Firstly, I thank all senators who participated in the debate. I do not necess­arily agree with all the views expressed, but certainly as a group they have well outlined the intent of the legislation. The reforms in this bill, together with those in the comple­mentary bills, will help deliver on the Aust­ralian government's commitment to ensure the Australian community's confi­dence in the regulation of offshore petroleum and reinforce our competitive advantage as a preferred location for investment.

I note there has been some criticism of my colleague Mr Ferguson, the minister. I strongly refute and reject that criticism. I think this is a very, very sound outcome of the negotiations between Minister Ferguson and the Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, the Hon. Norman Moore MLC. Yes, there has been a lot of intense and strong discussion, but there has been an outcome; there has been an agree­ment. I can assure the Senate that Minister Ferguson, one of the most hardworking, committed and knowledgeable ministers in his areas of responsibility, has been at the forefront of bringing those discussions to a conclusion.

The other point I would make is just a mild rebuke to the previous speaker. I do not think it is fair to blame, as he did, some Canberra bureaucrats for having forgotten the views of the states. I have been involved in a lot of negotiations with Commonwealth public servants and the states, in my capacity as Minister Assisting on Deregulation and Public Sector Superannuation, over the seamless national economy reforms. At the end of the day, of course, the minister, subject to cabinet, makes the final call. I do not think bureaucrats should be unfairly criticised for their hard work and the commitment that they bring to these types of negotiations. So I do not accept that criticism of so-called Canberra bureaucrats.

I am pleased to advise that the Minister for Resources and Energy, the Hon. Martin Ferguson, and the Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, the Hon. Norman Moore MLC, have recently finalised their negotiations and have now executed a memorandum of understanding on cooperative working arrangements between the proposed Commonwealth regulator and the WA Department of Mines and Petro­leum. The ministers have also exchanged correspondence outlining their agreement on how the new regulatory arrangements will proceed. I understand these agreements have now removed the Western Australian gov­ernment's opposition to the national regulator bills. I commend the Western Australian mini­ster, Minister Moore, for his constru­ctive contribution to the development of these arrangements. As I said earlier, the intent of the legislation has been very well outlined by a range of speakers and, while I do not necessarily accept some of the critique, we have had significant debate on these measures. They have been well out­lined, so I do not intend to repeat what has been said by previous speakers on a number of occasions.

To conclude, before we go to the committee stage—I know there are a couple of amendments to consider—I table the memorandum of understanding and the related correspondence.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.