Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Offshore Petroleum Bill 2005; Offshore Petroleum (Annual Fees) Bill 2005; Offshore Petroleum (Registration Fees) Bill 2005; Offshore Petroleum (Repeals and Consequential Amendments) Bill 2005; Offshore Petroleum (Royalty) Bill 2005; Offshore Petroleum (Safety Levies) Amendment Bill 2005

In Committee

5:58 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I want to go over some of the points that I put to Senator Colbeck on behalf of the government last night, and I hope to get a response. When I raised a range of matters, Senator Colbeck suggested that the environmental planning mechanisms through the environmental plan would somehow suffice. I have checked on that and I understand that the principles of ecologically sustainable development are not incorporated in the act. That is why I have got them as a further amendment. My understanding and reading is that this act takes precedence over the EPBC Act. I asked Senator Colbeck about that last night, and I would like some clarity in the response, particularly as this amendment relates to marine parks.

The other matter I raised last night, which I wish to go over again, is the issue that this legislation has within it the basic assumption that all areas of ocean, including what are called frontier areas of sea, each year are reported in the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources publication and then companies are invited to get leases in those areas. If it is a frontier area, they get tax breaks. Yet there is no process for the community to look at those areas and make a decision that there ought not to be any mining, drilling, seismic testing or whatever in those areas. In other words, as I put to you last night, this bill makes the assumption that all ocean is available for allocation of leases—with even some tax breaks—unless an environmental plan of some kind prevents it.

This is not being done in the context of regional marine planning, and it is not being done in the context of consultation with other agencies. It is a single use assumption that oil and gas can go anywhere and that these frontier areas, new areas, are available for oil and gas companies to apply for leases in the absence of a context of regional marine planning. I would like the minister to, firstly, confirm whether this area of new acreage release is as I am suggesting it is and, secondly, give me an answer about the precedence of this act over environmental legislation.


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