Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2019

I want to thank senators for their contributions to these amendments. It is some very important legislation on our books. It's the legislation that provides the oversight and regulation of activities in our offshore areas, primarily oil and gas development in those areas. Obviously, they're activities that require a substantial amount of regulation and, as the responsible minister, I take the responsibility to ensure that we have robust regulation of our environment and the safety of workers in those environments very seriously. 

These amendments today are quite simple. The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2019 will transfer regulatory oversite for offshore greenhouse gas storage environmental management and well operations from the responsible Commonwealth minister—that is, myself—to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, or NOPSEMA.

The amendment in the miscellaneous amendments bill will also strengthen and clarify the powers of NOPSEMA inspectors to determine whether regulated entities are compliant with their obligations under the act and associated regulations. The bill further amends the act to introduce enforceable undertakings. Most of these measures are in response to some clear issues in the current legislation. The transfer of responsibilities aligns the regulation of other activities in their offshore areas with those that relate to offshore oil and gas activities.

The bill also makes some technical amendments to the act to futureproof specific references and provisions of the act to regulations made under the act. The Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage (Regulatory Levies) Amendment Bill 2019 amends the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage (Regulatory Levies) Act 2003 as a consequence of the related amendments to the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.

NOPSEMA operates on a fully cost-recovered basis through levies and fees payable by the offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage industries. This includes well-related levies imposed in relation to petroleum titles to ensure NOPSEMA can also recover the costs of its oversight of well operations under greenhouse gas titles. This bill will amend the levies act to extend the application of the well-related levies to greenhouse gas wells as well.

In my brief time before question time, I thought I should respond to some of the contributions from the senators from the Greens political party first. The accusations that somehow the government is not appropriately enforcing taxation regulations on oil and gas producers are completely without merit. And, indeed, Senator Whish-Wilson at multiple points of his contribution contradicted himself on this very point, because as he did admit—sometimes to interjections from myself—the government has in fact strengthened our taxation laws in this area, the petroleum resource rent tax. There is a quite generous uplift rate for exploration. We did that one retrospectively, notwithstanding the issues that Senator Whish-Wilson made.

We've also put time limits on expenditure uplifts for non-exploration related expenditure. Although, admittedly those are running prospectively to keep the integrity of our system in place. As Senator Whish-Wilson also admitted they have taken the likes of Chevron, and the Taxation Office are pursuing others cases against companies in the resources space and they have been successful at recovering hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of the Australian taxpayer.

The fundamental point here is there is a distinction between the government and the Greens political party. We do not run or regulate our oil and gas sector to maximise tax revenues for the Australian people We run and regulate our oil and gas industry, like other industries, to provide the maximum benefit to the Australian people. Yes, tax revenues are part of the benefit but it is not the only benefit. The benefits include the jobs that hundreds of thousands of Australians have in the resource sector. The benefits include the economic and national development that these sectors contribute to. And, yes, the benefits also include the use of these resources both here domestically and often in overseas countries to help their economic development needs. That's what we run this sector for and that's the best way to do it to make sure it benefits most Australian people.

I also want point out the fundamental hypocrisy here of the Australian Greens. Senator Di Natale, you say: 'Gas has got to end. We've got to end the use of gas and oil and all these terrible products.' Meanwhile out the front this morning the Greens were at the front of a hot air balloon that they fired up with a nice big flare and floated into the sky to declare a climate emergency. We have been hearing from the Greens that apparently we are compromised by our donations from the fossil fuel sector. I can only conclude from the illogical and inconsistent behaviour we have seen from the Australian Greens in the last few months that they must be taking donations from the fossil fuel sector. How else can you explain this behaviour? How else can you explain that someone would logically campaign against oil and gas using a gas-fired hot air balloon? It makes no sense whatsoever. And not only that, that hot air balloon out there is not just fired by gas; the coating on it is made from nylon and dacron. They are fossil fuel polymers—

   Senator Wong interjecting

Senator CANAVAN: 
I'll come to you, Senator Wong. You guys aren't much better, because today I heard you've declared a climate emergency too. There is all this talk from the Australian Labor Party about how they now support the coal industry. They support workers. No, they are lining up behind the likes of Extinction Rebellion out the front. They are lining up against these people who are stopping people from going about their business. They are lining up with people who want to end the coal industry and put thousands of Australians out of a job. That is the Australian Labor Party. They're not about making jobs, creating jobs or supporting jobs. They're about putting people out of a job. They are combined with the Greens here today, with these protesters, whereas on this side we're standing up for our economy, standing up for jobs and standing up to make sure Australians can have a prosperous future for themselves and their families.

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