Petroleum Safety Authority Gets Okay from Australian Senate

A National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority is on track to open its doors for business on January 1, 2005, after the Australian Senate passed enabling legislation in the year's final sitting period.

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane first introduced the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Amendment Bill and the Offshore Petroleum (Safety Levies) Bill to Parliament in September, fulfilling a 2001 Government election commitment.

"This is a particularly positive note on which to end the sitting year. From 2005, the new Authority will have responsibility for regulating safety on oil and gas facilities in Commonwealth waters as well as the coastal waters of the States and the Northern Territory," said Mr. Macfarlane.

"It will also have the ability to undertake regulation in inland waters or onshore, where requested by a State or the Northern Territory.

"This is a strong response to the challenge of regulating a hazardous industry characterized by technological complexity," he said.

The Australian, State and Northern Territory Governments recognized the need for a national regime to improve petroleum safety outcomes and have worked closely with industry to bring about the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority.

"There are about 60 petroleum facilities in Australian offshore waters including fixed and floating platforms, mobile drilling rigs and support barges."

"The new Authority will replace six existing regulators, ruling out many of the problems which stem from having separate State-based systems," said Mr Macfarlane. The Australian Government committed $6.1 million towards establishing the Authority in the 2002-03 budget.

"Now the legislation has passed we can begin recruiting staff, establishing offices and developing procedures to ensure the Authority is fully operational by the end of 2005," said Mr. Macfarlane.

The Authority's headquarters will be in Perth and will house 25 highly skilled and experienced regulatory staff. It is expected that a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will be appointed by late April 2004.

Once operational, the Authority will be funded by industry fees and levies.