09/12/2010 - 00:00

Moore a lone voice on safety

09/12/2010 - 00:00

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THE Western Australian government has stepped up its campaign to derail a proposed Canberra-controlled safety regulator for the entire offshore petroleum industry, which it fears will gut its influence over a core industry.

THE Western Australian government has stepped up its campaign to derail a proposed Canberra-controlled safety regulator for the entire offshore petroleum industry, which it fears will gut its influence over a core industry.

Currently, regulatory responsibility is shared between the state and federal governments, with state agencies carrying out the day-to-day oversight and regulation of activities in Commonwealth waters off the WA coast.

But the federal government has been pushing for a single national offshore safety regulator for two years in a bid to remove unnecessary duplication and create a consistent regulatory framework for the industry nationwide.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson’s determination to implement the plan by July 2012 has further hardened since the release of the government’s report into last year’s Montara oil spill, which found lax oversight by the Northern Territory government was a key factor in the disaster.

However, the WA government has consistently opposed the move as an encroachment of the state’s rights and its ability to oversee one of its key industries. In particular, it noted that oversight practices in WA were far more stringent than those in the NT.

Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore has now formally appealed to Mr Ferguson to consider the WA government’s alternative plan for a National Compliance Auditor to ensure the industry is conforming with national and state regulations.

Mr Moore said the plan would improve regulation and maintain all key parts of the current regulatory system, as well as strengthen the federal government’s oversight role.

“Such a model will ensure any delays, gaps or duplication in regulation processes are quickly identified and resolved with appropriate resources, while also maintaining the advantage of the current extensive local knowledge, workable and timely processes, and the existing skills base,” he said.

Critically, Mr Moore said the WA government’s model would be achievable without any disruption to offshore projects in the state, and that maintaining the current co-operative approach would also continue to deliver more timely outcomes.

“The reality is that a national regulator is not about improvements to the regulatory regime, but rather the federal government’s desire to garner full control over one of Australia’s most lucrative industries,” Mr Moore said.

“Centralising power is not regulatory reform, but an erosion of the checks and balances which ensure the states are not coerced into action by Canberra-based decision makers.”

But the WA government’s hopes of winning over Canberra appear slim, with all other states backing the federal plan and peak industry body, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, also backing a single regulator in the wake of the Montara report.

 

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