Bills Digest no. 37 2007–08
Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures)
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as
introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest
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correct technical errors in the Offshore
Petroleum Act 2006 (the Offshore Petroleum Act)
repeal section 327 of the Offshore Petroleum
Act, which relates to declarations of emergency by the Commonwealth
convert geodetic data references of area descriptions in Schedules
1 and 2 to the Geocentric Datum of Australia (GDA 94).
Please refer below for meanings of technical
Petroleum Act is intended to replace the long-standing
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 (the Petroleum
(Submerged Lands) Act). It is essentially a revamp of the Petroleum
(Submerged Lands) Act and does not introduce any major policy
changes. The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act has been the primary
legislation for the administration of Australia's offshore
petroleum resources for 40 years and, through age and many
amendments, it has become complex and unwieldy. Note that the main
provisions of the Offshore Petroleum Act have not yet come into
force. Further background on both Acts, including Commonwealth,
State and Territory cooperative arrangements, can be found in the
Digest for the Offshore Petroleum Act.
According to the explanatory memorandum, a
geodetic datum is a
mathematical model of the world. 
The previous geodetic datum was designed for
the mainland and its centre was not the centre of the earth.
However, new global positioning systems are
more suited to an earth centred or geocentric datum.
The conversion to the geocentric datum means
that each point in the earth has different coordinates.  These are built into the
According to the Explanatory Memorandum, there
are no financial implications to the Government as most of the
amendments are purely technical. 
It is also submitted that the conversion to
geocentric datum will have no impact on existing titles as it
represents a shift of not more than plus or minus 0.15 metre.
This digest will focus on key amendments
proposed by the Bill.
Items 1-4 set out four
amendments to section 6, as well as
subsections 139(1) (table item 3) and 139(3) of
the Offshore Petroleum Act that deal with the duration of
production licences. It is government policy that licences are
renewed under these provisions (and their equivalent in the
Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act).  However, due to a drafting error in the Petroleum
(Submerged Lands) Act, eight licences have been renewed for an
indefinite duration.  The amendments will ensure that, once the Offshore
Petroleum Act replaces Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act), these
eight indefinite duration licences are preserved, but any
subsequent renewals will only be granted for a 21 year term.
Items 7-18 propose amendments
to territorial sea and coastal waters .
These amendments relate to the correct
territorial sea baseline that applies to the Offshore Petroleum
Act. It is proposed that the definition of coastal waters would
include an assumption that the breadth of the territorial sea of
Australia is three, not 12, nautical miles.
Item 19 proposes to correct a
technical error in subsection 142(6) of the
Offshore Petroleum Act, to the effect that the requirement that
applications for either production licences, or variations to such
applications, must both be accompanied by work and expenditure
proposals. Existing subsection 142(6) implies the requirement only
applies to varied applications.
Items 20 and 21 propose to
repeal section 327 and references to it in a
preceding note in section 326 of the Offshore
Section 327 relates to
declarations of a state of emergency by the Minister of Industry,
Tourism and Resources. Such declarations can be made in respect of
prescribed safety zones in certain circumstances where there is a
likely threat of terrorist activity. It is stated that the Minister
has never had to make such a declaration and that this situation is
better covered by the Maritime Transport and Offshore
Facilities Security Act 2003. 
Items 24-37 propose
amendments to sections 20-23, as well as
Schedules 1 and 2 of the Offshore Petroleum Act
relating to converting the datum from the Australian Geodetic Datum
to the Geocentric Datum of Australia (as explained earlier).
41 proposes that when the CEO of the National Offshore
Petroleum Safety Authority delegates functions or powers under
section 385 of the Offshore Petroleum Act, the
delegate must comply with the CEO s directions when performing
functions as well as exercising powers.
This Bill appears to propose largely technical
corrections that do not obviously affect rights and entitlements of
holders of permits.
In certain cases, proposals would clarify
Memorandum, Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Miscellaneous
Measures) Bill 2007, p. 1.
. Explanatory Memorandum, p. 3.
Law and Bills Digest Section
30 August 2007
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