Labor Senators are broadly supportive of the intent of this legislation
but wish to make some brief remarks, particularly about Schedule 16, which
enable the Minister, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (the
Titles Administrator) and the CEO of NOPSEMA to accept and enforce undertakings
in relation to compliance with provisions of the OPGGS Act and regulations.
The use of enforceable undertakings
Labor Senators agree with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)
that offshore petroleum should be held to the highest levels of workplace
health and safety standards.
In considering the ACTU's recommendation, the industry
context must be taken into account. Offshore petroleum is one of Australia's
most dangerous industries. It is dangerous because the nature of the work
performed is inherently high risk, and because it is performed in remote
locations where medical assistance is not at hand. In this context our WHS laws
ought to be at their most rigorous.
Labor Senators also note that the same submission highlights that that
the use of enforceable undertakings in the case of fatalities at workplaces and
other related circumstances was not considered best practice during the Best
Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
WHS regulation ought to be best practice in the offshore
petroleum industry given its inherently dangerous nature. The Best Practice
Review of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Final Report (Best Practice
Review) considered in detail the use of enforceable undertakings in WHS
regulation and recommended that, among other things, in relation to the
enforceable undertakings framework:
Work Health Safety Act 2011 be amended to expressly prohibit enforceable
undertakings being accepted for contraventions or alleged contraventions of the
WHS Act 2011 that relate to circumstances involving a fatality.
Guidelines for the acceptance of an enforceable undertaking be amended to
provide a general exception (unless exceptional circumstances exist) where the
applicant has a recent prior conviction connected to a work-related fatality;
the applicant has more than two prior convictions arising from separate
investigations, or the application relates to an incident involving a very
consistency, 'very serious injury' should be defined as stated in the WorkCover
New South Wales Enforceable undertakings: Guidelines for proposing an
Labor Senators also note the work of Senator Marshall in establishing
and chairing an inquiry into work health and safety impacts of workers in the
offshore petroleum industry. Work such as this highlights that Labor takes
issues relating to workplace health and safety very seriously.
Labor Senators note this bill transfers regulatory responsibility for
environmental management of offshore greenhouse gas storage from the Minister
to NOPSEMA, strengthens and clarifies the role of NOPSEMA inspectors and
modifies related levies.
Labor Senators further note that the Bill seeks to improve
administrative regulatory compliance arrangements.
Recommendations in the Chair's
Labor Senators note Recommendations 1 and 2 in the Chair's report. Labor
Senators also note the work of the Shadow Minister, who is in discussions with
the Minister with the purpose of drafting amendments that can provide suitable
arrangements governing the use of enforceable undertakings.
Labor Senators reserve their final judgment on this bill until the
discussions between the Minister and Shadow Minister are concluded.
That the Government continue to work with the Opposition to find
amendments to this legislation that would limit the use of enforceable
undertakings to where it is appropriate.
Senator Chris Ketter Senator
Deputy Chair Senator
for New South Wales
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