Labor Senators strongly support the committee's recommendation that the bills be passed.
Labor has long called for legislation to unlock the benefits of offshore renewables, and particularly offshore wind generation. As well as enormous generation capacity, offshore wind promises thousands of jobs and billions in investment for regional communities—including those most impacted by changes in global energy markets.
It is regrettable that those benefits have been delayed by the government. It had promised that 'the legislative settings and framework aim to be in place and operational by mid-2021'. Instead, one of three necessary bills has not even been introduced, and the development of detailed regulations will take well into 2022.
While recommending that the bills be passed as soon as possible, Labor Senators share the committee's bipartisan view that the minister should consider:
amending the objects clause to better incorporate electricity transmission objectives (see paragraph 2.32);
amending the consultation requirements and adding timeframes for declarations (see paragraph 3.13); and
amendments to the changes in control provisions (see paragraph 3.20).
Labor Senators urge the minister to adopt these suggestions, which have been made by government and non-government Senators alike.
However, the report fails to properly reflect the serious concerns that have been raised about the Bill's work health and safety (WHS) framework.
The committee heard substantial evidence that the government has not in fact adopted the harmonised national WHS law in the bills. Instead, the committee heard that the government has amended those laws beyond recognition.
This is highlighted by the fact that a worker would be subject to one regulatory regime onshore, a second while in transit on a vessel, and a third while working on an offshore renewable project. This poses confusion and risks for workers and employers alike.
Labor Senators acknowledge differing evidence from DISER, the regulator and stakeholders representing both employers and workers in the industry. Given the significant difference of opinion, Labor Senators urge the government to urgently undertake further consultation on both the content of the WHS provisions and their coverage. The government should consider amendments to ensure the Bill's WHS framework is fit-for-purpose and properly implements WHS harmonisation principles.
The report fails to address evidence on the importance of legislative support for merit criteria on socio-economic benefits.
The committee heard consistent evidence that the merit criteria for licences should ensure benefits for local workers, businesses, communities, and First Nations people. The committee also heard that it was important for these requirements to be reflected broadly in legislation, in order to allow and ensure they are reflected in detail in regulations.
Labor Senators urge the government to consider a legislative amendment to ensure benefits for local communities.
Senator Anne Urquhart
Senator Nita Green