Jun 21, 2011

Ministerial Statement – Australia’s offshore oil and gas resources sector Security Inquiry Security Inquiry

ANTHONY ALBANESE – I wish to update the House on the progress of the inquiry, which the Government announced early this year, into the security of our nation’s offshore oil and gas facilities being conducted by the Inspector of Transport Security, Mick Palmer AO APM.

Mr Palmer has recently reported to me that his inquiry is progressing well and that he is receiving outstanding cooperation and support from the oil and gas industry.

Mr Palmer formally launched the Inquiry with a briefing to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) Board in Perth on 10 April 2011 during the national APPEA Conference.

The inquiry, which is the first ever comprehensive review of our nation’s offshore oil and gas facilities security, is in response to the growing threats from international terrorism and piracy.

It is important to note that while at this time there is no known specific threat against any of our facilities, in light of the current global security environment, it is crucial that we remain vigilant and take all reasonable steps to ensure our security preparedness and arrangements are equal to any emerging threats.

An act of terrorism against any offshore facility in or near Australian waters would not only be extremely damaging to our natural environment but also very costly to our economy. This growing sector already employs more than 10,000 Australians and generates over $22 billion in annual export earnings.

Australia’s reserves of oil and gas are concentrated offshore in the north-west of Australia, the Bass Strait and the Timor Sea. The development of these oil and gas resources has raised Australia’s international profile in global oil and gas production, but such a profile may also attract undesirable attention in highlighting Australia as a potential target for terrorism or other criminal acts including piracy.

Add to this the fact that current exploration and production activities in Australia are moving towards deeper and more distant waters, in increasingly remote offshore locations, and the critical importance of continuous vigilance in regard to the issue of security becomes obvious.

Consequently, the Inspector of Transport Security is assessing the quality and effectiveness of current security arrangements in regard to the offshore oil and gas resources sector together with the response capabilities of resource operators and government to any security incident or attack on offshore oil and gas exploration and production infrastructure.

Specifically, the inquiry is looking at:

  • Government and industry relationships, communication and coordination;
  • The nature and extent of current security control and oversight arrangements;
  • The development and implementation of security programs;
  • Possible sea and landside security gaps and areas for improvement;
  • The economic, environmental and economic cost of a violent takeover of any offshore oil or gas infrastructure;
  • Coastal and high seas shipping routes used in the transport of oil and gas products;
  • The supply and support of offshore platforms and facilities used to deliver building components for offshore oil and gas fields.

Due to the wide ranging nature of the Inquiry, I wrote to all of the relevant Federal, State and Territory Ministers together with peak oil and gas bodies, ship owners, port operators, and operators of offshore facilities.

This support has been forthcoming and as a consequence, the Inquiry is being conducted in consultation and close cooperation with a range of Federal and State/Territory agencies including particularly the National Security Advisor, and with the active support of the Federal Attorney-General, the Minister for Resources and Energy, and the Minister for Defence.

Additionally, letters of support have already been received from the Northern Territory Minister for Transport, together with positive industry responses from APPEA and a wide range of industry corporations including, ExxonMobil, Woodside, Apache Energy, BP Developments Australia, Shell, Beach Petroleum, Chevron Australia, Inpex, ENI, BHP Petroleum, and PTTEP.

APPEA is also providing physical support to the Inquiry in the form of two liaison officers to work closely with the Inquiry and to facilitate policy and security level meetings and site inspections both within Australia and overseas. The operational phase of the Inquiry commenced with site visitations in the Bass Strait and further domestic discussions and site visitations are planned for the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Timor Leste during the June-August period.

International policy meetings in the United States have commenced with the support and cooperation of the US Government Accountability Office, the United States Coast Guard, and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, with the Inspector of Transport Security leading an Inquiry team to the United States in May 2011.

Mr Palmer is due to provide me with an interim report in late 2011 but I anticipate, due to the nature and width of the inquiry and the logistical difficulties associated with aspects of many of the site visitations, that the Inquiry will not be completed until the latter part of 2012.

I recommend the Inquiry to the House and put on the record the appreciation of the Government for the unqualified cooperation and support being provided to the Inspector of Transport Security by the states and territories and the oil and gas industry.