Transcript of interview with Marius Benson ABC Newsradio
The Hon Anthony Albanese MP
The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government
Leader of the House
Member for Grayndler
Subject: West Atlas Oil Leak
Monday, 24 August 2009
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW: Well, oil and gas is continuing to flow from a drilling rig into the Timor Sea off Australia’s north-west coast, as the rig operators work to stem the spill and clean-up crews try to disperse the giant oil slick.
But the operators say it’ll be seven weeks before the leak can be stopped. The federal minister responsible for dealing with the spill is the Regional Development Minister, Anthony Albanese, and he’s speaking to Marius Benson.
REPORTER: Anthony Albanese, as the minister responsible for dealing with this spill, what’s the situation now? What’s the latest information from the rig?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: The situation is that the quantities of sweet light crude gas and condensate continue to emit into the Timor Sea. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is responsible for the clean-up, is doing the best job it can to limit any damage that can be caused.
It’s clear that it’s going to take some time for the clean-up to occur, because the rig needs to be capped, and that’s a complex operation which will require another rig to come from Singapore. That operation though is being done as soon as possible, but it will take time.
REPORTER: Seven or eight weeks we’re told.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It certainly – I think that’s a conservative estimate. Certainly, the company and all the authorities involved are taking action as quickly as possible. We have up in the area a specialist C-130 Hercules aircraft. That was brought in from Singapore on Saturday.
It spent yesterday putting dispersant on the spill and all indications are that the spill is not growing and that, indeed, the dispersant is helping to assist the natural evaporation which is occurring.
REPORTER: Environmental groups have been critical, saying that the measures being introduced now are simply not equal to the task and the safety standards weren’t sufficient.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Certainly, this is a rig that was approved under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act in 2003 under the former government. In terms of this incident, it’s pretty clear that whilst this is extremely regrettable by all concerned, the response was immediate by the authorities.
So whilst, no doubt, this is a regrettable incident, I think it is hard to see how the response could possibly have been quicker.
REPORTER: This is the sort of rig that will be involved in the Gorgon Project, that’s the $50 billion project signed with China for liquefied natural gas from a similar area. Similar rig. Does that sound alarm bells in your mind about the dangers to the environment from the Gorgon Project which is now being assessed for its environmental impact?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, you need to consider this in context, which is that the Australian oil and gas industry has the world’s best practice. It is among the safest industries anywhere in the world.
Our number one priority at the moment, of course, is just to contain the spill, clean up the oil and make sure that we can get work under way to shut up the leaking well.
REPORTER: Anthony Albanese, thank you very much.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks Marius.
GLEN BARTHOLOMEW: Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Regional Development in the Federal Government, who apparently has responsibility for dealing with this spill in the Timor Sea off Australia’s north-west coast. And we’ll keep you posted on that story by the sounds of it for the days and weeks to come, as it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.