Aug 24, 2009

Transcript of interview with Radio 6PR

Transcript of interview with Simon Beaumont Radio 6PR (Perth)

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

SIMON BEAUMONT: Well this is a nightmare isn’t it? This oil rig off our coast continues to spew oil and gas into the sea, uncontrolled largely into the Timor Sea, the slick is now kilometres long. The clean-up will take weeks, probably months, bringing the rig under control, the leak under control, just as long.

The Minister for Infrastructure Transport and Regional Development is Anthony Albanese. He joins me on the program this morning.

Minister, thank you for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Good morning, Simon.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Good morning. Is this leak under control now Minister?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: We’ve had further aerial observations out there this morning and what that is showing is that the dispersant is being effective in breaking down the oil into a much thinner sheen. The conditions are dead calm out there. There’s more spraying going on this morning and we’re preparing, through the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, for a very sustained daily effort of treatment with dispersant.

SIMON BEAUMONT: So the response has been good, and prompt, and it sounds like it’s appropriate. But the big issue is, is how can we stop this sort of thing from happening again, especially given we’re talking about a great deal of resourced development, particularly off the North-West shelf of Western Australia? How do we stop it happening again?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well certainly the priority immediately for the Government, and I think your listeners would understand, is dealing with this particular incident that we’ve confronted. One of the things that we will do is have a look at what comes out of an investigation into how this could occur, if there’s any strengthening of any regulations that would assist in the future, but our priority really has been to contain the spill, clean up the oil, get work safely and quickly underway to shut the leak that’s there.

SIMON BEAUMONT: All right, so as I said, the response is good. We – many West Australians listening this morning, Minister, would be worried about what this means to the Kimberley marine environment, what it means for the whale nurseries down closer to the West Australian coast, that’s what they’re more concerned about, the future of the marine environment up there. What’s out there around the rig environmentally?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Look, we’re meeting today, my department, the Australian Marine Safety Authority with the Department of Environment and the Department of Environment will obviously be monitoring what’s occurring there.

This is a whole of government response.

What occurs is that there’s a National Plan for dealing with oil pollution that kicks into gear as soon as an incident occurs, and ensures that there’s cooperation across the board that is being coordinated by AMSA, by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

I must say, some of the reports haven’t been accurate, and I don’t think have been particularly helpful. I think the fact is that the incident occurred on Friday, the National Plan kicked in on Friday and work was undertaken as soon as possible. It’s hard to think of how this could have been contained any quicker.

But we’ll take advice and have a proper investigation and certainly anything that can learn from an incident like this, we’ll put it into practice.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Who picks up the bill for the clean-up?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The company will. They have come to an agreement with the Government. They will pick up the bill. I think it’s important that the polluter pays when incidents such as this occur. It would really be rubbing salt into the wounds if the Australian taxpayer picked up the bill. There’s no doubt that the bill will be considerable, will be many millions of dollars, but the priority isn’t the cost, the priority is doing what we can do firstly to protect the workers, getting them off and that occurred promptly and safely, and of course protecting the marine environment in an immediate sense, but also on an ongoing basis.

SIMON BEAUMONT: All right, Minister does this spill, this ongoing leak, this uncontrolled leak, does it pose any threat to the Kimberley marine environment?

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The advice that I have is that ,at the moment ,it’s staying away from the coast. The dispersant is being effective. Some two tonnes of the dispersant has been omitted already onto the oil leak. Those two tonnes were there, ready to go in Darwin. There is other dispersant being made available. We have three aircraft available including the specialist C-130 Hercules aircraft that was brought in from Singapore on Saturday. And certainly it would appear that, at this stage, it is as good as it could be. That’s not to say that it isn’t of concern. Of course it is, when an incident such as this occurs.

But, the task of AMSA has been to do what it could to act quickly, to do what it could to minimise any impact that this is having on an ongoing basis, and to do what we can to stop the leak continuing. It is of some concern that, of course, the oil is continuing to spill, but we need to do what we can to contain it and secondly, to clean it up.

SIMON BEAUMONT: All right, thanks Minister. Thank you for your time this morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thanks very much.

SIMON BEAUMONT: Appreciate that. Anthony Albanese, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development.