Australia: Amendments To Queensland’s Mining And Petroleum Legislation

The Mines and Energy Legislation Amendment Act 2009 was introduced as a bill in Queensland on 19 May 2009 and passed on 12 June 2009.

The purposes of the Amendment Act include to:

  • align the workplace health and safety provisions in mining, petroleum, gas and explosives laws to recent amendments in workplace health and safety laws;
  • implement some of the recommendations from the Ombudsman's 2008 report, 'The Regulation of Mine Safety in Queensland: A Review of the Queensland Mines Inspectorate'; and
  • support the establishment of the Australian Energy Market Operator as the single energy market operator for both electricity and gas markets in eastern Australia.

The Amendment Act achieves these purposes by amending several laws, including the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, the Mineral Resources Act 1989, the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999, the Gas Supply Act 2003, the Petroleum Act 1923 and the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004.

Workplace Health And Safety Changes

One of the objectives of the Amendment Act was to align the health and safety provisions in mining and petroleum legislation with recent amendments made to the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 and the Electrical Safety Act 2002. This was achieved by providing:

  • that prosecutions can begin within two years of a coronial inquest or inquiry; and
  • immunity for chief inspectors and other officials giving information and advice.

The amendments to the workplace health and safety laws were prompted by an independent review commissioned by the former Department of Employment and Industrial Relations in September 2007. The resulting amendments to workplace health and safety laws relating to prosecutions and providing advice have now been implemented into mining, petroleum, gas and explosives legislation to ensure consistency across legislation relating to safety and health.

Ombudsman's Report

The Ombudsman released a report in June 2008 entitled 'The Regulation of Mine Safety in Queensland: A Review of the Queensland Mines Inspectorate'. The report aimed to ensure that the Inspectorate's compliance activity was supported by a sufficient administrative framework. The report included 11 opinions and made 44 recommendations. Although most of these recommendations could be implemented through administrative process, eight recommendations required legislative amendment.

Four of these recommendations have been implemented by the Amendment Act through amendments made to the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, Explosives Act 1999, Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 and Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004.

The Amendment Act addresses four of the recommendations by:

  • providing protection for people who report or make complaints about safety matters;
  • creating the statutory position of Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health to prepare and deliver an annual performance report to the Minister on mine safety and health issues, and report on mine safety and health issues as they arise;
  • empowering the Executive Director of Safety and Health at the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation to report directly to the Minister on mine safety issues; and
  • transferring the statutory power to begin prosecutions under mining and petroleum safety and health legislation from the chief executive to the Commissioner for Mine Safety and Health.

Australian Energy Market Operator

The Amendment Act supports the establishment of the Australian Energy Market Operator as the single energy market operator for both the electricity and gas markets in eastern Australia. It also aligns the workplace health and safety provisions in mining and petroleum laws, implements some of the recommendations from the Ombudsman's report, and clarifies and improves the administration and operation of the petroleum regulatory framework.

On 13 April 2007 the Council of Australian Governments agreed to establish a single energy market operator for gas and electricity as part of the brief to the Ministerial Council on Energy's ongoing energy market reform program. The reforms aim to:

  • strengthen energy market governance;
  • streamline regulatory arrangements; and
  • provide leadership in addressing the opportunities and challenges facing the energy sector.

The Australian Energy Market Operator will assume the functions of the National Electricity Market Management Company, which operates the wholesale electricity exchange and retail market for the national electricity market. The Australian Energy Market Operator will also assume the functions of various jurisdictional gas market operators, including the Queensland gas retail market operator.

In addition, the Australian Energy Market Operator will adopt the following new functions:

  • acting as the National Transmission Planner for electricity;
  • acting as the gas market bulletin board operator;
  • advising the national gas emergency response advisory committee; and
  • preparing the proposed gas market Statement of Opportunities.

In regard to transferring the gas retail market operator functions, including the Queensland gas retail market operator, the Ministerial Council on Energy has agreed that the entire framework will be established under a new national regime, replacing the various jurisdictional arrangements.

The existing jurisdictional retail market rules will initially be retained and applied as procedures under the national framework to form a common set of retail market procedures in the future.

The Queensland Gas Market Retail Rules in Annexure A of the Queensland Gas Industry Code will be rebadged as the Gas Retail Markets Procedures (Queensland) under the National Gas Law, with the consumer protection elements being retained within the Queensland regulatory framework.

The Australian Energy Market Operator will be implemented largely through members to the National Electricity Law and National Gas Law, and their associated rules. Amendments to these laws were introduced to the South Australian parliament in May 2009. South Australia is the lead legislature for national energy legislation.

The amendments to the national scheme legislation will be adopted in Queensland through the National Gas (Queensland) Act 2008 and the Electricity – National Scheme (Queensland) Act 1997. Some minor amendments will also be required to the Electricity Act 1994 and the Gas Supply Act 2003, including the transfer of the Queensland Gas Market Retail Rules to become procedures under the national framework.

For more details on the Australian Energy Market Operator, please click here. To read a detailed paper on the Australian Energy Market Operator, please click here.

For more details on the amendments implemented by the Amendment Act, please visit the Office of the Queensland Parliamentary Council's website.

© HopgoodGanim Lawyers

Australia's Best Value Professional Services Firm - 2005 and 2006 BRW-St.George Client Choice Awards

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