Pressure grows for the release of oil drilling investigation

The Australian government has indicated that it will release a report into the Montara oil spill after the general election.  However the Australian election result remains in doubt and, therefore, still no report.

The frustration over this stalling has begun to appear in the very conservative Australian newspaper, The Australian Financial Review (AFR). Once the business and financial community start complaining, a government knows something is serious.

In the AFR editorial on 1 September 2010 (not available online),

“The Borthwick report is likely to make some tough recommendations on safety procedures to prevent another spill. The inquiry heard extraordinary evidence that crucial work programs on the rig were sometimes scrawled on a whiteboard. PTTEP has a promised to review its procedures in the light of the deficiencies raised at the inquiry, but the government should look further afield. It is hard to imagine that PTTEP was a totally isolated case.”

The editorial raises a lot of impacts of the oil rig leak and explosion including foreign investment, corporate responsibility and political accountability but it also discusses safety and, in different words, a “federal super-regulator”.  It says:

“Apart from specific regulations, there is a more fundamental need to end the conflicts created by the plethora of overlapping regulators, state and federal.”

I would ask why a national regulator for offshore safety is seriously being considered by the government but a national regulator for onshore (OHS) safety is not?

Here is an opportunity of the Gillard (Labor Party) government, should it retain power, to acknowledge that the OHS harmonisation process needs a “tweak” to improve safety AND remove duplication and complication by building on the work already undertaken and creating a “super-regulator”. 

At the time of writing, the Australian Labor Party has been discussing a closer political relationship with the Australian Greens.  The Greens’ Senator, Rachel Siewert, has been hot on the release of the Montara (Borthwick) report.  The Greens are almost becoming the OHS/IR conscience of the Labor Party by undertaking to complete a former (broken) ALP pledge and disband the Australian Building & Construction Commission.

The challenge for Gillard is to satisfy the Greens’ political requests (demand?) without being seen to do so as this will provide inflame her Conservative opponents, as seen by some comments by Brian Welch of the Master Builders’ Association (Victoria) on ABC Radio on 2 September 2010.

AFR acknowledged the international relevance of the Montara report by noting President Obama’s decision to split offshore safety from resources development.  The government would be providing international support to lucrative deep-sea oil drilling industry and to the safety profession generally by taking any political heat, releasing the report and taking the necessary tough decisions.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

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