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Jurisdictional disputes and the development of offshore petroleum legislation in Australia

Evans, N 1998 , 'Jurisdictional disputes and the development of offshore petroleum legislation in Australia', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis examines the reform of the legislative regime for governing offshore oil
development on Australia's continental shelf. In particular, the thesis explores how
several factors have combined to shape the Commonwealth's offshore petroleum
legislation at various stages since its original enactment. The more important of these
factors include questions of constitutional law, the impact of the emerging law of the sea,
the Commonwealth's policy-making and administrative expertise, and the input of state
governments and the oil industry to Commonwealth offshore policy.
The thirty year history of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act can be considered as
having evolved through four distinct phases. During the 1960s, the Commonwealth
legislated to accommodate the states' much greater capacity to administer offshore oil
development. The second phase of offshore policy in the 1970s is characterized by the
Commonwealth's assertion of its superior legislative capabilities over offshore areas visa-vis
the states. Following the associated inter-governmental tension, the third
evolutionary phase in the early 1980s represents a return to a collaborative offshore
policy approach. The fourth phase corresponds with the current mature state of the regime
wherein the Commonwealth now prevails in offshore petroleum policy but still involves
the states directly in continental shelf policy making under Commonwealth law. Despite
the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and states shifting over time because of the
influence of the factors identified above, the participation of both spheres of government.
in continental shelf policy has never been seriously doubted. This thesis argues that it is
the joint exercise of decision-making powers by the Commonwealth and states that has
provided stability to an otherwise volatile area of natural resources policy. In strictly legal terms, the Commonwealth could have asserted its jurisdiction in
respect of the extended continental shelf when it first entered this legislative policy field
in 1967. Because of the particular combination of factors prevailing at that time, however,
the Commonwealth instead vacated to the states the policy field of offshore petroleum.
The early role assumed by the states assured them of continued participation in the
Commonwealth's offshore petroleum regime, even after offshore jurisdiction was divided
three miles offshore in 1980 as part of the Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS). At the same time, the Commonwealth has come to realize the necessity of state
government input to its continental shelf regime. While the Commonwealth has
increasingly legislated to reduce the role of the states in offshore petroleum policy, this
sphere of government still participates directly in administering the continental shelf
regime through the exercise of Commonwealth powers.
That the Commonwealth has progressed its marine resources policies within the
context of the OCS without sending Australia back into another phase of offshore
disputation testifies to the maturation of this policy area, and the legal and administrative
regimes established to govern offshore petroleum development. The thesis shows that the
regime established under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act has handled
jurisdictional issues with a high degree of success through its evolving partnership
between the Commonwealth and the states. Although the offshore petroleum regime does
have some shortcomings, the legislation nonetheless provides a model by which
jurisdictional differences over offshore resources can be overcome. Thus, the offshore
petroleum regime established under the OCS arrangements has relevance for other
federations struggling with offshore jurisdiction issues, particularly the United States.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Evans, N
Keywords: Petroleum in submerged lands, Offshore oil industry, Petroleum law and legislation
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1998 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1999. Includes bibliographical references

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