Today federal Resources, Water and Northern Australia minister Keith Pitt announced new measures to provide flexibility to offshore oil and gas explorers.
Pitt said in a statement the new measures would provide a simplified application process to suspend and extend existing work programs, as well as well expectations in the renewal of exploration permits.
"The offshore petroleum industry in Australia faces challenging times in the current environment," Pitt said.
"It is critical that explorers are offered greater flexibility as they are key to ensuring Australia's energy security into the future."
At yesterday's second Council of Australian Governments resource minister's roundtable meeting this week, federal, state and territory ministers said they would pressure the oil and gas industry to take a "decisive and proactive stance" in the COVID-19 crisis.
It comes as the exploration and production sector faces the dual financial stress of the low oil price and COVID-19 restrictions which have shuttered operations globally.
Wood Mackenzie chief analyst Simon Flowers warned this morning at present the priority for most onshore explorers "is just to survive, and many won't".
Ministers said the energy and resources sector remained essential to both the local and national economy, and pledged to align government efforts to minimise the impact of COVID0-19 travel restrictions.
"The resources sector remains essential to jobs, the economy, regional communities and the domestic and international supply of energy during this crisis," the COAG energy council said in a communique.
The different tiers of government agreed there was an urgent need to maintain onshore gas exploration to the "greatest degree possible" during the COVID-19 crisis, but also in the months and years following the emergency.
"The domestic and international supply of energy is a priority," the council said.
Ministers noted the federal government intended to assess options for a national gas reservation policy, an issue which caused some concern for state and territory ministers who warned of unintended consequences of such a policy.
Instead the state and territory ministers endorsed the Onshore Gas Principles Guide, an approach to onshore gas exploration and production which will allow individual jurisdictions to have their own rules in place.
The guide is yet to be publicly released.
The COAG Energy Council will meet again next week for further deliberation.