New acreage for petroleum exploration off the West Australian, Northern Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia coastlines will be released by the Australian Government. The Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane, will announce the release of 41 areas as part of a strategy to encourage more exploration of Australia's vast continental shelf. The announcement coincides with the Annual Conference of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association being held in Adelaide. The sites being made available for open bidding by the international petroleum exploration industry include: 15 areas off the coast of Western Australia 1 area in the Territory off Ashmore and Cartier Islands 4 areas off Victoria 9 areas off the Northern Territory 8 areas off South Australia 4 areas off Tasmania. "The upstream petroleum sector is an important contributor to the Australian economy and continued exploration is fundamental to the long term vitality of this industry. I am confident that explorers will see a wealth of opportunities in this acreage," said Mr Macfarlane. "This will make it easy for explorers to evaluate this acreage, and reflects the way that Australian Governments are committed to supporting petroleum exploration in these areas," he said. These areas will be the principal release of offshore acreage this year. They will be subject to the work program bidding system and any subsequent exploration permits will be awarded for an initial term of six years. Bids for 7 of the areas will close on October 24, 2002. Bidding for the remaining 34 areas will close on April 10, 2003.