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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1724


Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I put a question to the Minister for National Development in order to give him an opportunity to put another matter into the right perspective. In a very thoughtful and scholarly speech in April' last year the Minister forecast Commonwealth legislation providing detailed rules under which off-shore mining titles might be issued and enabling the States to honour titles granted by them before September 1969 or, if there had been consultation with and concurrence by the Commonwealth in the meantime, granted after that date. I ask him: Have applications for off-shore mining leases been received or granted in the intervening 18 months? If so, in what way has the Commonwealth been involved or consulted in granting such leases? Do all the States follow the same procedure in granting such leases or in conferring with the Commonwealth about them?


Mr SWARTZ - Again I appreciate this opportunity given to me by the Leader of the Opposition and I appreciate also his comments regarding the speech which, I may say, I made on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs at that time because it was in relation to a matter which concerned the Department of Foreign Affairs.


Mr McMahon - Could you thank him on my behalf too?


Mr SWARTZ - Yes.


Mr Whitlam - I think that ought to be recorded.


Mr SWARTZ - 1 will see that il is recorded. The Prime Minister also extends his thanks to the Leader of the Opposition. The point is that the exploration for minerals off-shore, of course, is in its infancy, as 1 think the Leader of the Opposition knows. New techniques are being developed, for example, the use of laser beams and so forth, which allow pinpointing with a degree of accuracy which was not possible before. At this time there is a minor and slow development in the exploration for minerals off-shore. The major exploration in this field is for petroleum. An agreement between all States and the Commonwealth and legislation of a mirror type cover off-shore petroleum exploration. That is the field . in which the major work is being done.

When applications are submitted in the normal way through the State Departments of Mines for permits for off-shore exploration under arrangement through the Australian Minerals Council the matter is discussed by the State Departments of Mines with my Department. We have received in the last 18 months to which the honourable member has referred a number of indications - not many - of applications being submitted, all of which have been approved. We have approved a number principally for the east coast of Australia, and those are mainly for the coast of New South Wales and the east coast of Queensland. That system, of course, will continue, and to the best of my knowledge it is working satisfactorily at the present time.


Mr Whitlam - Do all the States follow that system?


Mr SWARTZ - To the best of my knowledge all the States agreed to do this. Certain States have not submitted applications to the Commonwealth for consideration. This, of course, could be because no applications have been received. As 1 indicated, at the present time only a limited number of applications are being made for off-shore mineral exploration leases because the techniques are new and this type of exploration is in its infancy. I do not doubt that in the future some further developments will be made in this field. I can assure that Leader of the Opposition that this matter will be watched very carefully by the Australian Minerals Council.







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