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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2342

Mr MCVEIGH (Darling Downs) - The previous speaker and I have one. feeling in common, and that is the feeling of astonishment. As a backbencher I was astonished to realise that in such an important matter as this a speaker for the Government would admit that he had no intention whatsoever of speaking on this vital matter until the eleventh hour. I share his feeling of astonishment when I consider the attitude of professional debating that he adopted, compared with the forthright contribution made by the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner). In the charity of my own mind I make allowance for the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti). I realise that he is approaching the twilight of his career. I hope that at no stage of my career will I ever adopt the deliberate tactics of stonewalling and filibustering that I have had the displeasure of witnessing tonight.

I was in total disagreement with the platitudinous speech that he made. He spoke of the great problem of nationalism. Where did he stand last week when he had the opportunity of saying whether he believed in nationalism? Where did he vote when the Bill to amend the previous magnificent legislation of the past government - which stood for balanced development of Australia in cooperation with the States - and to set up a Cities Commission was introduced? Where was his spirit of nationalism then? When did he stand up to be counted? I appreciate the great contribution that he has made in the past, but I am very disturbed at having had to sit here for some 17 minutes and listen to his muddled thinking. I say on behalf of the people of Queensland, as the honourable member for Stirling said on behalf of the people of Stirling: Where was the sense of nationalism during the war years when the people of the southern States drew a line across the continent and called it the Brisbane Line? They completely disregarded the rights of the Queensland people at that time.

I am ashamed to have observed over recent weeks in this House the position of a certain gentleman from Melbourne sitting on the other side of the chamber and being surrounded by members of the Australian Labor Party because they realise that if they are to get pre-selection at the next election they have to dance to the strings that he pulls.

Mr Cooke - The boss.

Mr McVEIGH - I thank the honourable member for Petrie for his interjection. The boss is the right title. Taking a cue from that line of thought I offer a little advice to my friends.

Mr Nicholls - I rise on a point of order. I have listened now for 4 minutes, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I have not heard the honourable member mention one item contained in the Bill that is before this Parliament. I draw your attention to the fact that we have a Bill before the Parliament and I think it is up to you to keep the honourable member in line.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman - I think the honourable member has gone slightly wide of the Bill.

Mr McVEIGH - I thank you for your tolerance, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I was just developing my line of argument as opposed to the pseudo-nationalism that was displayed by the previous speaker. I appreciate the comment of my colleage, the honourable member for Calare (Mr England), that the Government is deliberately out to stop me making a fight on behalf of that great State of Queensland, ably led by that great Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. Just developing the point on nationalism, I might sound a note of warning to the Government: Beware of being all honey running around the honey pot; you might get stung by the big bee.

Having dismissed to the best of my limited ability the rather innocuous remarks made by the honourable member for Macquarie, 1 will now proceed to make out a case in support of the magnificent contribution given in this debate by my colleague from Queensland, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett), who, if he has not proved it to this Parliament before, certainly proved' to it tonight that he is not afraid to stand up and fight for the principles, aims and objectives of a State which is being oppressed by a government deliberately bent on a policy of centralism.

The Bill before the House is another one in the long line of Bills which seek to erode further the sovereign rights of the States. I refer to legislation introduced by the present Government for the simple purpose of centralising all power in Canberra. As a Queenslander, I want to state, as my colleague the honourable member for Maranoa did, and I want to state it just as emphatically as he did, the opposition of that great State to the policies of this centralistic Government parading under a subterfuge of co-operative federalistic policies which, to say the least, are spattered with purple rhetoric and dun grey generalities. These policies of centralism are very well publicised, just as widely understood and most certainly not appreciated by the public of Queensland. The residents of that State refuse to go cap in hand begging favours from a socialistic Prime Minister. We will not religiously obey the whim and commands of a leader of a party who orders members of his party around - and let them deny it - with orders as crisp as a parade ground command and who thinks he can do the same to the States, which were in existence prior to the formation of the Commonwealth, which is in effect the creation of the States.

This Bill is an underhand attempt to reduce a group of complex concepts of delicate international and national law, concepts and data which have been rather difficult to clarify. I firmly uphold the view that this legislation is not concerned with accuracy and justice and State rights but is a thrust of pragmatic political professionalism in action. The Minister in his second reading speech said that the purpose of this Bill is 'to remove any doubt about the exclusive right of the Commonwealth to sovereign control over the resources of the seabed off the coast of Australia and its Territories from the low water mark to the outer limits of the continental shelf.' He admits and I quote from his .speech - 'the question of jurisdiction and ownership in off-shore areas in doubt'. I note in the Press that the Premiers of the States of the Commonwealth are united in their opposition to the political manoeuverings of the centralist Government. I do not know what will happen at the next Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party when the Labor Premiers have to stand face to face with their masters. But there is doubt, and it is good to note that the States are unwilling to be trodden on by this centralist monster. I applaud their efforts to resist these demands and to fight this cancer of centralism.

The Minister in his second reading speech describes it as an intolerable situation if the Commonwealth had to seek State agreement before ratification of international treaties, agreements and conventions. He does not even want to have to ask them. He wishes to deny them their rights. He wants to wield the big stick. It is amazing how absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is just as well that he and his followers were in opposition for 23 years. We will see what they do now, because in that other House of responsibility in this Parliament senators made a great decision this afternoon. We will find out now whether the Government means business about a double dissolution. On behalf of my colleagues in the Australian Country Party I say the sooner the better, because if we have a double dissolution members on the Government side will find themselves on the Opposition side for another 23 years.

During the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) paid great attention to the position as it applied in the United States of America. As a rather good student, I now draw the attention of the Minister for Minerals and Energy, who is at the table, to the following position in the United States: By virtue of the Submerged Land Act of 1953, the coastal States, except for Texas and Florida, own the living and non-living resources of the seabed and the sub-soil of the sea out to 3 nautical miles from their coastline. Texas owns the resources out to 9 nautical miles from its coast and Florida out to 9 nautical miles from its gulf coast. That is the position in the United States of America, a country where there is a truly com-operative system of federalism, a country which retains and respects the rights of the States.

There should be consultation between the States. The position in Queensland is quite clear, notwithstanding the High Court judgment in Bonser v. La Macchia in which Barwick C:J. and Windeyer1 J, stated that the States had never had sovereignty over the offshore waters to the 3-mile limit either as colonies or as States. I quote from 'Triumph in the Tropics' by Cilento arid Lack, which is an historical sketch of Queensland prepared for the centenary celebrations of Queensland in 1959. 1 think it will do the Minister a lot of good to listen to the true position as it pertains in the State which is certainly the greatest one of all. The book states:

When Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859 her rights were not clearly defined regarding the islands ofl the coast. Letters patent dated 6th June 1859 and letters patent dated 13th March 1862 transferred to Queensland 'all and every adjacent islands', . . .

In 1865, the Governor of New South Wales granted a lease of Raine Island Oat. 11° 35' S.; long. 144° 1' E.), which is on the outer edge of the Barrier Reef and about sixty miles from the coast of Queensland.

On 30th May 1872, the Governor of Queensland was appointed Governor of all islands within sixty miles of the coast and these islands were transferred to Queensland by G.G. 1872. Vol. I, pp. 1325-6.

By letters patent dated 10th October 1878, Queensland was authorised to annex by Proclamation the islands beyond the sixty-mile limit, ... the boundaries of Queensland were extended to include all islands of the Great Barrier Reef, Torres Straits and the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The passing of the Imperial 'Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act' of 1901 rendered it necessary to issue a new Commission to the Governor of Queensland. Letters patent dated 29th October 1900 did not confirm those letters patent dated 10th October 1878. To place the matter beyond doubt, a fresh Commission was issued to the Governor of Queensland on loth June 192S. The result is that:

The maritime boundary of Queensland is the coastline from Point Danger to the 138th meridian in the Gulf of Carpentaria, together with all islands within the outer edge of the Barrier Reef and within a line drawn from the north-western point of the Reef to the 138th meridian.

Honourable members opposite may say what they like, but that is the position in Queensland. The Queensland Government by letters patent is authorised to have control of the Barrier Reef some 60 miles east of the coast and of the islands of the Torres Strait. That is the position as far as Queensland is concerned. We are concerned about the present Government, with its overt allegiance to the cities of Melbourne and Sydney and its complete disregard for the interests of rural people, as was indicated once again in this chamber this morning by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when, in his. cavalier fashion, he dismissed a question of rural importance asked by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond). We are concerned about what the Government will endeavour to do to the Barrier Reef. On behalf of my fellow Queenslanders I say this to the centralist : Government: 'Hands off the Barrier Reef. It is Queensland's property. It is ours to have and to hold for ever. In no circumstance will we allow the control of that Reef and those islands to pass out of our hands. The Reef is one of the wonders of the world and, what is more important, it is ours'.

The argument is about whether the territorial sea is within the limits of the State. Far be it from me to join the procession of legal brains who have participated in this debate, but I think it is pertinent to point out that the Territorial Waters Jurisdiction Act of 1878 provided that, for the purposes of jurisdiction alone, the boundary of England was 3 miles out into the territorial sea. The Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, in its submission to the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, stated:

It has for a long time been undisputed in international law that, subject only to the right of 'innocent passage' for foreign ships, a coastal country has full sovereign rights in respect of the territorial sea and the seabed and subsoil beneath it in the same manner and to the same extent as it has full sovereign rights in respect of its land territory. In effect, in international law, the bed and subsoil of the territorial sea form part of the territory of a coastal country.

The evidence given to the Select Committee by the Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department was that the legal position concerning the Territorial seabed between the Commonwealth and the States was uncertain. The Secretary was of the view that it was by no means unlikely that the High Court would find in favour of the States. . The learned authority, Dr Lumb, holds the opinion that the States have jurisdiction over the territorial seabed in respect of mineral exploration.

The States have differed in the past on the legal basis on which they rely for authority to legislate in respect of the territorial seabed. The great Australian, Sir Robert Menzies, summarised the position in respect of jurisdiction as follows:

The States say that within the territorial limits - which, being old-fashioned, we can call within the 3- mile limit - they have the sole jurisdiction. We don't agree with that as a matter of law, but we on the other hand assert that outside territorial limits and on the continental shelf, which has a total area about 20 times the size of the territorial waters, the jurisdiction belongs to the Commonwealth.

The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr N. H. Bowen), who was then the AttorneyGeneral, took the view that there appeared to be difficulty and uncertainty about the position, at least within the 3-mile limit, and the possibility of a decision by the High Court in favour of the States could not be discounted.'

That is the position as I see . it. On behalf of the State of Queensland, I make an appeal to honourable members opposite to display the spirit of nationalism about which the honourable member for Macquarie spoke - a spirit of nationalism where the rights of a State, however small, shall be respected; where the rights of the person, as the honourable member for Stirling said, are of paramount importance; and where the historical gulfs and bays of the great State of Queensland and other States will be preserved and maintained as the responsibility of the State and will not be handed over to that monstrosity of centralism that is sought to be generated by a government which is intent on destroying private enterprise, a system of living which has stood the test of time in Australia and a system of living to which I am devoted to maintaining.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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