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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1283


Mr KEATING (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - You are not entitled to have it yet.


Mr Fairbairn - I am anxious to know where this came from.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! I think the honourable member for Blaxland intimated that he intends to read from that speech later, and what he reads will appear in Hansard. He need not table it.


Mr KEATING - This Bill was rejected here on one occasion. It was then taken across to the Senate where the so called States righters tore it to shreds, and it came back here again. This time the Liberal Party decided that, discretion being the better part of valour, they could not argue against the Bonser v La Macchia decision in the High Court. They could not continue to back the Premiers on their excursions to London - their free trips - on the basis that they do not trust the Australian High Court. They could not go against the views of Sir Percy Spender, a former member of the International Court of Justice and a former Minister of this House, that the States never had sovereignty over the offshore waters to the 3-mile limit either as colonies or as States. They could not pursue that sham any further so they decided to let the declaratory sections of the Bill through. They decided to say: 'Yes', we are prepared to vote for the declaratory sections and have the High Court look at it.'

But when we get around to the mining code all the vested interests come out of the woodwork. The honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner) whom I call the honourable member for Woodside-Burmah, who must be on a retainer from that company, and all the other honourable members opposite interested in the oil companies see problems about the administration of the code. The fact of the matter is that in 1968 the former Prime Minister, now the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), and the Honourable R. W. Swartz, were prepared to legislate fully, and so was the honourable member for Farrer. I want to read an excerpt from a speech made by the right honourable member for Higgins on 3 March 1970. He said that the then Minister for National Development, Mr Fairbairn, wrote:

As to offshore minerals other than petroleum, the Commonwealth is of the view that it should proceed on the footing that it enjoys total rights outside the 3-mile limit. It proposes to legislate in pursuance of this section.

That is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to the Austraiian Minerals Council. Honourable members opposite cannot deny it because the right honourable member for Higgins blew their cover. I will quote further. The right honourable member for Higgins told the then Minister:

Eliminate from any proposed letter any suggestion that the Commonwealth will not legislate unilaterally until after the completion of full and frank discussions with the States on this matter.

He said 'to hell with the States' and good on him. It should have been 'to hell with the States' a few years ago, but we are still messing around here because of the machinations of the State Liberal Party and that agrarian pressure group, the Country Party.


Mr Fairbairn - I rise to order, Mr Speaker. May I ask that this letter from the right honourable member for Higgins be tabled?


Mr SPEAKER -Order! Standing Orders provide only in regard to the tabling of documents read to the House by a Minister.


Mr Fairbairn - That matter has been read to the House.


Mr KEATING - This is the second time I have quoted it.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman is not a Minister.


Mr Fairbairn - He was given it by a Minister.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is no point of order.


Mr KEATING - The facts of the matter are that those phonies opposite are being found out and the only people on that side of the House who have been true blue on the issue are the right honourable member for

Higgins (Mr Gorton), the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) and a few other colleagues who have been genuine on the issue from the start, as evidenced by the words spoken a few moments ago by the right honourable member for Higgins. The facts of the matter are that we are determined to see that this Parliament exercises national sovereignty over the off-shore area of Australia. We are not going to be stopped by the likes of honourable members opposite.

I should like to read some excerpts from a section of a speech prepared by the Minister for National Development in the days of the Gorton Government. It is a speech on a Bill which is now Part III of our Bill; that is the mining code which was then to be called the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970. It is now Part III of our Bill and it is the part to which the Opposition objects. It is the reason why the Bill has not been passed. I should like just to read a few excerpts from the speech. It starts off in these terms:

The purpose of this Bill and the associated Royalty Bill is to provide a legislative framework to govern the exploration for and the exploitation of the mineral resources other than petroleum, of submerged lands adjacent to Australia and certain of the Territories of the Commonwealth. This policy was foreshadowed on 16 April 1970 when on behalf of the Acting Minister for External Affairs I introduced the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill 1970. I would remind the House that neither the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill nor the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill will in any way affect the existing agreement entered into in October 1967 between the Commonwealth and the States concerning off-shore petroleum and the legislation giving effect to that agreement.

In other words the former Minister was not going to interrupt the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill but he was going to have a mining code independent of the States. On page 2 of the speech he states:

As matters stand the whole question of jurisidiction and ownership in the offshore area is in doubt. The initiative which the Commonwealth is taking in bringing these two related Bills before the House is an essential prerequisite to enabling the issue to be placed before the High Court for decision. A challenge by the States is the second prerequisite. For its part the Commonwealth is not taking this step in a spirit of provocation. We wish to have the legal issues settled clearly and decisively. We wish to know where responsibility rests.

That was said by the Liberal Party's own Minister 3 years ago. I refer now to page 3 of the speech because it needs to go into Hansard. I know it is a bit tedious but honourable members should listen. It states:

When Ministers of the Commonwealth and the States met in April 1964 under the chairmanship of the late Sir William Spooner it was agreed as far back as 1964 to isolate petroleum, both oil and gas, as the subjects for discussion. It was further agreed by all Ministers that any solution to the petroleum problem would not be taken as a precedent for solving the problem as to other resources on the continental shelf.


Mr Sinclair - Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. A Westminster convention is referred to in 'May's Parliamentary Practice' which states that letters, correspondence and submissions of earlier governments should not be made available to subsequent governments. The documents and the material which have been referred to by the honourable member for Blaxland-


Mr KEATING - It hurts, does it not? Does it not hurt?


Mr SPEAKER


Mr Sinclair - They are obviously from files of earlier governments. He has been referring specifically to correspondence from a former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins. He has been referring to speeches by an earlier Minister, the former Minister for .National Development. I submit that all the correspondence and all the documents from which the honourable member for Blaxland has been quoting to this House, according to 'May's Parliamentary Practice' and Westminster tradition should not be available to the honourable member, nor should they be made public in the debate in this chamber.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! This is entirely a matter for the Government to decide. In the first place standing order 321 specifically states that a Minister or an Assistant Minister can be required to table a document from which he quotes, but that does not apply to a private member. .But in regard to the point of order just raised by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party, that is entirely a matter for the Government.


Mr KEATING - Mr Speaker, can I make a personal explanation? I have had these documents for quite a time and I believe I have used them in other speeches. I was not given it by the Minister for Minerals and Energy; I can assure honourable members of that. I want to read from page 8 of the speech - and this is the kernel of the subject. This was the speech of a Liberal Minister 3 years ago. It states:

However, at this point we cannot be sure that this co-operation will be forthcoming- .

This is with the States- or that it will be forthcoming from all the States and hence the Bill has been drafted in such a way as will enable the Commonwealth itself to establish its own administration should, regrettably. State cooperation be withheld.

Further down in the speech it refers to the minerals code which is identical to what has been introduced by this Government in Part III of the Bill before the House. In the speech of the Minister for Minerals and Energy in March of this year are details similar to the content of this speech. The facts of the matter are that the previous Liberal governments were prepared to introduce a mining code which was called a Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill, to vote upon it and to have it put through this House and through the Senate; but because of interstate rivalry and pressures within the Liberal and Country parties the matter never came to a head. And now their dirty washing is laid out in public.

We are not prepared to be thwarted anymore. We want to press on with this Bill. It is impertinent of the Opposition to hold up the mining code section of the Bill in this House when this is the third time this Bill has been presented. In fact, if one wants to consider the Gorton Bill also the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, it is the fourth time this legislation has been brought into this House. Honourable members opposite sit there as national parliamentarians and say that we should not have the power to legislate from low water mark to the edge of the continental shelf. Furthermore, not only are we not supposed to have the power, the Opposition objects to the fact that we want to use it to regulate the operation of oil companies operating off the Australian coast. Honourable members opposite ought to be ashamed of themselves individually and collectively. It is impertinent of them to put up these amendments. We are going to vote against them tonight in the House and I sincerely hope that the Opposition comes to its senses, that the Bill is carried through the Senate and once and for all the Australian Parliament can assert and exercise sovereignty over the offshore. The High Court can then decide the matter once and for all and reach a point of finality.

But let party politics be put aside. Let the rivalries of honourable members opposite be set aside. Let the Opposition's mates, the people like the friends of the honourable member for Stirling (Mr Viner), be put aside because what counts here is the people of Australia, not Woodside Burmah, not a particular company, not interstate rivalries, not inter-party rivalries, but the welfare of the people of Australia.







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