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Tuesday, 16 November 1976

Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford) (Smith) -The Opposition supports this Bill. We often see such a Bill in the Parliament to amend the existing Acts Interpretation Act. It is necessary that this be done from time to time because of certain decisions that arise in the community or interpretations by the High Court. This Bill contains formal provisions such as a provision relating to the exercise of certain powers between the passing and commencement of Acts. This situation is regularised. In my view the most important clause is clause 4 because it relates to the application of federal legislation to what is deemed to be the coastal sea. I will come back to that matter. Then we have other amendments relating to constitutional and official definitions, documents purportedly printed by the Government Printer, certain grammatical expressions, matters which arise where a department has been abolished and where the reference to the Minister or the department is not consistent with changed administrative arrangements.

The matter on which I seek some further information from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is clause 4 which contains this expression: the provisions of every Act, whether passed before or after the commencement of this section, shall be taken to have effect in and in relation to the coastal sea of Australia as if the coastal sea of Australia were pan of Australia;

I notice that the Attorney-General referred quite properly in his second reading speech to the decision of the High Court in the seas and submerged lands case where it was clearly spelt out that there is constitutional authority for this Parliament to legislate in respect of the area deemed to be the territorial sea which is the sea commencing at low water-mark. The territorial sea has been the subject of varying decisions because of international conventions. I seek an explanation for the Attorney-General's use of the expression 'coastal sea' in this Bill. In my view the coastal sea would form part of the territorial sea but there may be some other good reason for saying this.

There is another thought exercising my mind now that we have jurisdiction over the territorial sea. Certain matters already existing, such as, for example, the Bass Strait oil and the natural gas offshore from Victoria, I think would now come under federal jurisdiction. I do not know of anybody who has addressed his mind to this or if there has been any statement made about it. Because of my inquisitive nature I am wondering what might be the situation because it appears that we will have that area within federal jurisdiction now. I trust that the Attorney-General will have a chance to answer those comments in due course if that is convenient for him. We support the legislation because it accords with our views about the matters that are being amended.

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