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Tuesday, 6 April 1965


Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) . - in reply - It is a very pleasing experience to find the Opposition supporting this Bill. This is not surprising because on the last occasion this legislation was before the House the Opposition lent its support. I am sure that the measure, on its merits, attracts the support of all people who think reasonably on this problem of the pollution of the sea by oil.

Senator O'Byrneexpressed the view that this prohibition should extend over the entire sea. For ships over 20,000 tons the Convention does apply over the entire sea. Clause 4 of the Bill will make that clear. It is true that for ships under that tonnage it applies only up to a limit of 150 miles, but as bigger ships are built, as they most certainly will be, the effect of this Convention will spread and will ultimately embrace the whole of the sea for all vessels. I am sure the honorable senator agrees with me that this is a very desirable end point.


Senator McKenna asked me to name significant maritime nations which are not parties to the Convention. He mentioned four. I regret that of those four only Italy is a signatory to the Convention. Russia, Japan and Greece have not yet signed it.


Senator McKenna - That is unfortunate.

Senator PALTRIDGE__Yes. We can only hope that as the years go by all countries, particularly the big maritime nations, will become parties to the Convention.


Senator Hannaford - Some of them are very dependent on fish for their livelihood.


Senator PALTRIDGE - That is very true. The other point raised by the honorable senator was one to which he referred at length in 1960 - the possibility of the Commonwealth exercising its authority under the external power to ratify this Convention without complementary legislation by the States. He referred to the fact that the second reading speech on this occasion, and indeed in 1960 as I remember, mentioned the co-operation which existed between the States on this very important matter. All States and the Commonwealth realise that it is to their mutual benefit to see that the oceans and territorial waters are kept clear of. pollution. I venture to suggest now, as I am sure 1 did in 1960, that the co-operation which has been achieved with the States flows from a mutual desire to keep the seas clean.

I express considerable doubt that, if for our part we did not practise this co-operation and attempted for any reason to take up this Convention by a single act of this Parliament, we could expect the same measure of co-operation from the States as we now enjoy. The States today are extremely jealous, as they always have been, of what they regard as their sovereign rights, and I feel certain that we would hear from them if we attempted to take up this Convention by a single enactment of the Commonwealth Parliament.

The States are moving in this matter. Reference was made to the length of time that it will take. In point of fact, the time factor, fortunately; is not important. As the Leader of he Opposition observed the Convention will not come into operation until some seven more signatories accept it. For the information of the Senate, I point out that action is being taken at the present time. A model Bill is being prepared in New South Wales. I have been told that it will be enacted quite soon by all the State Parliaments.


Senator McKenna asked whether there was an obligation upon the States, flowing from the Merchant Shipping Act of 1884, to seek the confirmation of the United

Kingdom. As at present advised, the answer is " No ". The legal advisers with whom I have been able to consult say that they are not aware of any such requirement. It would take a good deal of research. I shall let the honorable senator know if my presently stated opinion is shown to be wrong by subsequent advice.

The other interesting point referred to by both the Leader of the Opposition and Senator O'Byrne is, of course, as they both recognised, a matter which falls outside the Convention. It is the probability of the oceans being polluted by drilling for oil. I do not know the outcome of the recent conference in respect of the arrangements made between the Commonwealth and the States concerning this matter, but it is an interesting one. It is something which should be guarded against. I will inquire of my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), whether it was discussed. I shall find out what preventive measures are either in existence or are contemplated to prevent this undesirable practice occurring.

Question resolved in the affiirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.







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