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Tuesday, 13 November 1973

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - I do not think I will take quite as long to put my case as did Senator Cant, but I think it will be a much better case. I am against this legislation at the present time. I will state my reasons. The main point of this legislation is contained in clause 6 of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill which states:

It is by this Act declared and enacted that the sovereignty in respect of the territorial sea, and in respect of the airspace over it and in respect of its bed and subsoil, is vested in and exercisable by the Crown in right of the Commonwealth.

That is the whole story. We are told that the Commonwealth has sovereignty from the low water mark. This legislation was originally introduced about 3 years ago. At that time some considerable difference of opinion existed among the members of the then Government. It was decided to refer the matter to the States for conference and to see whether some arrangement or agreement could be made with them.

I do not believe that this matter has been pursued fully. I believe that the States are not so uncompromising that they will not agree to a decision being reached as to where a line of demarcation should be drawn. The 3-mile limit is not mentioned in any international law that I know of but perhaps at a further conference of the States some sort of agreement can be made. I believe that conditions are very much different in my State of Queensland in the sense that we have many islands and reefs. There is also the question of the actual extent of our boundary. The position of the low water mark is even in doubt. At low tide where is low water mark when there is such a huge area of reef out of the water? It is a very big problem as to where the control should actually lie. I believe the people of my State will fight to the limit against any suggestion of taking away control of the Barrier Reef from them.

Section 5 1 of the Australian Constitution spells out the powers of the Parliament and states:

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:

Sub-section (x) states:

Fisheries in Australian waters beyond territorial limits.

What will happen to fisheries within territorial limits if this Bill is passed. What are territorial limits? They have never been spelt out. I think some sort of agreement can be adopted with the States on some definite mileages of territorial limits. It could be 3 miles or 12 miles, within which we control the fishing.

Queensland is in a far different position from the other States because of the maze of islands and reefs and the great area of shallow water which extends almost to the Papuan boundary and SO or 60 miles out from the coast. I should like to quote some history concerning the control of the waters off the coast of Queensland. I take my quote from 'Triumph in the Tropics' by Lack and Cilento which was published 14 or 15 years ago and which reads:

When Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1 859 her rights were not clearly denned regarding the islands off the coast. Letters patent dated 6 June 1859 and letters patent dated 13 March 1862 transferred to Queensland 'all and every adjacent islands, etc.,' but, what was 'adjacent?'

In 186S, the Governor of New South Wales granted a lease of Raine Island -

That is 6 years after Queensland became a separate State- (latitude 1 1 degrees 35 minutes South; longitude 144 degrees 1 minute East), which is on the outer edge of the Barrier Reef and about 60 miles from the coast of Queensland.

On 30 May 1872, the Governor of Queensland was appointed Governor of all islands within 60 miles of the coast and these islands were transferred to Queensland by Government Gazette 1872, Vol. l,pp. 1325-6.

By letters patent dated 10 October 1878, Queensland was authorised to annex by Proclamation the islands beyond the 60-mile limit. By G.G. 1879, Vol. 1, pp. 1379-80; and G.G. 1879, Vol. II, p. 143, 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 29 October 1900 did not confirm those letters patent dated 10 October 1878.

This is the interesting part and honourable senators will note the date. It continues:

To place the matter beyond doubt, a fresh Commission was issued to the Governor of Queensland on 10 June 1925.

That is 25 years after Federation. This was as a result of letters patent from the imperial authorities in Westminster, and the letters patent spell out the result quite clearly:

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 1 38th meridian.

I believe that that spells out what the imperial authorities in Westminster and the Queensland Government of the day believed was the territory which they controlled, and I have the authority to show that. The maritime boundary of Queensland includes all the Barrier Reef, all the shallow waters and each and every island. If one adopted a 3-mile limit around each and every island or rock which is above water at hight tide, it would cover a tremendous area in that part of Australia. I have mentioned that the position in relation to fishing rights is not clear.

Senator Keeffe - Why is it not clear?

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - We have a Constitution which says that the Commonwealth Government cannot control fisheries in territorial waters, as I read out to the Senate a little while ago. The Bill sets out to take control of everything from the low water mark. We have an interesting position. By means of this Bill and another Bill we are trying to spell out the position in relation to royalties on minerals. Is it seriously suggested that if a coal mine or some other mine were put down right on the beach or on a little rocky headland and it had one tunnel which went out to sea for 1 or 2 miles and another tunnel which went shoreward the Commonwealth should get the royalties from the coal or minerals or whatever from one tunnel and not from the other? I think the position becomes ludicrous in many ways. I believe and my Party believes that we should defeat this Bill or defer it until after futher consultation with the States. As I have said before, I have spoken to the Ministers in some of the States and I do not believe it is impossible to reach agreement with them. The Commonwealth has an agreement in relation to oil royalties.

Senator Mulvihill - On what percentage would you let them cut it up?

Senator LAWRIE (QUEENSLAND) - We are talking about minerals found under the waters extremely close to the shore, and I do not think there would be any difficulty in cutting up the areas close to the shore. I suggest that the Commonwealth should have another conference with the States. If what the Government suggests is carried out we will have a very big mix-up involving interminable legal battles. The Government wants to pass this Bill willy nilly and try to arrive at some sort of law by a series of legal battles. I do not believe that is feasible. I do not think that the legislation should be passed at this stage in its present form. As a Queenslander I intend to fight as hard as I can to prevent the control of the Barrier Reef passing out of the hands of Queenslanders. I believe that the legislation should be deferred so that we can have another look at it or so that we can have another conference with the States. I am totally opposed to the Bill in its present form.

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