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International Court of Justice

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75/19 °

12 February 1975

International Court of Justice

The Opposition views with concern the announcement by the Prime Minister that the Labor Government proposes to forgo existing reservations, and in any dispute which Australia litigates before the International Court of Justice, to accept the Court's

judgment unreservedly. In particular, the Opposition is greatly concerned that the Labor Government apparently intends to abandon Australia’s reservations relating to the continental shelf and matters of domestic jurisdiction.

It is essential that the intentions of the Labor Government be clarified. The Prime Minister said in answer to a question which I put to him in the House today that relevant Ministers had approved the decision.

Despite this, the Minister for Minerals and Energy demonstrated a lack of awareness of the implications of this decision in failing to answer a question I put to him in the House concerning International Court rulings on the continental shelf.

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The Opposition's policy is that Australia must maintain jurisdic­ tion over its mineral and other resources adjacent to our coasts and sovereignty over our legitimate interests must be assured. This is not a matter that any Government has a right to put at risk - or to make subject to the whims of an international tribunal.

Until a new international convention on the law of the sea is settled, international law in this vital area does not assure the protection of Australia's interests. Any action concerning the International Court’s jurisdiction is therefore premature. The Government has initiated this action. The onus must be on

them to assure Australians that our national interest will not be adversely affected. They should make clear their intentions and the implications for Australia.

It is an extraordinary^action when the Government claims to be intent on ensuring Australian "independence" by ending appeals to the Privy Council, that it is prepared to accept judgments of the International Court of Justice relating to Australia without any reservations protecting our national interests.

The Prime Minister should immediately clarify this matter.