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Control of Naval Waters Amendment Bill 1978 Second Reading Speech

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The Honourable J. E. McLeay

Minister for Construction .

and Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence

The basic purpose of the Control of Naval Waters

Act is to regulate the movement of ves'sels and other

activities in the vicinity of naval establishments and naval

moorings so that naval operations and activities are not

hindered or endangered.

Over the years, various difficulties in the

operation of the existing Act have come to light making \

necessary a general' revision and clarification of the existing

provisions of the Act.

While the primary purpose of the Act remains the

control of vessels in naval waters, there is a need to control

also the activities of persons. An example is the need to

control the activities of skindivers, both to protect naval

property and to protect individuals from any danger associated

with naval activities such as sound waves from underwater

equipment. A-t present, there is doubt whether regulations

could be made under the Act with respect to the activities of

persons, as distinct from vessels, within naval waters or on

the foreshore of naval waters. The proposed amendments will

remove this doubt.

The Act will also be amended to ensure that

the activities of aircraft over naval waters and vehicles

on the foreshore of naval waters ca.n be regulated.

There are two serious deficiencies in the

existing Act. Firstly, the definition of •naval waters1

does not extend to areas of open sea and there is

accordingly no capacity to exercise control under the

Act in respect of, for example, activities in waters

of the seaward side of Garden Island, Western Australia,

where the Naval Support Facility is nearing completion.

Secondly, there is doubt whether the Act applies

in relation to installations which, while used for defence

or naval purposes, are not Commonwealth-owned property,

such as piers leased from harbour authorities.

’■ The Bill rectifies these deficiencies and

provides that the Governor-General may declare as naval

waters, waters of the sea (including waters within the

ebb and flow of the tide) that are within 2 nautical miles

of defence land or 5 nautical miles of a defence


. 'Defence land6 is defined as meaning land used

by the Commonwealth for defence purposes. A 'defence

installation' is defined as including a naval establishment

or' any fixed structure, apparatus or equipment used by the

Commonwealth for purposes related to the naval defence of

the Commonwealth.

The Bill applies the operation of the Act to

territories but specifically excludes the Australian

Antarctic Territory. Under the Antarctic Treaty, the

Antarctic is to be used for peaceful purposes only and,

although the use of military personnel or equipment

for peaceful purposes is permitted, the extension of

this Act to the Antarctic could produce misunderstanding

having regard to Australia's Treaty obligations.

. The existing Act vests various powers in the

"Senior Naval Officer" which is defined as including

"the senior naval officer doing duty at any naval waters".

This definition has produced considerable uncertainty

and it is proposed to provide instead for the appointment

of a superintendent in respect of each area of defined

naval waters. ;

The Bill covers various other matters which will

enable naval waters to be more effectively administered.

For example, it will be an offence for a master of a

vessel to fail to comply with the lawful directions of a

superintendent relating to the movement of the vessel

within naval waters.

The Bill also clarifies the definition of

"vessel" to ensure that it covers such modern developments

as hovercraft and oil rigs.

In general this Bill is designed to improve in

various ways a rather outdated Act while at the same time

ensuring greater protection of naval waters and for people

who might be inclined to engage in unregulated activities

in those waters. • ' . . .1 ; · ■

. I commend the Bill to the House. '