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Off-shore constitutional responsibilities decisions of the Premiers' conference

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The Premiers' Conference today reached agreement on the implementation of the off-shore constitutional settlement between the Commonwealth and the States.

As a result of the decisions taken by the

Conference,ยท the Commonwealth and the States have agreed on proposing to their respective Parliaments a wide range of

specific legislative measures.

These decisions follow detailed discussions between the Commonwealth and the States over the last two years on the difficult and intricate problems of off-shore jurisdiction involved.

The discussions took place in earlier Premiers' Conferences and in the Standing Committee of Commonwealth

and State Attorneys-General. They were designed to determine what matters were appropriate for State administration, for Commonwealth administration or for joint administration and how this could be brought about.

In the Seas and Submerged Lands Case in 1975, the High Court decided that ultimate constitutional

responsibility in matters of offshore jurisdiction vested in the Commonwealth right up to low water mark.

Today the Conference decided -

. To extend State powers in the 3-mile

territorial sea. This will be carried out by legislation by all States requesting the Commonwealth Parliament to pass legislation


to this effect. It will also deal with

port-type facilities, underground mining and

fisheries beyond the territorial sea.

To give the States title to the seabed in the 3-mile territorial sea, while preserving Commonwealth use of the seabed for specified national purposes including defence,

submarine cables, navigational aids and pipelines. This will be carried out by

Commonwealth legislation. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act will continue to cover the whole Barrier Reef Region.

To make consequential amendments of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973 to bring it into line with these measures.

To establish joint Commonwealth/State authorities to regulate off-shore petroleum mining beyond the territorial sea. This would be carried out by the Commonwealth

legislation and would utilise the existing off-shore petroleum mining code. Applications for permits and licences would still be made to State Mines Ministers. These arrangements will apply to all States, including Western Australia. However, because of the remoteness and other special circumstances, the Joint Authority will be headquartered in Perth,

although the Commonwealth will retain a power of veto on major decisions with national interest but not involving day to day


. To provide 'a legislative framework that will

enable specified off-shore fisheries to be administered by joint authorities or by the ' Commonwealth or by a single State as

appropriate. This will be carried out by complementary Commonwealth and State legislation.

. To amend the Commonwealth Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 which already applies, with the consent of the States concerned, to the waters adjacent to New South Wales,

Queensland and Western Australia, as well as to the waters adjacent to the Northern Territory. The principle that the Act will only be applied, or continue to be applied, with consent of the adjacent State is to be

embodied in the Act. However the old Dutch shipwrecks off Western Australia are to continue to remain under the Commonwealth

Act, until satisfactory alternative ' arrangements are made with Western Australia.

For these purposes, the Northern Territory is to be treated as a State. '

The agreed complementary scheme of Commonwealth and State legislation on Crimes at Sea has already been partly implemented. The Commonwealth and Victorian

Parliaments and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly have already enacted this legislation, and other States have legislation in preparation.

The Conference also reached important decisions of principle on -


. Shipping and navigation - The package agreed

upon deals with the division ' of

responsibilities for trading vessels, commercial fishing vessels, pleasure craft, floating oil rigs and vessels servicing rigs and courts of marine inquiry.

. . Marine parks - The agreement between the

Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier on 14 June dealt with future consultative arrangements for the Great Barrier Reef, under which the Commonwealth Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act is to continue to

operate into low water mark. In relation to

other marine parks, outside the territorial . sea the Commonwealth would legislate, while

. States would normally legislate inside the

territorial sea unless the Commonwealth and State agree that the area is of international significance. In that case, however, the States are to have the first opportunity to . legislate;

The proposed Commonwealth and State legislation involved in implementing the constitutional settlement is to be passed by the end of the year. .

Canberra 29 June 1979


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