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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12884


Mr SLIPPER (9:43 PM) —I think the honourable member has been enjoying some Christmas cheer. The honourable member for Denison has proposed three amendments to the Crimes at Sea Bill 1999 . He is wrong again because the government does intend to support amendment (1) dealing with the omission of part 4 of the bill. Amendments (2) and (3) are closely related and can be dealt with together, and we will oppose those amendments at the appropriate time. During the contribution made by the honourable member for Denison—and I do respect that he is a person of integrity—in the second reading debate, he foreshadowed amendment (1) to omit part 4 of the bill. I do, however, want to reiterate that the government clearly intended, at the first opportunity when the bill was to be debated after East Timor's separation from Indonesia, to move a government amendment removing part 4 of the bill.

I am advised that the office of the Minister for Justice and Customs had communicated this intention to the honourable member for Denison well before he issued his media release on 24 November and well before his contribution in the House on 25 November. It might be that the honourable member for Denison is somewhat confused insofar as the government advised that it would be removing part 4 and that some discussions may ensue with respect to what provisions would replace part 4. So maybe there is a sense of confusion on the part of the honourable member, but I want to reiterate that the government's support for the amendment has nothing to do with the contribution of the honourable member for Denison.

When the bill was introduced into the House on 20 September this year, East Timor remained under the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia. History records that that situation changed on 25 October, the date of adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1272 which established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. Negotiations are under way regarding future arrangements in the Timor Gap. The government looks to the spirit of goodwill amongst the parties to enable the existing and proven system of exploration and exploitation in the Timor Gap to continue for the benefit of both Australia and the people of East Timor.

It is for these reasons that the government intended to amend the bill by omitting part 4. As I said, the government had a longstanding commitment to achieve a smooth transition from Indonesia to East Timor in relation to the Timor Gap treaty. In fact, one ought to look at the comments made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs as long ago as 12 and 14 October, and the only point of doubt was identifying the treaty party to replace Indonesia during the transition period.

In relation to the assertion that the office of the member for Denison was not informed, I am advised that the member for Denison is wrong. I have outlined how perhaps he was confused over the fact that the government said that part 4 would be removed and there may be subsequent discussions on what would replace part 4.

The government has clearly placed its position on the record. We support the amendment being moved now by the honourable member for Denison. We will supplement it with our own additional amendments, and the details of these additional amendments will be outlined when we move them later in the debate. We intend to introduce new part 4 provisions before or during the debate in the Senate which will take into account the changed circumstances in relation to the Timor Gap. But, as I said, the government supports amendment (1) moved by the honourable member for Denison.

Amendment agreed to.