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Monday, 6 December 1999
Page: 12886


Mr SLIPPER (9:53 PM) —As I mentioned previously, the government will oppose amendments (2) and (3) moved by the honourable member for Denison. The Minister for Industry, Science and Resources has ministerial responsibility for the Petroleum (Australia-Indonesia Zone of Cooperation) Act. The minister's department has been heavily involved in consulting with the United Nations, East Timorese representatives and industry stakeholders regarding future arrangements in the Timor Gap. Those negotiations are ongoing. We hope that future arrangements will be resolved in the near future. The application of the petroleum act will need to be examined in the light of the future arrangements agreed for the Timor Gap.

The amendment to the petroleum act is necessary to ensure the integrity of Australia's crimes at sea legislation. The petroleum act confers civil jurisdiction on state and territory courts with respect to area A of the zone of cooperation but specifically excludes jurisdiction with respect to criminal laws within the meaning of the Crimes at Sea Act 1979. The amendment to the petroleum act contained in the bill updates this so that jurisdiction in respect of criminal laws within the meaning of the Crimes at Sea Bill 1999 is excluded.

The effect of amendments (2) and (3), moved by the honourable member for Denison, is that preventing the application of extensive criminal laws in area A of the zone of cooperation will depend upon an interpretation of the 1979 act. The 1979 act is being repealed and replaced by this bill. Attempting to keep the repealed 1979 act on foot in this discrete area will cause only confusion and uncertainty. As far as the government is concerned, this situation is simply not at all acceptable.

I would like to touch on a comment made by the member for Throsby. It is true that, as he mentioned during his contribution, more should be done to protect the interests of Third World seafarers, including the signatories of the International Labor Organisation instrument 147, `Conditions of work and access to Australian civil actions and remedies'. He is right that it was well removed from the purview of the legislation before the chamber. I want to point out that the bill is the Commonwealth's part of an agreed uniform national scheme. Clarity and simplicity are essential for the effective enforcement of the scheme. Accordingly, this bill is not an appropriate vehicle—as I think the honourable member privately would understand—for addressing separate matters such as labour standards and access to civil remedies.

I was also challenged by the shadow minister opposite who asked why part 4 was included until some time after the plebiscite in East Timor. We all understand that there had to be a number of procedural steps for East Timor to be separated from Indonesia. East Timor ceased to be part of that nation only on 25 October this year—the date of the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1272, which established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor. The opportunity to remove part 4 was taken on the first occasion the bill was to be debated after that separation. The government stand on firm ground in relation to this and, quite frankly, the course of action taken by the government and the Minister for Justice and Customs has been entirely appropriate.