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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3407

Senator Abetz asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 7 April 2010:

With reference to the answer to question no. 70 taken on notice during the 2009-10 supplementary Budget estimates of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee:

(1)   On what basis has the department determined that the Ure-Chan Group has not established proprietary rights over the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs [islands].

(2) (a)   What is the date the department considers to be the correct date for Australia first ascertaining sovereignty over the Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs [islands]; and (b) in detail, why does the department consider this to be the correct date.

Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   It would not be appropriate for the Commonwealth to reveal its legal arguments in support of its rejection of the claim of the Ure-Chan Group to proprietary rights over Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs.

(2)   Ascertaining the precise date upon which Australia acquires sovereignty over certain islands forming part of its territory is not a straight forward matter.  It involves an assessment of factors such as time of discovery, intention, authority and effective occupation.  However, there is no doubt that Australia has considered the islands on Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs to be subject to Australian sovereignty for a substantial period of time.