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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2321

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) - I want to state my reasons for thinking that the Bill before us relating to the territorial seas, the continental shelf, the historical bays and internal waters is objectionable. But before I do that may I refer to the fact that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) who preceded me in this debate is doing so under at least one misapprehension, and that is that the Commonwealth Government has not the power to deal internationally with the problems which face us not only in this Bill but in two other measures which were before us both yesterday and today. There is no doubt that so far as the external power is concerned the Commonwealth has the power and this power is not in any way objected to or contested by the State governments. In fact, when we were negotiating with Indonesia over the dividing lines of the continental shelf between that country and Australia all States accepted the fact that the Commonwealth had legitimate and constitutional authority to do so.

Let me put this matter into perspective against a background of the other 2 Bills that we have been looking at in the House and which were covered by the guillotine and adopted against our wishes.

I refer to the Bill relating to the national pipeline grid and the Bill relating to the Australian National Airlines Commission which extended the powers of Trans-Australia Airlines.

Honourable members will see that these 2 Bills and the Bill we are now considering contain a vast extension of Commonwealth powers and that if the High Court upholds the constitutional validity of the Bills and there is any inconsistency between the Commonwealth and State laws then, to the extent of that inconsistency, the Commonwealth laws will prevail.

I repeat, each of these Bills contains a vast extension of power. I favour private enterprise if it is able and willing to do the job, for reasons that I cannot canvass now. I believe that private enterprise has made a magnificent contribution to the development of this country and that it is at least as efficient as most of the enterprises that are under Commonwealth or State control.

The National Pipeline Authority is not solely a common carrier. It does not have the sole function of building the pipeline and ensuring the carriage of hydrocarbons and crudes from their place of production to other distribution points within the Commonwealth. Far from that being the position, the Authority has power from the well-head to the point of distribution to control every single aspect of production and distribution. If honourable members read the Act with a great deal of interest and attention they will see that the Authority has the power to intrude very nearly onto the factory floor and into practically every avenue of production.

An extension of power has been given to the Australian National Airlines Commission which operates Trans-Australia Airlines. As I look at the position the powers of TAA extend, to put it shortly, from Casinos to contraception.

I believe that this is not what honourable members realised when they heard the title of the Bill and were able to look at the preamble. I believe that both of these Bills have been motivated either by a political objective or by ideological goals. They are of a radical and harmful kind. This is socialisation by stealth. If one examines the preambles to and the titles of the Bills it will be seen that nowhere could it be seen that there would be an extension of power in the way provided in this Bill. Not only is it socialisation by stealth, but also socialisation by deceit.

I turn now to the actual Bill which relates to the territorial sea, the continental shelf, historical bays and waterways and interior waters.

The Bill is concerned also with a mining code to which I shall first address my remarks. The mining code was tabled in this House only 10 days ago. It contains 93 clauses of complicated material and is extremely difficult to understand. I doubt that 10 honourable members have read the mining code and I certainly doubt that 5 honourable members, if they have read it, are capable of understanding it. I am prepared to suggest that if this matter were debated on television the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would not be able effectively to debate the 93 clauses in that code.

The Government did not present either a green or a white paper explaining the objectives and the means of achieving the objectives of this code. It has given honourable members no time in which to debate this matter as, for example, when my Party was in government we tabled a White Paper and afforded the then Opposition ample time to debate a Bill concerned with conciliation and arbitration. The Government has been prepared to introduce this Bill, guillotine the debate and push the legislation through with a maximum of haste, and without giving any explanation.

This is another classic example of the contempt with which this Parliament is being treated by the Government. It is contempt not only of the Parliament but also of the mining industry which has part of the great responsibility of developing Australia and of providing the international exchange and finance on which our future national growth, progress and development depend. I refer to every aspect of national growth and progress, including the provision of houses and all those things which the Opposition believes are the basis on which the better society is created. The Government is also contemptuous of the Australian people because few Australians will be able to understand the real substance and real purpose of this Bill.

I believe that the mineral Division of this Bill are confused and are too difficult to understand. Consequently it would be in the best interests of Australia if this Division of the Bill were rejected and not passed into law.

On the question of sovereignty, I earlier mentioned various matters including the territorial sea and submerged land. Even if this Bill were passed into law and the High Court ruled that every provision in it was both constitutional and valid a large residue of functions and constitutional responsibility would still remain under the jurisdiction of the State governments. This undoubtedly means that ultimately there must be consultation, cooperation and agreement between the Commonwealth and the States if we are satisfactory to handle the national problems that are faced up to partially in this Bill.

I have no doubt that sovereignty should be determined, but the Government and the Opposition have differing views on how it should be done and on the ways and means of achieving the objective. The Opposition believes that it can be satisfactorily resolved by negotiation. There are precedents to prove this can be done. The Government is demanding a confrontation. It is not willing to try the successful methods that have been tried in the past. It wants, to the limit of its capacity, to ensure that the States are compelled to submit to the jurisdiction of the High Court. I believe this is an ineffective way of dealing with the problem. I believe that method decided on by the McMahon Government with a view to securing resolution of this problem is the preferable method.

There should be consultation, co-operation and agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments. As I see it there is ample reason for believing that this solution is practicable and possible. Let us consider the alternative - the means adopted in at least 5 different countries over the last 25 years. If we persist in trying to solve this problem by litigious means - that is by litigation in the courts - it is highly improbable that there will be a solution within a reasonable time. I instance the experience of the United States of America, where, for the past 25 years, they have been attempting by litigious means to get a solution of this problem. Even today after 25 years there are still 3 cases before the American courts demanding resolution. We have precedents favouring negotiation and agreement, as was mentioned by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) who spoke earlier in this debate, related to off-shore production, pollution problems, deep sea channels, lighthouses and other matters. Those problems were resolved by successful negotiation and I believe that this method should be tried in this case.

During the time when I had the good fortune to be Prime Minister negotiations were commenced with the States to agree on a solution. On 5th September last year I was able to write to the State Premiers suggesting that officials should meet in order to work out the problems and to present to the Commonwealth and State governments recommendations concerning methods by which the problems might be handled. I have good reason to think that at least with the Liberal Party Premiers and the Country Party Premier of Queensland there was a reasonably good chance - perhaps better than a reasonably good chance - of coming to an accommodation. That is conclusive proof that consultation and co-operation is the preferable means of resolving differences. And it avoids all the irritation and problems associated with long drawn out litigation.

Earlier I mentioned that the honourable member who preceded me in this debate had made a mistake concerning the international jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. I conclude on these notes: Firstly, I do not think it desirable that the States should take the problem of sovereignty and of jurisdiction to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In an inter se matter of this kind, a difference of opinion between the Commonwealth and the States, the Australian courts should decide sovereignty. I do not think that the Judicial Committee would agree to handle this problem and it is objectionable to me that this course of action should be suggested. Secondly, I believe that we should be generous in our approach to the States in dealing with this matter, particularly so far as royalties are concerned. I know that when my colleague the right honourable member for Higgins {Mr Gorton) was Prime Minister he was prepared to deal very generously with the States and to open up a new avenue through which they would be able to obtain the finance necessary to carry on their responsibilities.

I think that that is the right approach and I strongly support proposals which would give the States more than 50 per cent of the total royalties obtained through mineral and oil prospecting and production.

This is not the time to bring down legislation of this kind. It never will be the right time for it because there are better methods of achieving our objectives. We have plenty of time and that being so, let us now exploit the known methods of success which we are sure will be satisfactory to the States. Then we may proceed in goodwill to get a satisfactory solution.

I favour private enterprise. I believe it can do the job. I see no reason why the Commonwealth should intervene and spend not $ 1,200m but probably 3 times that amount if past performances and multipliers can be any criterion. In dealing with sums between $3,000m and $4,000m it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that the money has to be raised by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth would have to compromise its fiscal and monetary policies. It places burdens on the Commonwealth. It would be far better if the project were carried on outside the governmental sphere. The Government could be given a greater degree of flexibility, not only in social welfare payments but also in other developmental projects in which the State governments are unable to participate because they are beyond their capacity, and greater capacity to finance projects to which private enterprise cannot or will not commit itself.

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