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Thursday, 19 September 1974
Page: 1246


South Wales-Minister for the Media) ( 12.10)- I move:

That the Bills be now read a second time.

Mr Presidentthe purpose of these Bills is to give effect to a request by the Government of Papua New Guinea that the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly by given authority to legislate with respect to mining for petroleum and other minerals in the territorial sea and the contiental shelf within the adjacent areas of Papua New Guinea as denned in the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. With the advent of self government in Papua New Guinea on 1 December 1973, authority over all functions of government passed to the control of Papua New Guinea with the exception of a small number of functions which were reserved to Australia- the most important of these being defence and foreign relations. Authority over the function of off-shore rnining passed to Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinea had the right, consistently with self government, to legislate in regard to off-shore mining. As an interim measure, until the necessary legislation could be enacted, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is the designated authority in respect of the adjacent areas of Papua New Guinea, under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967-1973, delegated his authority to the Papua New Guinea Minister for Mines and Energy and certain Papua New Guinea Government officials.

The Australian Government agreed to permit Papua New Guinea to enact its own legislation subject to 2 conditions These are that- (I) it will not, prior to independence, introduce legislation purporting to regulate off-shore mining in areas beyond the outer limits of the continental shelf within the meaning of the 1958 Convention on the Continental Shelf nor will it act inconsistently with any international convention relating to the Law of the Sea to which Australia is a party; (II) adequate safeguards as to the environment should be applied during the exploration stage, and if oil or gas should be discovered within the adjacent areas, it would consult with the Australian Government and seek the advice of an independent authority to ensure that commercial exploitation would not commence until the environment was adequately safeguarded. The Papua New Guinea Chief Minister has agreed to these 2 conditions. He has also indicated that the Papua New Guinea Government shares Australia 's concern to protect the environment.

Mr President,taking these Bills in turn, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill provides for the repeal from a date to be proclaimed of the provisions of the principal Act that extend to Papua New Guinea. This date will be the date of commencement of Papua New Guinea's own off-shore legislation. Clause 4 amends section 7 of the principal Act by ceasing its extension to Papua New Guinea and clause 5 omits reference to the Australian Minister as the designated authority in respect of the adjacent areas of Papua New Guinea. Clause 6 repeals the section of the principal Act which deals with the payment of fees, royalties, etc., to Papua New Guinea and provides that any moneys received by Australia before the date of commencement of this Act are to be paid to Papua New Guinea. Clause 8 removes the description of the adjacent areas of Papua New Guinea from the Second Schedule to the principal Act.

The Papua New Guinea Bill puts beyond doubt the authority of the House of Assembly to legislate with regard to off-shore mining. Clause 3 of this Bill inserts a new section in the principal Act to clarify the authority of the House of Assembly to legislate in the off-shore area, as defined in the new section, and provides that such authority shall not be construed as limiting by implication any other power of the House of Assembly to make laws under the principal Act.

I draw to the attention of honourable senators the fact that Papua New Guinea's authority to legislate with regard to off-shore mining is confined to the territorial sea and the continental shelf within the adjacent areas of Papua New Guinea and that Papua New Guinea has agreed to conform to Australia's international obligations in regard to the Law of the Sea Conventions. Although the function of Papua New Guinea's foreign relations is reserved to Australia, the policy of the Australian Government has been to involve fully Papua New Guinea and to exercise that function only after the fullest consultation with and advice from the Papua New Guinea Government. Consistent with this policy Australia has encouraged Papua New Guinea to take its place in the international community and one example of Papua New Guinea's increasing involvement in this community was its participation in the recent Law of the Sea Conference in Caracas.

Mr President,the Bills I am introducing are a further step in the devolution of authority to Papua New Guinea so that when Independence comes there will not be one aspect of government with which Papua New Guinea will not be familiar and experienced. I commend the Bills to honourable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.

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