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Thursday, 12 March 1981
Page: 745

Mr CHARLES JONES(3.39) —I second the amendment. I wish to say a few words in support of the amendment of the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West), which seeks to move the line in question 150 miles further east than is proposed in the Bill. Earlier, by way of interjection, I suggested to the Minister for Transport (Mr Hunt) that there was no strong disagreement between the Government and the Opposition on the matter. We do not want to hold up the legislation in any way. In the main, these are six good Bills. It is not worth even nit-picking about them because they involve the adoption of an international agreement which will improve the present position. However, we must take into consideration the fact that Australia's Great Barrier Reef is a unique formation, one in which the world is interested and which we, as a parliament, have a very strong responsibility to protect. Although I do not wish to hold up the passage of the legislation in any way, I believe the Minister and his Department, when these matters are again raised with the Inter-governmental Maritime Consultative Organisation can at least raise the question, put forward the points of view that have been expressed by the honourable member for Cunningham and other speakers in this debate, and try to impress upon IMCO the need to extend the area to the 200 mile line.

The Opposition's spokesman, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), has indicated that the Opposition will not divide on this matter. That alone is an indication of our wish to co-operate with the Government on it. We accept the fact that nothing should be done to delay in any way the passage of these Bills but in doing so accept the assurances of the Minister on this matter. I am glad to see that he nods his head in agreement with what I am saying, and indicates that he concurs with the principle and intent of the amendment. I realise that changes such as this cannot be effected overnight. One does not negotiate new international agreements of this type in 24 hours. It could be several years before this matter is brought back before us again. When I say that I have in mind the speed with which international agreements are achieved. The Opposition merely asks the Government to get moving and to put into effect the principle underlying the amendment.