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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 929

Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science)(5.55) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to extend indefinitely the life of the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984. Without this amendment the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 will expire on 27 March 1987 under the provision of section 54. The continuation of the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 is necessary to equip the Commonwealth Government with the authority to prepare against and manage-in close co-operation with State and Northern Territory governments-a national liquid fuels supply emergency. I stress that the Act provides authority during national emergencies only. State-Northern Territory authority continues to apply during localised emergencies.

In order to meet, as far as possible, the concern expressed by some States that the proposed Commonwealth liquid fuel emergency legislation might inhibit their own management arrangements, it was agreed in 1983 that the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory would work together, under the auspices of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council, to explore the possibility of developing common-form States and Northern Territory emergency legislation and compatible Commonwealth legislation. To provide a specific time frame for this exercise the Liquid Fuel Emergency Bill included a three-year sunset clause to come into effect from the proclamation of the Act.

Recognising that it might not be practicable to develop appropriate replacement legislation, the possible need for the extension of the currency of the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act was foreshadowed in the Parliament in 1983. In the event, this precaution has been justified. Despite considerable effort by all of the participating governments it is clear that it will not be possible at present to design consistent liquid fuel emergency legislation.

Mr Peacock —Why?

Mr BARRY JONES —That will appear in the debate. The removal of the sunset provision will not preclude the adoption of alternative emergency legislation at some future date if States' differences are reconciled and an appropriate, mutually acceptable, common-form legislation is developed. In the meantime, it is essential that clear legislative authority exist for the Commonwealth to act in the event of a national emergency. The State-Northern Territory counterparts of the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) have indicated their willingness to act under delegated powers from the Commonwealth to manage national emergencies. So there is no alternative to this piece of legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.