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Thursday, 2 November 1967


Mr BOWEN (Parramatta) (Attorney General) - The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has raised a number of legal points on which I wish to make some brief comments. As usual, in the course of his speech has had made a lot of cheap gibes at the Government. In his usual style he has accused the Government, using his kind of language, of pussyfooting around this legislation. He says we should include St Vincent Gulf, Shark Bay and the Gulf of Carpentaria and internal waters. This argument is all very well. When one listens to the honourable member for Dawson it sounds as though he has done a great deal of study. He has referred to the convention, to historic bays and to Professor Charteris. The only trouble is that his argument is entirely on a false foundation. I do suggest that if in the future the honourable member wishes to make his kind of cheap gibe about what the Government should do he should take some legal advice.

The honourable member wants us to include in this Bill internal waters. This would include St Vincent Gulf, Exmouth Gulf and Shark Bay. The fact is that these are now internal waters. They are the same as Sydney Harbour for purposes of law. If we consider this for a moment, we appreciate that these waters are covered by State law. The whole purpose of this Bill is to extend the power of the Commonwealth out from the base line, which is seaward of internal waters to a distance of 12 miles. It would be completely foreign to the whole purpose of the principal Act to start bringing internal waters in. These, I repeat, are governed by State law.

The honourable member talks about our having left a gap where foreign vessels can come in. We have not covered St Vincent Gulf or Shark Bay because these are now internal waters just as Sydney Harbour and Port Phillip Bay are internal waters. They are governed by State law. The subject of foreign vessels is covered. It is absolutely nonsensical criticism of the Government to say that it is pussyfooting around by not including these waters in the Bill. It is a complete misunderstanding of the position to say that they should be included in the Bill.


Dr Patterson - Tell us about the Gulf of Carpentaria.


Mr BOWEN - Let me come to the Gulf of Carpentaria. We heard a lot about the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Gulf of Carpentaria is approximately 400 miles across-


Dr Patterson - It is 340 miles.


Mr BOWEN - Well, if the honourable member-


Dr Patterson - Well, the Minister is so accurate.


Mr Nixon - The Minister said 'approximately'.


Dr Patterson - It is 340 miles.


Mr BOWEN - That is not my information.


Dr Patterson - Does the Minister want me to give it to him, chapter and verse?


Mr BOWEN --Look, the honourable member has made his speech and at some length, if I may say so. Regarding the Gulf of Carpentaria I point out that, if we extend to the 12 mile limit from the base line - which the House knows is the low-water mark unless one is crossing the mouth of the bay - and extend it all the way around the Gulf, the rest of the area of the Gulf is the high seas. We can only affect that and claim the Gulf if we can bring it under an international convention. That is if it is 24 miles across or otherwise comes within the terms of the convention - and it does not - or if we can claim that it is a historic bay. The honourable member for Dawson referred to Hudson Bay. Whether or not Hudson Bay is a historic bay - I know that it is claimed to be an historic bay - the Gulf of Carpentaria is not a historic bay. The honourable member did not seriously suggest that it was. Therefore, we are not in a position to claim beyond the 12-mile limit around the edge of the Gulf. So to talk at such length about fishing going on in what is the high seas areas in the Gulf of Carpentaria is to waste the time of the House. There is one further matter to which I refer. If the honourable member for Dawson desires to have the benefit of a discussion on these bays and where they stand, I point out that a statement was made in this House on Tuesday of this week dealing with the matter. This report is in Hansard I suggest that the honourable member might refer to that.







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