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Tuesday, 26 March 1968

Mr BOWEN (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Attorney-General) - The Great Barrier Reef is not regarded as part of the mainland territory of Australia. Being submerged at high tide it is not an island; but it does constitute part of the continental shelf. As honourable members will be aware, last year the Government passed a Fisheries Act which gives us control of the waters and free-flowing fish within 12 miles of our coastline. Sedentary fish, the inhabitants of the Reef, are covered by the Pearl Fisheries Act 1952, which covers pearl shell, trochus, beche-de-mer and green snails. We would have power to pass an Act to control fishing for clams and other sedentary fish on the Reef. We have not exercised this power. There have been one or two activities on the Reef which have caused the Queensland Government to approach this Government. I think that the Minister for External Affairs made representations in respect of acts performed by nationals of another country. As far as legislation is concerned, we have power to go further than we have, but whether we would be able to police such legislation is a matter that would not fall within my Department.

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