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Wednesday, 17 May 1972
Page: 2704


Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - The House has listened with some interest to the explanations given by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in what I would regard as a most extraordinary statement in which he in fact condemned the Cabinet decision that was taken with respect to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill 1970, condemned the previous Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, and, what is more condemned the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz). The Prime Minister virtually has completely divorced himself from the Cabinet decision at that point of time. What he has implied, and what must be sweet music to the ears of some of his followers, is that if he had been in Australia the second reading speech which introduced this Bill would not have been made. That is a most serious, extraordinary and damaging statement from a Prime Minister. To my way of thinking he has ratted on his mates. The Prime Minister was a member of the Cabinet at the time. It should be remembered that the Prime Minister who made these extraordinary statements is the person who, when he was first appointed, said that he believes in Cabinet decisions, that he always consults his Cabinet and that he always abides by his Cabinet. What he has done tonight is virtually to condemn his then Cabinet, condemn the previous Prime Minister and condemn the Minister for National Development for having the temerity to introduce this Bill into the House. That is what he has done.

Another remarkable statement that the Prime Minister made was that he fails to see any real relationship between the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill. I do not know whether the Prime Minister has studied the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill, but if he has he will know of the fundamental applied research that is to be done by the Institute as regards the sea. the sea bed, the swimming and non-swimming fish, the subsoils, the crown of thorns starfish and also marine pollution, which is a subject of importance in this day and agc. That is one of the reasons why the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has moved this contingency motion, lt is quite clear that the Territorial Sea Bill has relevance to the Institute of Marine Science. It has vital relevance. Because of the grave uncertainty with respect to the law today, both domestically and internationally, regarding offshore resources it is imperative that there are Commonwealth laws to protect the work of the Institute. The research of the Institute of Marine Science, both applied and fundamental, should be conducted within a framework of legislative certainty. There is uncertainty at the present time. Surely the Commonwealth must make laws to minimise the effects of marine pollution. The States claim that they have what they call sovereignty up to the 3-mile limit of the territorial sea. The Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill declares that the Commonwealth has the sole right or the sole sovereign control over the resources of the territorial sea, which is important not only domestically and internationally but also for the good conduct of research.

The Leader of the Opposition has dealt also with the question of urgency. I was absolutely amazed to hear the Prime Minister state that the territorial sea legislation is not urgent. That, again, is a complete condemnation of the decision of the Cabinet of the day and of the Minister for National Development. Does the Prime Minister think that that Minister is a complete fool? Of course he does not, nor does anybody else here. The Minister made what the Opposition regarded as a well considered speech when he introduced the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. He made it quite clear in that speech that there was a great deal of urgency with respect to this matter. I point out that he said that 2 years ago. What he said on that occasion must have been approved by the present Prime Minister, but only tonight - 2 years later - the Prime Minister has virtually condemned that statement. If that is not, as J said before, ratting on your mates-


Mr SPEAKER -I do not like that word. I would say that it is completely unparliamentary. I allowed the honourable member for Dawson to get away With it in the context in which he used it before, but I will see that he does not use it again.


Dr PATTERSON - You know what I mean, Mr Speaker. I am quite certain that everybody else, including the Prime Minister, knows what I mean. The Minister for National Development, in speaking about the need for urgency, said:

In these circumstances, the Government feels that, without prejudice to the petroleum agreement and to the action that has been taken in pursuance of it, the constitutional issue should now be decided once and for all, and without delay.

I repeat that the Minister said 2 years ago that the constitutional issue should now be decided once and for all and without delay. He went on to say:

Until it is so decided the Commonwealth cannot either disclaim responsibility for what is done in off-shore areas or itself take appropriate action.

Those were the words of the Minister for National Development on behalf of the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is now the Prime Minister of Australia, and those are the words which the Prime Minister apparently now denies. They were strong words and they were words which expressed the voice of the Cabinet. I should have thought that the least the Prime Minister could have done tonight was back those words and back the Minister who made that speech. But he did not do so.

Let me refer now to the remarks of tha previous Attorney-General, a man whose judgment in these matters is highly respected on both sides of the House. In a Press statement he said:

The Commonwealth Government is firmly of the view that it is highly desirable in Australia's national and international interests to have the legal position as to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth and the States in off-shore areas resolved as soon as possible.

He went on to say:

Once this is resolved the ' Commonwealth is willing to enter into agreements for the mining of off-shore minerals, other than petroleum, and these agreements will be similar to the off-shore petroleum agreements.

All the evidence refutes the Prime Minister's statement that there is no urgency about this matter. It refutes also his statement that there is little or no relevance to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill in the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill. Of course there is relevance. Marine pollution from agricultural chemicals in the environment of Townsville itself and the proposed establishment of a nickel refinery at Townsville are quite relevant to the argument. All those matters are relevant. The Opposition is arguing tonight that it is quite wrong for the Government not to go ahead with the debate on the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and pass it before making a decision with respect to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill. One of the problems to be resolved concerns the actual ownership of any benefits flowing from the research itself. Tremendous research is being carried out in the world today with respect to edible organisms within the sea, and this is of great value. This is one of the avenues which has to be clarified.

For example, one of the areas in which the Institute of Marine Science will be carrying out research concerns the crown of thorns starfish or the box jellyfish. According to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, this research will be carried out in Commonwealth waters. Surely this is relevant to the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill, if this research is carried out in Commonwealth waters, as the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill asserts or declares. For the Prime Minister to say that the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill is not relevant to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill can lead to only one conclusion - that he has not even read the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, or he has not read the Bill relating to the establishment of the Institute of Marine Science. In fact, the majority of the work of this Institute will be carried out with respect to resources off the coast of Queensland. The Institute also will be working in close proximity to Torres Strait and to New Guinea. In recent weeks we have seen statements made by the Queensland Premier and by responsible people in New Guinea to the effect that it is high time that this question of the boundary between Australia and New Guinea was clarified. Surely this is an urgent matter of direct relevance to the Commonwealth, to the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and to the research that will be carried out at the Institute of Marine Science.

I am just quoting examples to illustrate how absurd it is for the Prime Minister to suggest that there is no relevance between the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill and the Australian Institute of Marine Science Bill. Of course there is relevance, and it is important that this issue be clarified. Australia is in an intolerable situation. 1 suppose that it is one of more than 100 littoral countries in which this issue concerning the continental shelf has not yet been clarified. Important international conventions are being considered, and still the issue has not been clarified. Australia is supposed to attend the conferences which will consider these conventions. What sort of a view can it give? Surely it is not too much to ask that when the representatives of Australia attend international conferences they speak on behalf of Australia; they should speak for Australia, backed by Commonwealth Government decisions. But that is not so in this case. Australians attend these international conferences, but they have no authority to speak on behalf of Australia, under the existing laws relating to the States' alleged sovereignty over the resources. lt is quite clear that the States have never had sovereign powers over the resources off the coast of Australia. This was made clear by the Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick. The States never had these powers which they allege they had. Notice of this important Bill, the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill, was given at the end of 1969. It was first publicly announced by the Governor-General at the start of this Parliament, which is in its third year. It was then introduced by the Minister for National Development on behalf of the present Prime Minister. There has been a stalemate since. The Government has been frightened to act to assert or to declare its rightful authority over the off-shore resources of Australia and we have seen nothing done in that 2-year period.

This is an important matter. For the Prime Minister to get up tonight and to make this most remarkable statement - to imply that if he were in the country at that point of time, the type of speech which was made by the Minister for National Development would not have been made - was to adopt a cowardly approach to his own Cabinet at that point of time. It completely belies the statements that he has made about Cabinet solidarity.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Mr WHITLAM(Werriwa- Leader of the Opposition) - Mr Speaker, I gave a personal explanation as to where the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) had misrepresented me. I should have added - I have now checked - that the Prime Minister said that at the time when the Territorial Sea and Continental Shelf Bill was introduced he was in Singapore with the then Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). In fact, he was in Singapore with the then Prime Minister on one occasion only, and that was 9 months later, in January 1971.







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