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Tuesday, 13 May 1980
Page: 2138


Senator CHANEY (Western AustraliaMinister for Aboriginal Affairs) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976, as presently drafted, does not apply in relation to waters adjacent to the coast of any State until a proclamation has been made declaring that the Act so applies. In practice, proclamations have only been made where the adjacent State requests it. The result to date is that the Act applies to the waters adjacent to Western Australia,

Queensland and New South Wales, as well as to waters adjacent to the Northern Territory. Under the off-shore settlement agreed to at the Premiers Conference on 29 June 1979, the Act is to be amended so that it will expressly provide that it will be applicable, or continue to be applicable to waters adjacent to a State or the Northern Territory only with the consent of that State or Territory. The Bill, therefore contains provisions whereby no further proclamations will be made in respect of the waters adjacent to a State except at the request or with consent of the Government of the State. Likewise, the Bill provides for a State to request the withdrawal of the principal Act from the waters adjacent to that State or from such part of those waters as are within the territorial sea adjacent to that State.

The Act as it is presently drafted affords Australia-wide protection of relics which have been removed from historic shipwrecks. In those cases where a State requests the withdrawal of the principal Act from the waters adjacent to that State, the Bill provides that the proclamation withdrawing the Act can contain a provision declaring that the Act will continue to apply to specified relics or articles of a specified class that have been removed from the waters adjacent to a State. Such a provision continues Australiawide protection of relics which have been removed from the waters adjacent to a State.

I turn now to the particular matter of old Dutch shipwrecks lying off the coast of Western Australia. These shipwrecks are the subject of a 1972 agreement between the Commonwealth and the Netherlands. They are protected at present by the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1 976 and, as the Act is presently drafted, continue to remain under the Commonwealth Act until satisfactory alternative arrangements are made with Western Australia. Western Australia has already proposed discussions for such arrangements.

The Bill provides, as with relics from shipwrecks which have been removed from the waters adjacent to a State, that the Act will continue to apply, at the request of Western Australia, in relation to specified Dutch relics of a specified class which have been removed from the waters adjacent to that State. I might add that this provision has been included at the request of the Western Australian Government.

The present Act provides for the GovernorGeneral to make arrangements with the Governor of a State for the performance of functions by a competent authority of the State in relation to the protection, recovery, preservation and exhibition of historic shipwrecks and historic relics. The Bill provides that such arrangements can be made with the Administrator of the Northern Territory. This provision has been incorporated at the request of the Northern Territory Government.

The opportunity has also been taken to amend section 16 ofthe Historic Shipwrecks Act to provide the defence of reasonable excuse to a prosecution for an offence against section 13 and subsection 15(5) of the Act, and for an offence against regulations made for the purposes of section 14 of the Act.

The Bill has been prepared in consultation with the States and the Northern Territory and it incorporates changes that have been recommended by them. There is, however, one particular aspect that affects the States to which I should expressly refer. The proposed amendments have made it necessary to do something that was not done in the original 1976 Act. That is to provide a clear dividing line between the waters that are to be regarded as adjacent to a State and the waters that are to be regarded as adjacent to neighbouring States.

For this purpose the convenient course has been followed of adopting the dividing lines between the adjacent areas of the several States to be found in Schedule 2 to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967. Those dividing lines have been used, by agreement of all the States, for the purposes of the Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill and the Coastal Waters (State Title) Bill. In those circumstances it would be indeed very difficult to adopt any other dividing line for purposes of the Historic Shipwrecks Act. I want to make it clear, however, that the adoption of these dividing lines for these particular purposes does not pre-empt any future question that may arise of dividing lines to be adopted as between States for other unrelated purposes. South Australia, in particular, has asked that this particular point be made clear.

Flexibility is the keynote of the proposed amendments. It will be a matter for the States themselves, and the Northern Territory to decide if the Principal Act is to continue to be applied, or to be applied, to the waters adjacent to the States and to decide, where a proclamation is made, if the Act is to continue to be applied, to relics which have been removed from the waters adjacent to the State. The same principle will apply to relics from the old Dutch shipwrecks. Such provisions will provide for the continuance of the existing high level of co-operation between

Commonwealth agencies and such State institutions as the Western Austraiian Museum. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.







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