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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2127

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Opposition agrees with the general purpose of this legislation. That general purpose is to give effect to 3 agreements reached between Australia and Indonesia regarding boundaries. These are mainly seabed boundaries. Each of these 3 agreements was negotiated by the previous Government, although the last of them was actually signed on 12th February 1973. Since we negotiated them, naturally we can hardly object to their implementation. The principal one of the 3 agreements is the one which relates to the boundary between Australia and Timor. I recall signing that agreement in Djakarta on 9th October last. I announced it in the House on 10th October. I go back simply to point out the importance of it. In the first place the agreement removed a potential source of disagreement between Australia and Indonesia. In the second place, it removed the uncertainly which prospecting countries had been facing regarding the limits of Australia's national authority over the seabed in that area. Also it secured for Australia by far the greater extent of the seabed area in which Australia had already granted exploration permits under our legislation, it did not secure the whole of the area for which exploration permits had been granted. In the give and take of negotiations some part of the area over which permits had been granted had to be given up in order to secure agreement. The Government of Western Australia >vas consulted in advance and was in agreement with what was being negotiated. The holders of the exploration permits - or some of them - who were affected subsequently expressed satisfaction with the general outcome of the negotiations with Indonesia. But the consequence is that in order to implement agreement when arrived at some small portions of the Australian grid under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act had to be eliminated. The present Bill will carry out that necessary excision.

May I add also that the Australian delegation which negotiated the agreements of 9th October 1963, and the subsequent agreement signed on 12th February which affected the boundary between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and which was ably led by the Solicitor-General, Mr Ellicott, included representatives of Papua New Guinea. Indeed, it was finally arranged that the latter agreement, which was between Indonesia and Australia, should be signed on behalf of Australia by Mr Somare, the Chief Minister for Papua New Guinea. It was the. aim of the previous Government to place the representatives of Papua New Guinea in close contact with their Indonesian counterparts. I recall discussions which I also had in Indonesia with ohe Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Adam Malik, which led to his agreeing to establish an Indonesian consulate in Port Moresby. I just take the opportunity of expressing the hope that the present Government will continue to bring the officials of Papua New Guinea into contact with the officials of Indonesia because where people are used to meeting and talking with each other misunderstandings are much less likely to arise. I believe it is important that this policy should continue to be followed particularly before the independence of Papua New Guinea and while Australian officials are still present to assist the officials of both countries in their mutual dealings.

To return to the provisions of the Bill, may I ask the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) whether he has consulted with the governments of the States, particularly the Government of Western Australia. The Principal Act - the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 - was put through this Parliament following an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States dated 16th October 1967 and each State passed mirror legislation. It seems that the States perhaps should now amend their mirror legislation. Part II paragraph 4 of the Agreement in summary states that each State government will submit to the Parliament of the State a Bill similar to the Bill set out in the schedule to the Agreement which was the principal Bill we finally put through. Paragraph 6 of Part II of the Agreement states that except in accordance with the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments a government will not submit to its Parliament a Bill for an Act which would either amend or repeal an Act that is contemplated by the preceding provisions of this Act or in any material respect affect the scheme. That last preceding subclause does not apply to a Bill for an Act insofar as the effect of its provisions will be formal or transitional.

The Bill before us amends the Principal Act. It certainly is not transitional and although I am in favour of its provisions I do not think I would describe them as entirely formal. I therefore ask the Minister whether he is following out the provisions of the agreement with the States. Whilst I would not expect resistance from the States, even from Western Australia seeing that we talked to representatives from that State before we negotiated the agreement, I believe that it is important that the Commonwealth and State government agreements should be scrupulously observed.

I welcome also the announcement by the Minister in his second reading speech that the Government has been in contact with the Portuguese Government in relation to the sea bed boundary between Australia and Portuguese Timor and he expects that discussions will commence later this year. The significance of this is that there is a gap opposite the Portuguese section of Timor in the long boundary line between Indonesia and Australia. It is to be hoped that the Australian Government will be able to negotiate with the Portuguese Government a sea bed boundary which will give a sensible boundary line which we hope will form a continuous line with the Australian-Indonesian line which straddles that area. The Australian Labor Government however, has been following a policy of strong international condemnation of Portugal in matters in which we have no particularly direct interest with the result that Portugal has reacted somewhat sharply. For example the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, in relation to its mineral exploration rights in Portuguese Timor and Trans-Australia Airlines in regard to its operations to Timor, have been experiencing considerable difficulties. I express no view one way or the other on Portugal or its policies but I do say to the Government that Australian foreign policy is a much more complex field than the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) or the present Government appears to recognise. In foreign policy Australia's interests are always one of the factors which have to be carefully weighed and carefully considered. Foreign policy, may I remind the Government, is not an area simply for personal grandstanding or for striking attitudes for short term domestic political advantage.

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