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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2326

Mr KEOGH (Bowman) - I am delighted to have the opportunity to support this Bill. I am delighted to say at the outset of my remarks that I am in a position to do something that probably should not happen very often to a member on this side of the House. I am able to compliment not only one but two of the recent speakers from the Opposition side. In particular, I compliment the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). I must say this about him: Having had the experience originally of tackling him in a Federal election in 1966, I have never doubted his capacity to stand up for the things in which he believes. I found that out on that occasion, and on every occasion since then when he has felt the need to stand up for a principle such as this he has done so. Not only on this occasion today but also on each occasion that this matter has been discussed in the Parliament he has shown his preparedness to do so.

The fact is that on the previous occasion when this matter was before us there were not enough of his colleagues on the Government side in those days who had the same feeling of nationalism as he has shown today and as has been shown also by the former Prime Minister, the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton). Of course, the debate on that occasion lapsed for want of solidarity in that Government and for want of a preparedness on the part of that Government to accept the support that was genuinely extended to it by members of the Australian Labor Party, then in Opposition, to give this nation an opportunity to overcome the problems that were readily visible. There had been no determination of the rights of the nation or the rights of the various States to the areas of our nation beyond the low water mark.

This morning the Brisbane newspaper, the Courier-Mail', carried the banner headline: Liberals Avoid Sea Bill Split'. I daresay that it was due to the arguments of the honourable member for Moreton and the former Prime Minister that the Liberals were able to avoid that split, but it is a sad condemnation, that there still exist in the ranks of the Liberal Party so many who have not been prepared to learn the lessons of the last election. One of those lessons surely was that the former Government was cast out of office because it lacked the intestinal fortitude that this nation needed; it lacked the leadership and back-up support for leadership that would have enabled it to put a measure such as this through the last Parliament. Today honourable members opposite are in the position of trying to have, in old terms, 2 bob each way. They will not block this legislation in the House of Representatives but some of them are hoping that their friends in the Senate might do something with it. For that purpose they have introduced an amendment for consideration here. The 'Courier-Mail' article stated:

The Liberals decided to press an amendment to the legislation deploring the Federal Government's failure to consult the States, all of which have opposed the Government's moves.

What gross hypocrisy it is for Opposition members to talk about the failure of this Government to consult with the States. During the years they had the opportunity to consult with the States, on every occasion that they opened up discussions with the States the reactions of some of the States were such that the former Government dropped the discussions. It swept the problem under the carpet and went no further than attempting in a half-hearted fashion to convince the people of Australia that it was solid in its determination to do something about this matter, to have the problem solved. I venture to say that if the nation had had the misfortune of having the former Government inflicted upon it for another 3 years there would have been throughout the life of this Parliament the same procrastination as there was throughout tha life of the last Parliament.

As recently as 13th August last year, when this legislation was discussed in a very limited way in this Parliament and when an attempt was made by the then Opposition to give honourable members on the other side of the House who were then back bench members of the Government parties an opportunity to measure up to what they had been prepared to stand up and support, we saw that they were not prepared to do so. The temporary compromise between the Commonwealth and States, which we saw occur so often during the life of the last Parliament over this matter of control of off-shore waters, was hailed in some quarters as a victory for co-operation and negotiation and as a vindication of true federalism. Many other high sounding phrases were used to describe it. However, we know that it was just an exercise in humbug; it was an exercise in dithering; and it was a typical exercise of the last Prime Minister - indecision after indecision. I congratulate the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) on having the foresight to bring this measure into the House. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on his forthright statements on this issue since it once again became an issue of public comment.

We are in the position today that the Labor Premiers are disgracefully lining themselves up with the Premiers of other States and, as was shown in an answer to a question asked at the Prime Minister's Press conference last Tuesday, doing so in the face of what they clearly must know to be the policy of the Labor Party. One Labor Premier in particular would have been a delegate to the Federal Conference that discussed, supported and ultimately adopted this very policy. One wonders today why these people have lost their national attitudes. It is true that very often when we come to talk about national issues we hear people talking as Western Australians, Queenslanders or Victorians but, sadly, not as Australians. I am sorry that I must confess here today that we in the Labor Party have now disclosed that we have some of these people in our midst. I hope that before too many days have passed they will see the error of their ways.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr KEOGH - Mr Speaker- (Quorum formed.) I may perhaps comment, Mr Speaker, that association with the word 'Wentworth' seems to have a strange effect on the behaviour of honourable members opposite. However, I recognise the fact that the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury), who called for the formation of a quorum, might have been concerned at the whereabouts of some of his Liberal colleagues at this hour of the night when they should have been present in the chamber. Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the concern that I have, and I am sure many other honourable members on this side of the House have, at the fact that some of the States which collectively could be referred to as the more enlightened States - the States that have Labor Governments - have decided to align themselves with the less enlightened States in their attitude to the announcement by the Prime Minister that this measure would be introduced in the House. As I said before, I hope that within a few days the Labor Premiers may see the error of their ways and they may see that there is no justification for them racing off to the other side of the world to seek clarification and justification of any of the proposals contained in this Bill.

How ridiculous it is to consider that some 70 years after Federation we still have people believing that they have to adopt a defensive attitude against every decision that the Commonwealth wishes to make. Surely they must realise that they all belong to one nation. How ridiculous it is to suggest, as some of them have done, that States' rights and the people's welfare will be threatened if this Bill is passed by this Parliament. We have the ridiculous attitude that was adopted by the last Queensland Minister for Justice, Dr Delamothe when this issue was first discussed in the Federal Parliament. He made a statement in the Press that he saw a distinct possibility of floating two-up games and call girl services with dinghies rowing clients to pleasure launches off the Queensland coast. The Press report stated:

He told State Parliament that these "possibilities' could arise through a combination of Commonwealth offshore-resources legislation and a recent High Court decision.

The other day I heard a prominent State politician, whose name escapes me for the moment, interviewed on a radio program. He said that he saw the State laws being defied by people in the water 5 yards beyond the low watermark. Surely if any of these suggestions exist as genuine possibilities - these call girl services that Dr Delamothe feared, or the breaches of State laws that could occur, according to recent comments, as a result of this legislation - any such problems can soon be overcome. Surely these possibilities do not give the States the need to adopt the attitude that they have adopted. Surely today we should be able to expect a reasonable attitude from the States and a realisation that this is a matter which must be settled. It can only be settled, as has been mentioned by the Minister in his second reading speech, by a challenge to the legislation being taken, if necessary to the highest- court in Australia.

Despite what the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) said this afternoon there have been instances in the past when it has been embarrassing to this nation to be seen in the eyes of the rest of the world, and particularly in the eyes of the emerging nations of Asia, as being restricted in our efforts to speak with one voice as a nation. In contrast to the last government, this Government is attempting to build a respectable image for Australia. The fact is that in the past there have been instances - these were referred to by the Minister in his secondreading speech - where the States have not agreed to the Commonwealth ratifying international conventions or have imposed extreme delays on such actions. It is little wonder when we have Premiers of the style of the present Premier of Queensland, who in a schizophrenic reaction to the action of the Commonwealth in introducing this measure talked about seceding. Of course he has been disowned by every reasonable politician in his State. But when we have States led by politicians of this calibre it is only reasonable to expect that a Commonwealth Government such as the present one, with Ministers and a Prime Minister of such high calibre, will be prepared to take on the States and to show them that what we are doing is in their interest and in the national interest, and that there is no need for them to adopt the bogyman attitude they have adopted over this measure. I am very pleased to support the Bill and once again say that I am sure the House will realise how ridiculous is the amendment proposed to the Bill by the Opposition as a face saving measure for its own dissident ranks. I am sure that the House will reject the amendment and support the Bill.

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