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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1281

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think again it is a matter of meaningful consultation. While we have 3 levels of government in Australia - and I support the system of 3 levels of government - I do not believe that the laying down of arbitrary sovereignty which is the product of this legislation is the way to get other tiers of government co-operating. I think the only way in which to resolve it is by sitting around a table and applying pressure. I do not think in the last 3 to 4 months, in the period of hiatus before the legislation reappeared in this House, pressure was in any way exercised by either the Federal Government or State governments towards achieving a resolution of these problems. Neither side was prepared to yield one inch from the firm lines of demarcation which they accepted. This legislation itself again presents the fact of the Federal Government asserting its sovereignty. I do not see that the resolution of sovereignty is as important as the resolution of the administrative responsibility of the area from the low water mark out to the 3-mile limit.

I acknowledge that one of the areas of difficulty is what happens in terms of the extension beyond the 3-mile limit. We now have the 12- mile limit for fishing rights. We have a probability of an extension beyond the 12-mile limit to whatever area the conference on the law of the sea might determine. I do recognise that there is a very real problem in the measure to which the States are able in the submissions to that conference on the law of the sea to determine how their administrative responsibility is affected. But as a member of a previous Cabinet which made a determination on the first submission on this legislation to come before this Parliament it was that perhaps more than any other aspect which motivated me in supporting it. But as a pragmatic politician in Australia in 1973 I am more concerned at what I see as the real conflict which this Government has generated between the Commonwealth and the States. When legislation of this character is introduced and pushed to a conclusion we see the personification of what to the Labor Party is the only basis upon which the problems of administration can be resolved, that is confrontation, not co-operation.

The Australian Country Party stands for meaningful, co-operative federalism, notwithstanding all the difficulties it presents. The Country Party believes that this legislation covers a number of areas which should be subject to administrative discussion. In the field of determination of fishing rights there are tremendous problems. As one who has been Chairman of the Australian Fisheries Council for some years I am fully cognisant of the difficulties that exist. However, if one examines the origin of these problems one realises they arise more because the Commonwealth has not provided the financial support to enable a patrol of waters outside the 3-mile limit than from any other cause. It is necessary for the Commonwealth to assume financial responsibilities if there is to be an exercise of its sovereign rights beyond the 3-mile limit. If it is not prepared to exercise its financial responsibilities beyond the 3-mile limit what idiocy it is for us tonight to consider that the Commonwealth will exercise such responsibility from the low water mark to the 3-mile limit. This is an area where there is a real need for discussion.

Also to be considered is the question of Commonwealth fishing licences and State fishing licences. I dislike the duplication of such licences. I dislike the difficulties that emerged as a result of the grounding of the "Oceanic Grandeur', but as a result of that grounding we were able to establish a regime within which there is meaningful and purposeful arrangement as a result of which future oil pollution can be eliminated or contained through joint and co-operative action by the Commonwealth and the States. It is only by that sort of co-operative action that administrative problems can be resolved. I acknowledge that the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) asserts the necessity for one government to have sovereign rights over the area between the low water mark and whatever might be the ultimate limit of Australia's territorial sea, but I do not believe that that is the way in which we will be able to overcome the day to day problems of administration. I believe it would be far better for the Commonwealth Parliament to promote a significant cooperative effort whereby the States could, with the Commonwealth, work out the way the administration should be carried out.

In this Parliament we are not concerned simply with laying down the laws of the land; we are concerned with administering them. If one considers the mineral and oil wealth beneath the sea one appreciates that there are untold riches which must be exploited not for the benefit of the Australian Parliament or the State Parliaments but for future generations of Australians, who will not care who carries out the administration so long as it is carried out in their best interests. I do not see that by the arbitrary laying down of a law which says that sovereignty must be exercised by the Australian Parliament we will necessarily be providing that protection for the average man and woman of his heritage - that heritage being the wealth beneath the sea. For this reason - I do not want to take up further the time of the House - the Country Party is opposed to the passage, at this time, of any of the 3 parts of this measure. Ultimately there must be a resolution of the sovereignty question. I appreciate full well the point of view submitted by the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) and the honourable member for Moreton. I know that there is a legal difficulty but, as a pragmatic politician, I am concerned at how we are to set up a regime which brings the people from the 2 tiers of government into administering this matter effectively. I do not believe that by the assertion of sovereignty we will achieve practical administrative effectiveness. For that reason, I believe, we should defer this measure tonight. Let us provide a bit of pressure to make sure that this Labor Government and the States get together around a table to work out regimes in fishing and regimes in the mineral area, which is complete anathema to my concept of how a Commonwealth should operate. Let them work out other areas where there are difficulties. Let them together effect an administrative regime or process which protects the interests concerned for future generations of Australians, not by confrontation but by co-operation.

Mr keating(Blaxland) (8.40)- No amount of soothing words or genteel delivery will cover up the sham of what is occurring on the other side of the House amongst most members of the Opposition. The speeches of the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fairbairn) amount to nothing more than humbug, because this legislation was first introduced in the days of the Gorton Government and it was to be introduced with a mining code. Later on tonight I will read from a draft speech by the Honourable R. W. Swartz on the proposed Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1970. A speech was even prepared for it and honourable members opposite are saying that this legislation should not now be introduced. Some of the detail the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) has included in part III of this Bill is mentioned in that speech and in the proposed Bill. This legislation has been rejected here twice since the Government introduced it. It then went across-

Mr Fairbairn - I take a point of order. The honourable member has a speech which, I take it, was never delivered. Are we entitled to have that tabled?

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