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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 2130

Senator KEEFFE (Queensland) - Unfortunately there has been a bits and pieces debate on this Bill which has been adjourned on two or three separate occasions. When I was speaking last I pointed out the foolish situation that this country would be placed in if it went to the International Law of the Sea Convention next year as one of the two or three countries throughout the world that is not able to say: Yes, we have passed our legislation and we have laws dealing with the sea and the earth under it'. This conference, incidentally, was to be held this year but it was postponed until 1974. Consequently it is unlikely that the conference will be postponed again.

On the first occasion I spoke I pointed out some changes in the Opposition's thinking and quoted a reference to indicate that quite a number of people on the Opposition side of the Parliament believe in legislation that we have placed before the Senate almost in toto. On numerous occasions in the past we have discussed in this House and in the other place the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria. I remember one memorable debate which took place in this chamber as the basis of a matter of urgency that the Gulf of Carpentaria ought to be declared Australian waters. Similiar references have been made on numerous occasions to the waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, a whole chapter in a publication which I have is devoted to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef. But we are in the unhappy position where we have no control over these waters or the resources beneath the waters. Foreign vessels are able to come almost at will into areas of the Reef. Not only do they take away commercial quantities of fish but they destroy many of the clams and other shellfish in the general area.

I am fortified in my remarks by some of the statements that were made in 1972 at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and also at a parliamentary conference that took place a few weeks later. At a meeting in Stockholm from 6 to 15 June 1972 the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment carried the following resolutions:

Having considered the need for a common outlook and for common principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the world in the preservation and enhancement of the human environment,


1.   Man is both creature and moulder of his environment which gives him physical sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth. In the long and tortuous evolution of the human race on this planet a stage has been reached when through the rapid acceleration of science and technology, man has acquired the power to transform his environment in countless ways and on an unprecedented scale. Both aspects of man's environment, the natural and the man-made, are essential to the well-being and to the enjoyment of basic human rights- even the right to life itself.

2.   The protection and improvement of the human environment is a major issue which affects the well-being of peoples and economic development throughout the world; it is the urgent desire of the peoples of the whole world and the duty of all governments.

I want to lay emphasis on that last sentence. When the International Law of the Sea Convention is being held Australia ought to be in a position fortified by legislation at home in which it can adopt positive principles and give support to other nations that have carried similar legislation, in some cases many years ago. The third proclamation of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment states:

Man has constantly to sum up experience and go on discovering, inventing, creating and advancing. In our time man's capability to transform his surroundings, if used wisely, can bring to all peoples the benefits of development and the opportunity to enhance the quality of life. Wrongly or heedlessly applied, the same power can do incalculable harm to human beings and the human environment. We see around us growing evidence of man-made harm in many regions of the earth: dangerous levels of pollution in water, air, earth and living beings; major and undesirable disturbances to the ecological balance of the biosphere; destruction and depletion of irreplaceable resources; and gross deficiencies harmful to the physical, mental and social health of man, in the man-made environment; particularly in the living and working environment.

To add a little emphasis to the points I have made, and following on the terms of the proclamation, I point out that around this country there are areas where the sea is being constantly polluted and the Australian Government has little control over what goes into it. Largely this is a State responsibility, but unfortunately not all States are mindful of the great moral and legal responsibility placed upon them to protect this part of man's environment. There are 4 other paragraphs included in the statement from the United Nations conference, and for the sake of posterity I should like to have them incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to do so.

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