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Tuesday, 27 November 1973
Page: 2142

Senator MAUNSELL (Queensland) - I will be opposing this Bill. I opposed it some years ago for certain reasons when it was introduced by the Gorton Government and of course, those reasons have been manifested since this Government came into power. Whether members of the Government party like it or not, we have a federal system in this country and our responsibility as the national parliament, and the particular responsibility of this House, is to see that the rights of the States are preserved. There is no reason in the world why this legislation should be introduced when the Federal Government could have gone to the States and worked out their areas of difference. Let us face it, there are certain areas which must come under State jurisdiction and there are certain areas which must come under Federal jurisdiction if our system is to work. The Government is now putting before us a matter on which a determination has to be made one way or another.

Surely if federalism means anything in this country there should be an attempt by governments to resolve their differences before the matter is thrown into the courts for the legal eagles to have a go at it. There has been no effort whatever to do this by the Australian Government since the Senate put off the Bill in the last autumn session. We deferred it until this session. The Government did not bring it on in the first week or two of the session but introduced a separate Bill which is identical with the one we deferred last May. Senator O 'Byrne eventually came down from orbit but while he was up there he made a few statements. He said that those of us who want to go to the States are being completely negative in our approach, which is to resolve these matters with the States. But what is more negative than his approach, which is to hand the matter over to the High Court for determination one way or another? In most of the honourable senator's speech he attacked the States and said that they were incapable of doing this and incapable of doing that. The people who elected the governments of the States are the same people who put him here. I hope that he goes back and tells those people that he is not satisfied with the way they vote at State elections because he believes that the people who govern the various States are incapable of doing their job. We are endeavouring and have endeavoured all along to bring about some arrangement whereby the States and the Commonwealth will co-operate. If there are areas of difference I believe that most of them could be resolved in some other way.

What will happen if the States win this argument? Where will the great argument of the centralists over on the other side fall then? One of the main reasons why I am opposing this Bill today is the centralist policy of the present Australian Government. Not only does the Government want to strip the States of all power as has been indicated in different legislation which has been before this chamber, but also on Saturday week at a referendum the Australian people have to decide whether this Australian Parliament and Government will be given full control over prices and wages. Of course, only half the Government supports one issue and half supports the other issue. What will it mean if the Australian people support the referendum on prices? It will be one more step in sealing the fate of the States. If this Government has the economic weapon of control of prices and wages it can manipulate not only industries in this country but also the people. Of course, it will whittle away any powers which the States might have. I believe that Senator Durack put up a very good case on behalf of those of us who are opposing this Bill.

In Queensland we have the Great Barrier Reef with thousands of islands scattered around off the shores of the State. Who will have jurisdiction? Wi}l the State have jurisdiction over the islands scattered around and will the Commonwealth have jurisdiction over the waters in between those islands? If we have a confrontation with the States- and this is what this Government is heading for- how will we resolve all the difficulties which will result? Under the circumstances we might have a Commonwealth set-up in the fishing industry with the Commonwealth controlling certain health regulations for the fishing fleets. When the fleets come to shore to deliver their catch the States might say: 'No, the hygiene conditions on board do not satisfy us. You will have to take your fish somewhere else'. I can see these sorts of confrontations happening. The Commonwealth Parliament and the present Commonwealth Government will bring them about because of their highhanded attitude towards the States. I do not propose to detain this chamber because we have other important legislation before us. I have spoken on this issue before. I have made it quite clear where I stand and that is for consultation with the States. I shall vote against this legislation.

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