This one-day seminar is designed as a workshop in which speakers and delegates can review how the1979 Offshore Constitutional Settlement (OCS) is working some 21 years after it was agreed, and also discuss the distribution of powers amongst Commonwealth government departments. Since the OCS 1979 there have been many developments in law and practice which make it opportune to re-examine the way in which legal powers and day-to-day practices are divided between the Commonwealth and States. Moreover, the Commonwealth Attorney-General has proposed a new Maritime Powers Bill to address some of the ways in which responsibilities are divided amongst the relevant Government Departments.

The aim of the day, in particular, is to stimulate discussion about whether the 1979 Offshore Constitutional Settlement needs revising, e.g. in respect of the division of jurisdictions between Commonwealth and States currently resting at three nautical miles from baselines. And is there a need to rethink the present divisions of legal and administrative responsibilities, for example for fishing, immigration, safety, the environment, offshore exploitation, and criminal enforcement generally?

Dr Michael White’s groundbreaking book Australian Offshore Laws (Federation Press 2009) has exposed the bewildering mass of laws that apply to offshore Australian waters, and has illustrated how such an important aspect of Australia’s economic and environmental well-being is so little understood or debated. 

The seminar sessions will be chaired by Justice James Allsop, President, NSW Court of Appeal and Justice Steven Rares, Federal Court. Speakers drawn from Government, academia and legal practice will examine the key issues and suggest possible shortcomings and reforms. Audience participation will be encouraged, as there will be delegates whose skills and experience will enable them to make a major contribution.

The seminar is aimed mainly at lawyers (whether academic, in practice or advising in-house) and those in Government Departments dealing with offshore matters on a day-to-day basis. It would also be of importance to lawyers and policy makers who have an interest, or are involved, in any of the many Australian activities offshore.

Information correct as at date of event.

Download the full program.

Friday 16 July 2010

Morning Session

Registration and coffee (9-9:30am)


Chair: Justice James Allsop
President, New South Wales Court of Appeal

  • Introduction to the Seminar


Dr Michael White QC
Adjunct Professor, University of Queensland

  • The Problems with the Offshore Constitutional Settlement


Andrew Walter
Principal Legal Officer, Office of International Law, Commonwealth Attorney –General

  • The Maritime Powers Bill (Cth

Morning Tea (11-11:30am)



Barbara Pearson
General Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel, Australian Maritime Safety Authority

  • Shipping Regulation

Commander Ian Campbell
Chief Legal Advisor to Chief of Navy

  • Border Protection Command:  Aspects of Offshore Maritime Law Enforcement

Lunch (12.30-1:30pm)

Afternoon Session

Chair: Justice Steven Rares
Federal Court


Dr Rachel Baird
Senior Lecturer (Law), University of Southern Queensland

  • Fisheries 

Fiona Brotherton
Senior General Counsel, Australian Government Solicitor’s Office

  • Offshore Resources 

Chris Smyth
Healthy Oceans Campaigner, Australian Conservation Foundation

  • The Proposed ‘Integrated Oceans Management Act’: Difficulties Integrating Commonwealth and State Offshore Activities 

Afternoon Tea (3.00-3.30pm)


Tony Keyes
Senior Deputy Crown Solicitor, Commercial and Public Law, Crown Law, Queensland

  • States’ Perspective on the Offshore Constitutional Settlement

Dr Michael White QC
Adjunct Professor, University of Queensland

  • Summary: Final Discussion and Debate

Seminar Concludes 5pm

Date: Friday 16 July 2010
Venue: James Birrell Room
UQ Staff and Graduates Club
Staff House Road
The University of Queensland
St Lucia Campus
Time: 9.00am - 9.30am (Registration)
9.30am - 5.00pm (Seminar)
Cost: Full Fee                                                   $175*
Early Bird (before 18 June 2010)        $100*
Includes seminar materials pack, morning and afternoon teas and a light lunch.

*Please note that places are strictly limited.
  1. Offshore Constitutional Settlement: a Milestone in Co-operative Federalism [1MB] 
    (copyright of Australia, reproduced by permission and also available from A-G’s website at
  2. Offshore Constitutional Settlement: Selected Statements and Documents 1978-79 [2MB] 
    (copyright of Australia, reproduced by permission and also available from A-G’s website at
  3. Extracts from Michael White, Australian Offshore Laws (Federation Press 2009): includes contents pages, Preface and Chapter 13 “Summary and Proposals for Reform” [1MB] 
    (copyright reserved, reproduced by permission; copying permitted only for the purposes of the seminar)