House debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Treaties Committee; Report

4:52 pm

Photo of Melissa ParkeMelissa Parke (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

() (): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee's report entitled Report 122: treaties tabled on 23 August, 13 and 20 September and 13 October 2011, incorporating a dissenting report.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

by leave—Today I present the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties report 122, which contains the committee's views on a series of treaties which were tabled on 23 August, 13 and 20 September and 13 October 2011. One of the more important agreements covered in this report was the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, which the treaties committee has approved. This particular treaty will establish an international framework for criminalising certain conduct relating to nuclear material and other radioactive substances or devices. The convention lists a series of crimes specifically related to nuclear terrorism, including the performance of an act of terrorism with nuclear materials; planning or threatening to commit such acts; and acting in support of such criminal conduct. The convention encourages international cooperation to prevent such crimes and to investigate, prosecute and extradite persons who commit these crimes. Although Australian legislation already covers the treaty requirements to a significant degree, the treaty's provisions will strengthen our already existing legislation. The issue of international terrorism has, of course, had a high profile over the past decade in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 2001 and the Bali bombing that followed a year later. The possibility of terrorists gaining access to either nuclear weapons or nuclear material is one of grave concern to the international community, and Australia supports all efforts to ensure that this never occurs.

On a related issue, the committee also examined and approved the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for Co-Operation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. The treaty governs cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and is consistent with Australia's other bilateral agreements. I note that this particular report contains a dissenting report from one member of the committee, and I can only express regret that this member did not share his views regarding this agreement with the other members of the committee at an earlier time. The issue of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament has been the subject of intense scrutiny by and great interest to this committee throughout recent years, and that has not changed.

The treaties committee has also approved a series of other agreements, including two air services agreements between Australia and the Czech Republic and Australia and Vietnam, as well as an exchange of notes between the government of the United States of America and the government of Australia concerning space vehicle tracking and communication facilities. This treaty covers the activities of the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, located at Tidbinbilla. This agreement is a tangible expression of international cooperation in space exploration, and Australia will receive practical benefits from the subject arrangement, including overseas training for our personnel and investment in relevant Australian facilities. This exchange of notes will continue a productive and successful relationship that has lasted for more than 50 years, and the committee recommends that binding treaty action be taken. The exploration of space, while led by larger countries such as the United States, is nevertheless a shared global endeavour. It has the capacity to unite humanity in a common purpose and a sense of achievement. Both the scientific information gathered and the technical expertise and innovation involved are inevitably of benefit to people around the world. The committee concludes that this and other treaties covered in report 122 should be supported with binding action.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to my fellow committee members and, as always, the committee secretariat. On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.