Monday, 11 September 2023
International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2023; Second Reading
I present the explanatory memorandum to this bill and move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to introduce the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2023.
The bill will closely align Australia's domestic legislation with our international obligations, increase flexibility in the granting of privileges and immunities, and assist in deepening Australia's defence, science and other strategic relationships.
The purpose of the bill is to improve the functionality of the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act and the administration of privileges and immunities in Australia.
Since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, international organisations have become an integral part of the multilateral system. International organisations carry out critical work in humanitarian, scientific and other fields to promote international cooperation and collaboration.
It has long been recognised that international organisations are entitled under international law to those privileges and immunities necessary to ensure their independent and effective functioning.
Like diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities, these privileges and immunities serve to protect the organisation, its mission and its officials from unreasonable and inappropriate interference across the globe.
Australia passed the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act in 1963. The act sets out which international organisations, overseas organisations and international conferences are able to be granted privileges and immunities, as well as specifying which privileges and immunities can be granted.
The amendments contained in the bill enhance Australia's ability to confer privileges and immunities in accordance with its international obligations and in the national interest.
First, they enable Australia to declare an organisation to be an international organisation under the act, even if Australia is not a member of that organisation.
This will increase the opportunities available to Australia to cooperate with such organisations—for example, by encouraging visits and promoting the exchange of information, knowledge and ideas.
It will also assist Australia to give effect to the privileges and immunities agreed to under treaties, such as those contained in the framework agreement between Australia and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation, as a European intergovernmental organisation.
Second, these amendments enable Australia to accord the existing range of privileges and immunities under the act to categories of officials not prescribed in the act where requested by an international organisation and agreed to by Australia.
It also provides more flexibility in which privileges and immunities may be accorded to international organisations and their officials.
Finally, the bill includes technical edits to the schedules to the act to more closely align the schedules with the relevant treaty obligations.
This is a minor amendment and does not represent a shift in government policy or the operation of the act.
This bill reflects the commitment of this government to multilateralism, upholding Australia's international law obligations and promoting international cooperation by improving the functionality of the act and implementation of privileges and immunities in Australia.
It is the Australian government's objective to actively and constructively participate in the multilateral system, supporting its institutions and recognising the benefits they bring to Australia, the region and the world.
I commend the bill to the chamber.