Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010; In Committee

12:39 pm

Photo of Scott LudlamScott Ludlam (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I indicate to senators that we are still asking general questions about the bill, as was Senator Xenophon last night. I want to move us through and get to our amendments. We will return to this issue briefly when I move the amendments which will fix this gap in the bill—a gap the parliamentary secretary did not quite concede exists but which I strongly contend does.

I will to move on to the second of the three primary areas of concern I identified last night: the transiting and stockpiling of cluster weapons in Australia. We are not concerned about that being done by Australians—because, as we have established, Australia want nothing to do with these things, and that is a sound principle—but by an ally. This conversation is not academic, it is not abstract and it is not hypothetical. We have invited, we discovered last November, the United States Marine Corps to establish a presence in the north. I have also had it confirmed—I think, at the last estimates hearings—that the United States Air Force has been invited to establish a presence at Tindal. There are obviously ongoing discussions occurring which we are not party to—no-one in the Australian public is—concerning the US naval presence in Cockburn Sound in the south-west of WA and Queensland residents will also be aware that there are discussions occurring about US military presence at Australian facilities.

I do not want to get caught up in a debate about what is and what is not a base. It is quite clear that the US presence in Australia, as it is ramped up, will be flying under an Australian flag. That is something the Australian government has decided is important for the optics of the arrangements, I suspect. Nonetheless, the US military will be stationed here in various forms. They will be parking materiel and equipment here. So it is not good enough that the bill, as it is drafted, exempts the military personnel of states which are not party to the convention from its prohibitions while they are on Australian territory.

We can go, if the parliamentary secretary chooses, to the operative part of the bill. It allows states which are not party to the convention, but which are engaged in military cooperation with the ADF, to stockpile cluster munitions in bases, aircraft and ships in Australia. Let us start there. Parliamentary Secretary, you can either treat Darwin as a case study or you can keep your answer in the abstract if you prefer, but I want to know how this bill is going to operate. Will it be unlawful for the US to stockpile cluster weapons in transit from place to place on Australian soil?


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