Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


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

1:28 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | Hansard source

No, I am afraid, Senator, the government does not support the proposed amendment. The government repeats its view that this bill gives full effect to the convention—the convention that represents the agreement of the international community on prohibiting cluster munitions. We understand that the proposed amendment would make it an offence for a company to invest in any company that develops or produces cluster munitions, regardless of the investor's knowledge or intent in making that investment, and regardless of whether the invested funds actually assist in the development or production of cluster munitions.

It is the government's view that such an amendment is inconsistent with the convention and inconsistent with the primary purpose of this bill, which of course is to give effect to the convention. The bill uses the same language as the convention to ensure that all conduct that is prohibited by the convention is the subject of a criminal offence under Australian law. The convention does not prohibit all forms of investment in companies that develop or produce cluster munitions. Rather, the convention prohibits the provision of assistance, encouragement or inducement in the development or production of cluster munitions. Some acts of investment would fall within the scope of the convention's prohibition on assistance where the investment in fact assess the development or production of cluster munitions, but any acts of investment that are prohibited by the convention will fall within the scope of the offences in the bill.

The proposed amendment may have potentially wide-ranging effects. Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 85 companies produce cluster munitions or their key components, and many of these companies of course produce other non-prohibited products. Financial institutions that provide credit for loan facilities to these companies would be in breach of the proposed amendment, and we say that is unworkable and that it goes beyond the scope of the convention itself.


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