Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


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

1:47 pm

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

I suspect that this will be among the least controversial of the amendments that the Greens have proposed to this bill and it is also one with which I have the least issue. This is simply a technical amendment. The Greens amendment here is section 2239 of the bill which is about the acquisition and retention was raised by the minister in terms of what stockpiles the ADF can hold. What we are seeking to do is ensure that the minimum number of munitions are held by Australia that is absolutely necessary for training purposes.

The text of the bill currently reads that the minister may authorise in writing specified members of the ADF or other specified Commonwealth public officials to acquire or retain cluster munitions for one or more of the following purposes. The Greens amendment simply adds the words 'minimum number' and 'absolutely necessary'. So I will make very clear at this point that this part of the bill proposes that we could acquire cluster munitions that have the Greens support. I have seen at our Minhad air base in the UAE, with ADF personnel showing a visiting party of rather naive MPs from the other side of the world exactly what this could do to people, how it sounds when they go off, how they are incorporated into improvised explosive devices and how we can protect the local population and of course our own troops in the field from these horrific weapons, so I can understand the requirement for training purposes. We are not proposing to modify the list of reasons we might retain the things. We recognise that they are not for deployment and that that is not the intention of this part of the bill.

Nonetheless I think these amendments still have merit. The words 'minimum number' and 'absolutely necessary' provide very clear and explicit guidelines. We are not going to propose buying crate loads of these materials. We are holding onto, as I think the minister expressed in the debate last night, a handful of legacy weapons, many left over from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and a handful of newer weapons simply to familiarise our forces going into Afghanistan or elsewhere with what these weapons can do and what they look like.

I commend this amendment to the Senate on the understanding that we are not seeking here to modify the basic premise of this part of the bill but simply to provide a hard and fast cap to reduce any residual ambiguity that this is for anything other than training purposes.

I move amendment (3):

(3)   Schedule 1, item 1, page 4 (lines 18 and 19), omit "to acquire or retain specified cluster munitions", substitute "to acquire or retain the minimum number of cluster munitions absolutely necessary".


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