Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


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

12:35 pm

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

I thank the minister—he has left himself some wriggle room in case figures come back that are different. The other question of great consequence that I put to him last night was whether I am correct in assuming that the Royal Australian Air Force flew close support for the US units that were using those weapons on the way into Baghdad. I listed a number of cities and towns along the way. I believe that is of central importance in this debate.

For senators who were not present and for those in the gallery who might be listening, this debate went quite late last night. If we asked 100 Australians randomly in the street whether we should support the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 100 people would come back and say of course we should. We heard unanimous support from government and coalition senators last night, saying it is timely that we sign onto this instrument.

Unless the minister can persuade me otherwise, I believe that under the convention as it is sought to be embedded in domestic law and as currently drafted Australian military units could directly support, for the sake of argument as it appears to have happened before, US military units firing cluster weapons into areas indiscriminately, leaving these things littering the landscape. It would not be prevented by the drafting of the bill before us. We had a lot of debate about this last night, and I sought to have some matters taken on notice to see if they could be clarified.

The central fact of the matter is that there is nothing in the drafting of this bill that would prevent exactly that situation from occurring again—not in Iraq, obviously, but in any other battlefield that we find ourselves co-deployed with US military units. We could be directly planning and supporting missions in which cluster weapons are used, which would violate not just the spirit but also the letter of the convention. If it turns out I am wrong, I will sit down and we can close out this debate and get on with it—but the drafting of the bill as it is presently formulated would allow precisely those things to occur.


No comments