Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017


Joint Standing Committee on Treaties; Report

7:11 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I present the 171st report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on international trade in endangered species, women in combat duties and generation IV nuclear energy. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate the tabling statement into Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

Report 171: International Trade in Endangered Species – Amendments; Women in Combat Duties – Reservation Withdrawal; Generation IV Nuclear Energy - Accession

Mr President, today I rise to make a statement concerning the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' Report 171 which contains the Committee's review of three separate treaty actions:

        Mr President, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is a multilateral convention which regulates the international trade in endangered species. Endangered species are listed in three appendices to the Convention according to the need for protection.

        In 2016, the 17th Conference of the Parties agreed to 51 listing proposals, of which only 11 species are relevant to Australia. These include six terrestrial species and five marine species.

        The amendments appear to receive broad support within industry and the community.

        The majority of the amendments automatically entered into force 90 days following the Conference of the Parties, on 2 January 2017. The amendments therefore became binding on Australia prior to their presentation into the Parliament and before the Committee was able to conduct its review of the proposed amendments.

        The Committee reiterates previous concerns about the timeframes for the Committee's consideration of CITES amendments. We cannot perform a proper oversight role if treaties come into force before being tabled in the Parliament.

        On previous occasions the Committee has been notified of amendment proposals prior to the Conference of the Parties. This lessens the risk associated with the automatic entry into force clause of the Agreement.

        In this report, the Committee asks the Department to notify it of future proposed amendments prior to the Conference of the Parties.

        If the Department is unable to do this, the Committee recommends that the Government lodge reservations to amendments adopted at future Conferences of the Parties so that the parliamentary review of such treaty actions can be conducted before Australia is legally bound.

        The report notes that this is the approach of other parliamentary democracies, including Canada.

        Mr President, the Committee's report also considers the withdrawal of Australia's reservation to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

        In 1983, Australia became a signatory to the Convention with two reservations. The first reservation relates to maternity leave. The second reservation relates to women in combat roles and is the subject of the proposed treaty action.

        In 2011, the then Government removed restrictions on women serving in combat roles within the Australian Defence Force. The reservation to the Convention is therefore inconsistent with current policy and is unnecessary.

        The Committee strongly supports the commitment of successive governments to gender equality.

        The Committee heard evidence about the current steps the ADF is taking to recruit and retain women; including the introduction of more flexibility during each period of a working life. However there is still a significant road ahead before gender balance is achieved. The ADF must make the most of the many talented women currently serving in the ADF and those who may join in the future. While not every woman will be capable of serving in combat roles, neither is every man. Access to such roles should be based on merit and ability, not gender.

        Therefore, the Committee strongly supports the proposed treaty action to withdraw the reservation with respect to women serving in combat roles and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

        Lastly Mr President, the Committee's report considers Australia's accession to the Framework Agreement for International Collaboration on Research and Development of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems.

        The Framework Agreement establishes the basis for international cooperation to develop generation IV nuclear reactors. These reactors will use fuel more efficiently, reduce waste production, be economically competitive, and meet stringent safety standards.

        Australia possesses a technological lead in the development of materials that are expected to be used in generation IV reactors. The Framework Agreement appears to offer significant opportunities for Australian research and technology for many years into the future.

        On that basis, the Committee supports Australia's accession to the Framework Agreement and recommends that binding treaty action be taken.

        Mr President, on behalf of the Committee, I commend the report to the Senate.

        Question agreed to.