Australian Year Book of International Law
On 24 June 1998, Senator Robert Hill made the following comments in the course of the passage of a motion in the Senate concerning East Timor (Senate, Debates, 24 June 1998, p 3974):
…the Australian government has long advocated that the Indonesian government should grant increased autonomy to the East Timorese and reduce the military presence in the province. We remain committed to that goal. We have not sought to dictate to the Indonesian government which individual prisoners should be released and on what terms and conditions. We believe that that is something for the new presidency in Indonesia to wrestle with. We have set the spirit within which we would hope that they would act, which is, as I have said, that all political prisoners be released as soon as possible. We have also not gone as far as what this motion says in relation to self-determination; our position, which was the position of the previous Labor government in this country, remains that we would wish to see increased autonomy in East Timor and a reduction of the military presence.
On 19 August 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning East Timor in the course of a speech to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consultations with human rights non-governmental organisations:
…Let me also say a few words about our position on the future of East Timor — an issue on which there has been significant movement in recent months. Ultimately, Australia strongly supports any process that would provide the East Timorese people with a significantly greater say in the running of their own affairs and would accept whatever settlement the participants in this issue negotiate.
We want reconciliation among all East Timorese and between the East Timorese people and the government in Jakarta. Any process which does not allow for this will not result in a fair and lasting solution to this issue.
The Australian Government is currently canvassing the views of as many important players in the East Timor issue as possible in Australia, East Timor, Jakarta and elsewhere to establish for ourselves the starting points in any possible negotiated solution. We strongly support a process of dialogue and, as part of that, we talk with a wide range of participants from all sides in the debate. This has been a long-standing practice. We don’t limit ourselves. The opposite is actually correct. We are seeking as wide a range of views as possible and firmly believe that the East Timorese people themselves must be involved in the issue’s resolution.
On 8 July 1998, in the Senate, the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Robert Hill, answered a question without notice from Senator Vicki Bourne. Extracts of the answer follow (Senate, Debates, 8 July 1998, p 5241):
…we believe Irian Jaya to be part of Indonesia. We are certainly not going to go out and promote an independent stand. Not only is it not our business, but it will lead to internal instability and more violence of the type that Senator Bourne is seeking to avoid. If there are political differences as to the future of Indonesia and the component parts of the state of Indonesia, we want to see those resolved peacefully from within. Our emphasis should be on encouraging that peaceful dialogue and the settling of political problems in a way that is more akin to that accepted in democratic nations such as ours.
On 1 December 1998, Senator Robert Hill, Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, was asked a question on notice by Senator John Woodley concerning Aboriginal reconciliation. An extract from the question and answer regarding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples follows (Senate, Debates, 1 December 1998, p 957):
…Are officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs lobbying to remove the clause on self determination from the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Has there been a formal cabinet resolution to withdraw Australia's commitment to self determination for Aboriginal Australians, and won't this undermine the Prime Minister's stated commitment to reconciliation just a few days ago?Senator Hill—
…I have some information on the specific issue that was raised in relation to the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in particular the article on self determination. My advice is that Australia is not seeking to have the article deleted from the draft declaration. What we are seeking is more appropriate language.
…I am told that the meaning of several references to self determination and its application to indigenous people in the draft is far from clear to most governments in the working group, including Australia. Part of the purpose of participating in the working group is obviously to understand and influence debate on this particular issue. The government believes that alternative language such as 'self management' or 'self empowerment' would better reflect Australia's national interest and circumstance and would be more useful than the existing language in advancing the debate.
…there has been a long development of the concept of self determination in international law. There is considerable jurisprudence on the issue. It is because of that that it is the view of this Government that language such as 'self management' and 'self empowerment' in relation to indigenous affairs in this country would be more appropriate expressions. It would more appropriately express the rights that are seeking to be confirmed by the declaration. It is in fact as a result of the development of that meaning, the complexity of that meaning, that we have chosen to move in this particular direction.
On 14 May 1998, in the House of Representatives, Mr Alexander Downer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, gave the following response to a question on notice from Mr Anthony Albanese (House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1998, p 3506):
Mr Albanese asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 March 1998:
(1) What is Australia’s position on the (a) existence and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967 and (b) consistency of Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories with the letter and spirit of the Oslo Agreements, the Hebron Protocol and all relevant UN resolutions.
(2) Is he able to say whether Australian citizens, organisations or companies provide funding to support activities in the occupied territories which threaten to impede further progress in the Middle East peace process; if so, what is the Government’s position.
(3) What are Australia’s responsibilities and obligations to prevent financial assistance being provided by Australian citizens, organisations or companies to support Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories.
(4) What action has the Government taken on the matter.
(5) Is he able to say whether the use of tax-exempt funds from Australia to assist Israeli institutions or settler groups in the occupied territories is prohibited under Australian law.
(6) Do his Department, the Australian Taxation Office or other Government bodies monitor the sending of tax-exempt funds from Australia to support groups or institutions whose presence or activities in a particular region are contrary to international law or UN resolutions; if so, by what mechanism.
(7) Is he able to say what sums are being sent from Australia to support political organisations based in the occupied territories and to which organisations they are being sent.Mr Downer—The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: 1(a) Australia considers Israeli settlement activity in those territories occupied by Israel in 1967 to be harmful to the peace process.
1(b) The Interim Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority requires that neither side change the status of the West Bank and Gaza pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations. While noting that fact, the Government does not consider it appropriate or productive for Australia to interfere in an ongoing process of negotiation on issues of great difficulty, sensitivity and complexity which only the parties themselves can resolve through renewed dialogue.
2. The Government is aware of reports that there may be private Australian involvement in providing funding settlement activity in the Occupied Territories. The Government has repeatedly urged all parties to the Middle East dispute to avoid and prevent actions which may lead to a heightening of tensions in the region.
3. Under Australian law it is not illegal for Australian citizens to make donations to political or religious causes in Israel.
4. The Government has not sought and will not seek to restrict private citizens from using private funds as they wish, so long as the activity remains legal.
5. Such activity is not prohibited under Australian law.
6. No. The Government has no interest in monitoring private funding activities which are not illegal under Australian law.
On 26 May 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, answered a question on notice from Mr Robert McClelland in the House of Representatives. The text of the question and answer follow (House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1998, p 2610):
Mr McClelland asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 March 1998:
Is the Minister able to say which (a) countries and (b) international organisations recognise Taiwan as the Republic of China.
The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:
With regard to (a), as of 1 May 1998, Taiwan had diplomatic relations with 27 countries. At that date, all 27 countries listed below recognised Taiwan as the "Republic of China": Republic of Malawi; Kingdom of Swaziland; Republic of Senegal; Burkina Faso; The Republic of Gambia; The Republic of Liberia; Sao Tome and Principe; The Republic of Chad; The Holy See; Belize; The Republic of Costa Rica; The Republic of El Salvador; The Republic of Guatemala; The Republic of Honduras; The Republic of Nicaragua; The Republic of Panama; The Republic of Paraguay; Dominican Republic; Commonwealth of Dominica; Grenada; Republic of Haiti; Saint Christopher Nevis; St. Vincent and the Grenadines; The Republic of Nauru; Kingdom of Tonga; Tuvalu; Solomon Islands.
With regard to (b), since 1971, when the People's Republic of China (PRC) joined the United Nations, Taiwan has not had membership of any UN bodies under any name.
According to Appendix 3-Table 3 of the 1997 98 Yearbook of International Organisations, Vol 2, Taiwan was in 1997 a member of 908 non governmental international organisations and 11 intergovernmental.
The yearbook identified those latter organisations as: Afro Asian Rural Reconstruction Organisation; Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC); Asian Productivity Organisation; International Cotton Advisory Committee; International Institute of Refrigeration; International Office of Epizootics; International Seeds Testing Association (*status pending); International Sericultural Commission; Pacific Basin Economic Council; Southern Africa Regional Tourism Council; World Trade Organisation (*application pending).
Taiwan now participates in intergovernmental and non governmental international organisations under several different names. These include "Taiwan", "Taiwan, China", "Taiwan China", "Taiwan (China)", and "Taiwan, Republic of China". Taiwan participates in APEC and the Olympic Games under the name "Chinese Taipei". Taiwan has applied for WTO membership under the name, "Customs Territory of Taiwan, P'enghu, Kinmen, and Matsu". In addition, Taiwan participates in some international conferences and meetings as "China (Taipei)", "China Taipei" or "Taipei, China".
On 3 December 1998, in the House of Representatives, Mr Warren Entsch made the following comments in the course of the second reading speech for the Space Activities Bill 1998 (House of Representatives, Debates, 3 December 1998, p 1395):
This bill represents the first time an Australian government has sought to set out the legislative framework necessary to facilitate commercial space launches from Australia.
Since the mid 1980s a range of commercial space launch projects have been proposed for Australia. A clear legislative and regulatory framework is essential for any of these projects to proceed.
Potential investors in such projects need to know what government requirements commercial space launch projects in Australia would need to meet.
With the start of work on the Kistler spaceport project in South Australia, Australia’s entry into the commercial space launch market is no longer hypothetical. The need to legislate for a regulatory regime is pressing.
In the absence of a legislative regime, the government has entered into an agreement with Kistler detailing the regulatory requirements the project will need to address.
This agreement will be preserved under the proposed legislation. While the terms of that agreement are confidential, we have sought in this bill to achieve a regulatory regime largely consistent with that applied to Kistler.
In addition, key aspects of the legislation, for example those applying to penalty provisions, accident investigation and appeal rights, will also apply to Kistler. This is another reason why passage of the legislation is pressing.
The bill will also give effect to our obligations under a range of international treaties.International space law is governed by five treaties to which Australia is a signatory. These are set out in the schedules to the bill. These require Australia to monitor and regulate space activities on its territory or under its control, and to register with the United Nations any space objects for which Australia is a launching state. They also place responsibility on Australia for any loss or damage caused outside of Australia by objects launched from Australian territory. Australia can also be liable in instances where Australians procure a launch from territory outside of Australia. This liability is shouldered by the Commonwealth of Australia regardless of who has actually launched the space object and the liability for damage on earth, or in the air, is strict. For example, fault does not have to be shown. This bill sets out processes for managing our responsibilities under these treaties and a regime to protect the Commonwealth's interests in the area of liability. Under the bill a space licence is required to operate a specified launch vehicle from a specified launch facility. In addition, each launch must be covered by a launch permit. The legislation is designed to operate in tandem with other relevant Commonwealth legislation such as that requiring environmental approval for relevant projects. Importantly from an industry standpoint, the bill specifies the third party insurance requirement and limits that will apply. It requires space launch operators to take out third party insurance cover based on an estimate of maximum probable damage as a result of any launch failure. This protects the interests of the Commonwealth and the public and ensures that the key financial risks associated with such activities are carried by the launch operators. The bill also requires that Australians procuring the launch of a space object-most commonly a satellite-from overseas obtain an overseas launch certificate. This gives the government the ability to manage any financial risk to the Commonwealth that may arise from such launches. While such certificates will be mandatory to authorise an overseas launch, the minister would point out that the minister does have the power under clause 35 to waive insurance requirements where that may be appropriate. The bill provides for the establishment of a register of space objects in line with our international registration responsibilities. It also sets out the powers and functions of the launch safety officer who would be required for each launch facility. The legislative framework will be implemented by a Space Licensing and Safety Office. The 1998 99 budget provided for an outlay of $1.3 million for the establishment of this office. Once it is operational, the ongoing cost of the office is intended to be met by space licence and launch permit fees. For example, it is intended to be operated on a full cost recovery basis. In many ways this is new and groundbreaking legislation. It has been formulated after careful examination of overseas models, particularly the framework operating in the United States. It represents, however, a unique model adapted to Australia's needs and circumstances. It has been put together on the basis of consultation with industry and I would like to thank the Australian Space Industry Chamber of Commerce for the constructive role it has played in this process. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.
On 26 May 1998, in the Senate, Senator Grant Tambling provided the Government response to the Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties concerning international agreements on tuna. An extract concerning the Exclusive Economic Zone follows (Senate, Debates, 26 May 1998, p 3107):
…The issue of foreign ownership is a matter of broad government policy and may, in specific circumstances be referred to the Foreign Investment Review Board. All proposals above certain thresholds need prior approval and therefore need to be notified to the government. Notification thresholds are: over $5 million for acquisitions of substantial interests in existing businesses; $10 million or more for the establishment of new businesses; and $20 million or more for offshore take-overs. The government normally raises no objections to proposals above the notification thresholds where the relevant total assets/total investments is below $50 million.
However, in this instance the Commonwealth Government has reviewed the existing arrangements for foreign ownership or joint venture arrangements within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and considers that they do not provide for any arrangements which may jeopardise the potential to manage fish stocks in the EEZ.
There is no provision in fisheries legislation providing specific control on foreign ownership of fishing rights. All tuna longline operations within the EEZ are subject to management arrangements administered by AFMA [Australian Fisheries Management Authority] in accordance with the Fisheries Management Act 1991. Domestic longline arrangements apply to Australian boats, and these are developed by AFMA in conjunction with the appropriate fisheries Management Advisory Committee (MAC). This means that operators, including foreigners, who may own Australian boats and licences are subject to the same management arrangements.
Japanese vessels are the only foreign flag operators which have been permitted in recent years to longline for tuna in the EEZ either under a government to government agreement (Bilateral Agreement) or through the joint venture (which requires an agreement with the Commonwealth, through AFMA).
Both the Bilateral and joint venture agreements specify stringent terms and conditions under which Japanese longline vessels can operate. The terms and conditions are more restrictive than those applying to domestic operators. All foreign operators are licensed and are subject to conditions such as inspections, observer coverage, vessel monitoring systems and are generally restricted to waters where there is limited domestic activity.
The government believes the arrangements outlined above support and strengthen AFMA’s ability to sustainably manage Australia’s fish stocks.
On 8 July 1998, in the Senate, the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Warwick Parer, made the following comment in the course of reply to a question without notice from Senator Shayne Murphy (Senate, Debates, 8 July 1998, p 5229):
…the government is totally committed to protecting our fisheries resources through the EEZ, including the subantarctic.
On 26 May 1998, Senator Grant Tambling provided the Government response to the Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, concerning international agreements on tuna, to the Senate. Extracts follow (Senate, Debates, 26 May 1998, p 3107):
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government, in consultation with the relevant States, ensures that restrictions placed on either Bilateral vessels or Joint Venture vessels cannot be circumvented by interchange between such arrangementsResponse
Under the Bilateral Agreement restrictions are placed on the number of vessels that can operate off the west and east coasts of Australia. For example, in the 1996 Bilateral Agreement up to 20 Japanese longline vessels were permitted to operate north of 34o south off the West Coast. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) ensures that this number is not exceeded.
When the joint venture commenced in 1991, joint venture vessels were permitted to operate north of 34o South (S) off the West Coast. This was additional to the 40 bilateral vessels which, at that time, were permitted to operate under the Bilateral Agreement. This was raised as a concern, particularly by the Western Australian fishing sector, as potentially all licensed joint venture vessels and the 40 bilateral longline vessels could have operated off the West Coast.
To address this, from November 1994 joint venture vessels were excluded from operations north of 34o S off the west coast. This restriction will remain if a Southern Bluefin Tuna joint venture proceeds in future.
AFMA has indicated that it has no difficulty in providing scope for any future joint venture vessels to change to a bilateral licence provided the vessel cap negotiated as part of the Bilateral Agreement is not exceeded. This has been the situation since the joint venture was amended in November 1994.Recommendation 3
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the subsidiary agreement on long-line tuna fishing with Japan be for a timeframe of at least two years.Response
The Commonwealth Government agrees that there would be benefits in moving towards a longer term agreement, including administrative savings, a better planning environment and a more appropriate timeframe within which to address complex issues. However, the government believes that important external issues such as the setting of annual national catch allocations by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), domestic management arrangements, environmental perturbations and economic changes may erode the extent of such benefits. These issues are dynamic and a flexible approach is required in order that the government is able to respond in a timely manner to the needs of the fishery and to secure the best benefits for Australia (external issues such as those mentioned above may lead to considerable pressure for an annual review of the terms of any multi year agreement, from either Australian or Japanese interests, depending on the circumstances).
In giving in principle support to multi-year agreements, it will be important to develop a clear framework and schedule to deal with these pressures, including an elaboration of the mechanisms provided for in the current negotiation process, or there may be frequent ad hoc demands to implement mid-term changes to the Agreement. Should any changes to the Agreement be negotiated during a mid-term review process, these changes would be subject to the treaties procedure and be tabled in Parliament. It will be in Australia’s interest to minimise the potential for mid-term changes to the Agreement, otherwise it will be unlikely that there would result any decrease in the workload incurred or in the frequency with which matters relating to the Agreement would need to be subject to scrutiny.
The Commonwealth agrees that a properly constructed multi-year agreement, which takes into account fisheries management needs and recognises that it is essentially a negotiated commercial arrangement, would be beneficial.
This is particularly the case if multiple year quotas can be agreed in the CCSBT, which would strengthen the case for a multiple year Bilateral Agreement. However, the Commonwealth Government notes that the adoption of such an approach would need whole of government support, including a revision of the way fishing and port access are dealt with, and may also necessitate consideration of alterations to the fee structure and access arrangements.TASMANIAN WATERS
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government undertakes discussions with the Government of Japan to resolve the communication difficulties between the two fleets.Response
The communication difficulties that the Committee has identified arise principally where the domestic and foreign operators are seeking to fish in the same waters and the differing fishing techniques of both cause fishing gear interaction, a situation that arises periodically as the domestic fishery expands its areas of fishing.
Conflict of fishing gear belonging to different vessels fishing in the same area can result in losses in effective fishing time and damage to and losses of gear. Where possible AFMA attempts to facilitate communication between fishermen to minimise these incidents … The number of Japanese longliners operating off Tasmania is now markedly reduced and the incidence of gear conflict has been negligible.
In the period of the last Agreement (1996) there was only one reported instance of gear conflict which was off the NSW coast. In response to this report AFMA immediately notified the Japanese industry indicating that it should maintain a radio watch and communicate with domestic operators to resolve issues. The observers present on the boats operating in the area were advised to facilitate any dialogue. Even though it was only one isolated instance the issue was subsequently raised at the negotiations with the government of Japan when reporting on compliance in the past season. If there was a failure to co-operate, the area of access may be changed, excluding foreign vessels from the areas where gear conflict occurs.
Japan has complained of alleged gear theft in the East Coast fishery, presumably by domestic fishers. AFMA has again attempted to facilitate communications with the Japanese fleet to ensure subsequent investigations are timely and effective, though to date there has been insufficient evidence on which to base conclusive investigations of the allegations.Recommendation 8
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government creates, as a matter of national consistency, an exclusion zone for the Bilateral and Joint Venture Japanese long-line fishing vessels around Tasmania of 50 nautical miles.Response
The government supports the progressive Australianisation of tuna fisheries, however, it believes that an exclusion to 50 nautical miles (nm) around Tasmania at this time would be premature, especially given current reduced levels of Japanese activity.
…Japan has stated previously it cannot accept a 50 nm exclusion adjacent to Tasmania since some high catch rate areas for SBT which attract its vessels to the AFZ are between 20 to 50 nm off Tasmania. A substantial further restriction off Tasmania would jeopardise general bilateral activity and the potential for a future joint venture adjacent to Tasmania, because it is likely that Japanese vessels would choose not to fish the Tasmanian area at all if the 50 nm limit were applied.
The Commonwealth received $425,000 from Japan in 1997 as a component of the bilateral access fee for enabling a specified number of its vessels to fish for Japanese SBT quota in the AFZ adjacent to Tasmania. In negotiating the 1997 bilateral access arrangements the Commonwealth’s approach was, cognisant of the Inquiry’s recommendation, to increase the exclusion zone from 12 to 17 nm from the coast. There are important other benefits associated with Japanese access off Tasmania, including data collection on both SBT and seabirds through the AFZ observer programme. The Commonwealth regards this information as vital to its management of SBT and obtaining information on the incidental capture of seabirds including albatross. It also maintains an important link with the high seas activities of the Japanese fleet.
Japanese activity peaks adjacent to Tasmania during May to July. In 1996 only 10 Japanese boats operated in the area. This is substantially less than previous years due to the cessation of the joint venture and is likely to decrease further in 1997. During the May to July period a maximum of six domestic boats operated in any one month. With such small numbers of vessels the potential for gear conflict appears slight.
On balance, the government believes its approach in reducing Japanese access from 12 nm to outside 17 nm is appropriate, given the benefits Australia derives from this arrangement, but that this be regularly reviewed in light of the level of Australian activity in waters adjacent to Tasmania.Recommendation 12
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government undertakes a review of the existing tuna fishing technology to determine if modifications could be made to reduce the bycatch of non-target species.Response
The minimisation of the impact of fishing operations on the environment, including non-target species, is a requirement under Objective 3(1)(b) of the Fisheries Management Act 1991.
From industry’s viewpoint, there is a financial interest in maximising the catch of high value target species and avoiding bycatch of non commercial species. A range of collaborative work with industry has been carried out and is planned for the future, including research into fishing practices, development of more selective fishing gear and improved mitigation devices. Environment Australia is also preparing a consultative Threat Abatement Plan which aims to minimise seabird bycatch.
Research into the reduction of seabird bycatch in tuna longline operations is on-going. The development of tori poles, or bird scaring devices, is a major step forward and an example of what can be developed through co-operative research involving industry operators. Regulations have been put in place to require the use of tori poles by domestic and foreign longline operators south of 30o South latitude. Furthermore the Commonwealth continues to work with industry and researchers on ways to improve bycatch mitigation measures, whether for seabirds or other incidental bycatch.
In the case of billfish, specifically blue and black marlin, research is under way to determine where in the longline hauling process these species are taken. Preliminary research indicates that blue and black marlin are taken at a shallower depth than the target tuna species (generally Bigeye and Yellowfin Tuna), ie. during the deployment or hauling of the longline.
However, to accurately determine longline performance sophisticated electronic equipment (such as hook monitors which measure depth and water temperature) and longline deployment gear (line shooters) are required. The former is not yet commercially available and the latter is quite costly and generally only carried by large vessels dedicated exclusively to tuna fishing. It is anticipated that as the domestic fishery continues to expand, the technology employed by industry to accurately position their longline in the thermocline will be refined and result in cleaner catches of target species.PORT ACCESS
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends the separation of port access from the subsidiary agreement but making port access subject to the continuation of Japan’s membership of the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna and participation in Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.Response
The Commonwealth is supportive of a reconsideration of the structure for the Bilateral Agreement, including the option of separating port and fishing access, but in doing so recognises the need to fully assess the implications of any changes proposed.
In developing any alternative arrangement careful consideration needs to be given to ways of securing the management and research funding derived from the current arrangements, as well as the important issues of the longer term financial and other benefits gained by providing Japan with privileged access to our fishing zone. The provision of port access, without effective means to secure Japan’s collaboration in effective international monitoring regimes, could work quickly to erode the integrity of the CCSBT and put the full range of benefits we seek to secure for our domestic industry (both fishing and port servicing sectors) at considerable risk.
The Committee’s recommendation recognises the risks that giving unfettered port access to Japanese fishing vessels may lead to adverse impacts on the sustainability of the fish stocks if these vessels fish on the high seas without effective management and regulation. The recent identification of forty Japanese vessels fishing in breach of Japan’s domestic fisheries management regulations on the high seas off the south western AFZ has highlighted the realities of this risk.
To address the risk, the Committee has suggested that any separate port access arrangement must be linked to responsible participation in regional management regimes, such as the CCSBT. The Commonwealth strongly supports this approach, but believes it should go further and deal with a range of related issues not directly addressed in the Committee’s report. These include implications for access fees, the incentive to fish in the AFZ, links with the CCSBT and the potential impacts on local fishing and port economies around Australia.
Notwithstanding these issues, as Australia’s domestic tuna fisheries expand, a reduction in Japanese fishing activity in the AFZ is considered likely in the mid to longer term. Under such a scenario, a progressive restructuring of the access arrangement to provide a greater separation of fishing and port access, with strong obligations imposed for co-operation on data and monitoring needs, may suit both countries in the medium term.
Based on the Committee’s recommendation and the additional issues identified above, the government is at present evaluating alternate approaches to providing for both fishing and port access in an administratively simple and effective way while securing the wider range of benefits and realistic returns to Australia.
Any approach must seek to meet Australia’s interests in securing effective co-operation and compliance with responsible regional fisheries management regimes. Matters of importance include the implications for access fees, need to provide for effective monitoring of fishing effort adjacent to the AFZ through surveillance and electronic vessel monitoring systems, high seas observer coverage and in port inspection of fishing vessels entering our ports.
On 22 January 1998, the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Warwick Parer, issued a press release concerning negotiations between Australia, Japan and New Zealand to determine quotas for Southern Bluefin Tuna:
The negotiations between Australia, Japan, and New Zealand on Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) have adjourned, without setting a quota for 1998.
The three countries are the founding members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), an international organisation that sets a total allowable catch and national allocations for its member countries. In 1997, the total allowable catch of SBT was 11,750 tonnes. 5,265 tonnes were allocated to Australia, 6,065 tonnes to Japan, and 420 tonnes to New Zealand.
The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer, said: "Japan has refused to agree to quotas at a responsible level, and has announced that it may introduce an experimental fishing program above and beyond last year's catch limit."Japan's position is completely unacceptable to Australia. Accordingly, we will not allow Japanese fishing vessels to operate in our exclusive economic zone until the Commission has set responsible quotas. "The SBT stock is severely depleted, and our fisheries scientists have grave concerns about its future, unless global catches are brought under control. "Japan's proposed experimental fishing program is nothing more than a pretext for increasing its catch. It will do little to assist the Commission's scientific work, and poses a threat to the recovery of the stock. It is as spurious as scientific whaling." Senator Parer said that Japan had not walked out of the Commission, and that he still hoped the disagreement could be resolved. He said: "The Commission is our best chance of securing a sustainable Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery. Australia, Japan, and New Zealand have all made sacrifices over the years to reduce the catch to its present level. It would be a tragedy if Japan prejudiced those conservation efforts now. "The CCSBT is the international organisation that has the strongest capacity to manage the Southern Bluefin Tuna fishery. As the world's leading SBT fishing nations, the members of the Commission have the responsibility to lead the way by adopting prudent management measures. "The Australian Government will not be in a position to renew the Australia Japan bilateral fishing agreement until the CCSBT has set responsible quotas." Australia and Japan have negotiated annual fishing agreements since 1975. The last agreement, which expired in October 1997, allowed Japanese tuna longliners to operate in our waters under strict management controls, in return for an access fee of $3.4 million. Senator Parer said: "Australia will constrain our catch of SBT within our 1997 national allocation (5,265 tonnes) until the Commission has set new quotas. I understand that New Zealand has adopted a similar policy." "I am pleased that the Commission has adopted an Australian proposal for a peer review of its scientific stock assessment process, which will help strengthen the scientific underpinning of management decisions." Southern Bluefin Tuna is a highly migratory fish that spawns in the Indian Ocean. The Australia SBT industry is valued at about $100 million per year.
On 26 May 1998, Senator Grant Tambling introduced the Government response to the Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties to the Senate. An extract from the response concerning Southern Bluefin Tuna follows (Senate, Debates, 26 May 1998, p 3107):
Recommendation 4On 27 May 1998, Senator Richard Alston presented to the Senate the Government's response to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties report entitled Amendments to the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals. Extracts of the response concerning Southern Bluefin Tuna follow (Senate, Debates, 27 May 1998, p 3275):
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government raises the issue of the introduction of a certificate system for southern bluefin tuna within the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.Response
Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna
Australia has already sought consideration of a certificate of origin scheme for SBT within the CCSBT regime and within the annual meetings of the tripartite management discussions held prior to the formation of the CCSBT. In 1993, Australia formally proposed a certification system similar to that implemented within the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) to be introduced into the SBT fishery. Japan did not support adoption of such a scheme. After being pressed on the issue again in 1994, Japan opposed any attempt to require documentation of SBT trade. Japanese concern reputedly centres on the administrative burden that such a scheme would impose, a concern that Australia shares.
It should also be noted that a certification scheme, although useful for tracking fish in transit, only achieves its full value if monitored and enforced at the market for the fish. In the case of SBT, the main markets are in Japan. In such a system Japan would carry responsibility for the administration and integrity of the system for imports from all countries. Further, as Japan is not technically importing product from its own vessels' high seas activities, such Japanese catch may fall outside any certification scheme. Also, catches by Korea and Taiwan are increasingly being directed towards their home markets. Within these contexts, Australia will continue to consider ways of introducing a practicable certification scheme.
Indian Ocean Tuna CommissionThe first meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) was held in December 1996. This new organisation has many complex administrative and scientific issues to resolve in developing a strong tuna management regime in the Indian Ocean. Certification schemes are important tools that will need to be examined as part of that management regime. For tunas other than SBT, Australia sees the first step as being the establishment of basic fishery management measures. For SBT, Australia has pressed within the IOTC that the CCSBT has precedence over SBT management wherever the fish occurs. Australia will continue to argue strongly in the IOTC and other relevant forums that a SBT management scheme should be developed and managed within the CCSBT.
The fourth annual meeting of the CCSBT was held in Canberra in September 1997. Among other issues, at that meeting the Australian Government continued to seek expansion of Commission membership to include all nations and entities which take a significant quantity of Southern Bluefin Tuna. While the Commission was unable to reach agreement on a number of important issues and the meeting has not been officially closed, agreement was reached on the need for urgent action to facilitate closer cooperation in the work of the Commission of key nations and entities fishing Southern Bluefin Tuna. Specifically, efforts are to be made to encourage accession to the Convention of the Republic of Korea and Indonesia, and to secure the cooperation of Taiwan with the Commission's conservation and management measures.On 8 July 1998, the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Warwick Parer, issued the following press release concerning Japan's decision to conduct unilateral experimental fishing of Southern Bluefin Tuna:
Australia is extremely disappointed by Japan's decision to conduct a unilateral experimental fishing program [EFP] for Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT), the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer, said today. Senator Parer called in the Japanese Ambassador this morning to reiterate Australia's serious concerns about the program, and to urge Japan to reconsider its decision. Japan has announced that it will start an experimental fishing program for Southern Bluefin Tuna on 10 July. Under the program, 65 vessels will catch up to 1,400 tonnes of SBT above and beyond Japan's 6,065 tonne quota. Senator Parer said: "Japan's decision to go ahead with the experimental fishing program is shortsighted, and will reduce the chance that the SBT stock will recover from its present depleted state". "The experimental fishing program has major flaws relating to its statistical validity, underlying logic, and scientific merit". "Japan is clearly breaching the international Southern Bluefin Tuna Convention. We have repeatedly urged Japan not to proceed with a unilateral EFP, but instead to work together with Australia and New Zealand to narrow our differences over the status of the stock. We are now considering the formal dispute resolution mechanisms that are available to press the matter". "We have already banned Japanese vessels from fishing in the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). We will continue the ban". We have also banned Japanese fishing vessels from our ports, except in emergencies. Following the Japanese decision, we will continue the ban, and review it on a month to month basis, Senator Parer said.On 13 July 1998, the Minister for Resources and Energy, Mr Warwick Parer, issued a press release concerning New Zealand's decision to ban Japanese tuna boats:
The Australian Government has welcomed the decision by New Zealand to ban Japanese Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) vessels from its ports. The New Zealand ban follows Japans announcement last week that it would start an experimental fishing program for SBT from 10 July.On 1 September 1998, Senator Warwick Parer, the Minister for Resources and Energy, issued a press release concerning the commencement of a formal dispute resolution process against Japan in relation to Japan's experimental fishing program. Extracts of the press release follow:
The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Warwick Parer, today announced that Australia has instituted formal dispute resolution processes in order to resolve its current dispute with Japan over that country's unilateral experimental fishing program (EFP) for Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT). In a diplomatic note conveyed to Japan, the Australian Government has informed Japan that Australia believes Japan's EFP places Japan in breach of several obligations under international law. "Australia considers that Japan's unilateral program is inconsistent with its obligations under customary international law, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and under the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (the Convention)," Senator Parer said. "It is particularly unfortunate that Japan's EFP should commence in the International Year of the Ocean, when international attention is focusing on conserving the world's living marine resources. SBT is an important, highly valued component of Australia's ecosystem, and of the ecosystems of other countries and regions, and its long term sustainability must be protected." Senator Parer noted that the SBT Convention contemplates a range of mechanisms for resolving disputes between two or more member countries. "We have requested urgent consultations with Japan under Article 16.1 of the Convention, for the purposes of agreeing upon a process for resolving the dispute over the conduct and legality of Japan's EFP." "As a first step, we are seeking Japan's agreement to negotiations, aimed at resolving the dispute within 30 days. Given the importance of this matter, we urge Japan to join us at the negotiating table as a matter of urgency." Unfortunately, this year's fishing under the EFP could not be stopped, since it ended on 31 August. However, Japan appears set on repeating the program in similar vein next year and possibly beyond. Our efforts to resolve the dispute are therefore directed at ensuring this kind of program is not repeated, and that appropriate remedial action is taken with respect to the impact of this year's fishing. By insisting on catching an extra 1,400 tonnes (over and above Japan's previously agreed SBT catch limit of 6,065 tonnes), Japan has only itself to blame if critics accuse it of using the experiment as a vehicle for a de facto increase of some 23 per cent in its quota, said Senator Parer.
On 3 August 1998, the Minister for the Environment Senator Robert Hill wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Alexander Downer concerning illegal fishing for Patagonian Toothfish in the Southern Ocean. Extracts from his letter and Mr Downer’s reply follow:
Dear Minister, I am writing to seek your urgent cooperation in developing and promoting further measures to combat illegal fishing for Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean, including within the Australian Fishing Zone around Heard Island. While in New York recently for another meeting, I met with the New Zealand Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Simon Upton, to discuss ways to gain acceptance by the relevant States of the response measures that Australia, New Zealand and other like minded States regard this as necessary. The measures I regard as a priority are: • mandatory use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS); • agreement that scientific observers should report illegal fishing activities; • port State and flag State controls; and • market controls, including a catch certification scheme. I wish to write to Mr Upton with the proposal that Australia will produce a set of a draft papers on these issues for further development with New Zealand. Once agreed these papers would be put to other East Antarctic States (South Africa, France and Norway) with the objective that all five nations would sponsor them to CCAMLR. In order that we may advance these important matters at the next meeting of CCAMLR it is necessary to undertake this work with the utmost urgency. Yours sincerely Robert Hill Dear Minister …I share your concern regarding the high levels of exploitation of Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean by illegal operators, including within Australia's exclusive economic zone. I note also the negative effects these operations have on the ecosystem in the Southern Ocean generally, including other fish stocks and by catch such as albatross. I agree with the priority actions set out in your letter for the forthcoming CCLAR meeting, including the mandatory use of Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), agreement that scientific observers should report illegal fishing activities, port state and flag state controls and market controls, including a catch certification scheme… As you are aware, it is essential that trade controls in relation to fisheries are implemented in a manner that promotes mutually supportive trade and environment policies and reflects our other international obligations, particularly under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Yours sincerely Alexander Downer
On 26 May 1998, Senator Grant Tambling provided the Government Response to the Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties to the Senate. An extract from the response follows:
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government require all Japanese longline vessels fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone to cut free all marlin (alive or dead), without removal from the ocean.Response
The Commonwealth has agreed to ban the take of blue and black marlin by commercial fishing operators. The ban will apply to both domestic operators and Japanese tuna longlining vessels operating in the Australian fishing zone under the Subsidiary Agreement. The ban will be effected by the introduction of legislation in early 1998 which requires commercial fishermen to return blue and black marlin to the sea whether dead or alive.
The Commonwealth recognises the high value placed on blue and black marlin by game fishers in comparison with the commercial catching sector, which regards blue and black marlin as an unintended bycatch. The introduction of the legislation aims to acknowledge these values by establishing an appropriate allocation of resources between the two sectors.
Under the new legislation, domestic operators may retain as part of the commercial fishery, striped marlin. Japanese vessels will be required to cut free all marlin species caught in the AFZ (alive or dead) without removal from the ocean. In addition, under the bilateral agreement, Japan has agreed that its vessels will not target any billfish (except broadbill swordfish).
A difficulty with the legislation, particularly in relation to Japanese vessels, is the issue of compliance. Japanese longline boats will have on board in freezer holds high seas’ caught marlin from the same stocks which can not be distinguished from ‘in-zone’ catch. These marlin will have been caught outside the AFZ, both from the high seas and neighbouring countries’ EEZ’s, in areas where there are no restrictions on their retention.
This problem may be overcome by arranging for the Japanese longline vessels to inform Australian authorities of the amount of marlin on a vessel at the time at which it enters the AFZ. Through random inspections either at sea or during victualling at an Australian port, such information could then be verified.
Partly in recognition of concerns over Japanese catch of important recreational/charter marlin species, a range of area closures and restrictions on fishing methods have been applied to the Japanese, including exclusion from the East Coast Tuna and Billfish Fishery management area off Cairns, known as Area E, and 50 nm closures off the east and west coasts.
On 14 August 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in a letter to Mr Colin Hollis concerning Indonesian fishing vessels in the Australian exclusive economic zone. An extract from the letter follows:
Dear Mr Hollis Thank you for your letter dated 17 July 1998 regarding the concern of your constituent … about the incident involving the Australian Naval Patrol Boat, HMAS Cessnock, and an Indonesian fishing vessel on 7 July 1998. As you may be aware, the HMAS Cessnock intercepted a vessel suspected of fishing illegally inside the Australian exclusive economic zone and after appropriate warnings attempted to board the vessel. The HMAS Cessnock was then rammed by the fishing vessel in its attempts to avoid being apprehended by the Royal Australian Navy personnel. Following the ramming, HMAS Cessnock pursued the fishing vessel and continued its attempts to apprehend it, including firing warning shots. However the prevailing weather conditions and the fishing vessel's aggressive manoeuvring prevented any further boarding operations. HMAS Cessnock maintained pursuit of the vessel up to Indonesia's territorial sea at which point it was decided to follow up the matter through official channels with the Indonesian Government. The Indonesian authorities have since indicated that they are willing to assist us to the fullest degree possible. The Australian Government is deeply concerned about the actions of the Indonesian fishing vessel and the possible implications for the safety of Royal Australian Navy personnel. In response to the level of illegal fishing in our Northern waters, the Australian Government is currently considering strengthened enforcement measures to assist in the identification and prosecution of people found fishing illegally in our exclusive economic zone. Yours sincerely Alexander Downer
On 18 May 1998, the Minister for Trade, Mr Tim Fischer, made the following comments in the course of a speech delivered to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Geneva:
We must also deal with the expanding trade agenda, especially trade and environment, trade and competition and trade and investment. Trade rules already have direct impact on what hitherto have been regarded as domestic policy issues. There has long been a recognition that competition and investment regimes have an effect on market access.
…The WTO must show leadership in dealing with these challenges. It must respond to the concerns of the public and consumers, strengthen the rules needed by Members, deal with the rapidly expanding trade agenda and, crucially, assert the primacy of the multilateral trade system.
Australia believes that the best way to do this is through further, comprehensive multilateral trade negotiations. The mandated negotiations on liberalisation in agriculture and services should be expanded, particularly to encompass liberalising negotiations in industrial tariffs. The objective of the WTO should be to produce balanced market access gains that are in the interests of all members.…Australia is convinced of the need for a comprehensive approach to future trade negotiations. This is the only way to ensure that the competing interests can be balanced, and that an optimum outcome can be achieved. The mandated negotiations on agriculture and services already constitute a solid core of future negotiations. So also do the mandated reviews in the different agreements coming out of the Uruguay Round. To these, we must add tariff negotiations as well as other areas that will make the global trading system more effective.
On 18 May 1998, the Minister for Trade, Mr Tim Fischer, made the following comments in the course of a speech delivered to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Geneva:
In relation to trade and environment we need to give high priority to improving dialogue and policy coordination at both the national and international levels. We must ensure that trade and environment policies are mutually supportive. We must ensure that future trade negotiations achieve substantial reforms to policies which adversely affect the environment such as agricultural and fisheries subsidies, tariff escalation and tariff peaks.
On 18 May 1998, the Minister for Trade, Mr Tim Fischer, made the following comments concerning electronic commerce in the course of a speech to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference:
We are witnessing a revolution in the development of electronic commerce. Most of it is driven by business. Electronic commerce offers significant benefits to all trading economies, and the international framework of principles and rules must be appropriate for its needs. Our task in the WTO is to assist the emergence of such a framework and to ensure that the WTO rules remain relevant to the way business is actually done.
On 18 May 1998, Mr Tim Fisher, the Minister for Trade, made the following comments in the course of a speech delivered to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference:
Australia is committed to the achievement of a fair and market oriented agricultural trading system as sought by the Agreement on Agriculture. As the Cairns Group has stressed, the next negotiations on agriculture, which are an integral part of the Uruguay Round outcome, must result in fundamental reforms putting trade in agricultural goods on the same basis as trade in other goods. Export subsidies must be eliminated, with major cuts to domestic subsidies. Market access must be substantially improved with deep cuts to tariffs, tariff peaks and escalation and removal of all non tariff measures, so that agricultural trade can proceed on the basis of market forces.
On 18 May 1998, the Minister for Trade, Mr Time Fischer, made the following comments in the course of a speech delivered to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Geneva:
The General Agreement on Trade in Services requires us to enter into successive rounds of negotiations with a view to achieving a progressively higher level of liberalisation of trade in services. The first of these rounds is due to start no later than 1 January 2000. World services trade is continuing to grow strongly as global economic integration is strengthening. Removing market access barriers must be one target. The successful outcomes of the negotiations on basic telecommunication services and those on financial services have established a good base for this aim. Additionally, we should always be conscious that a free flow of services also enhances merchandise trade flows. Australia will participate constructively and actively in these negotiations.
On 18 May 1998, the Minister for Trade, Mr Tim Fischer, made the following comments concerning tariffs in the course of a speech delivered to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference:
Tariff liberalisation and improved market access are two of the fundamental reasons for the existence the WTO. No system-wide negotiations in this area are as yet planned. Australia sees this as a significant systemic gap, since high tariff rates, especially tariff peaks, continue to obstruct international commerce. The GATT specifically recognises the importance of tariff negotiations to the expansion of international trade. Australia is convinced that the multilateral trading system will benefit greatly from a further round of comprehensive tariff negotiations. We hope that it will be possible to reach early agreement on this and to supplement the mandated negotiations on agriculture and services through work in traditional as well as new areas.
On 12 May 1998, the Fifth Protocol, done at Geneva on 12 December 1997, to the General Agreement on Trade in Services, of 15 April 1994 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…At the end of the Uruguay Round, it was decided that there should be further negotiations on financial services, such as insurance, merchant and consumer banking, to improve coverage of this sector under [the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)] and secure a higher degree of liberalisation ... with 56 Members (representing 70 countries — the offer of the European Union member states being counted as one) including Australia, agreeing to make new or improved commitments to liberalise the sector, such as by allowing more foreign share ownership in Australian banks. … …The Protocol will bring considerable benefits to the increasingly internationally oriented Australian financial services sector. In 1996, Australian financial services exports (banking and insurance premiums minus claims) were valued at over A$1 billion, having doubled over the previous five years. This does not include the value of large scale offshore investments made by Australian banks and insurance companies. During the negotiations, all of the economies of major interest to Australian companies, including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, made liberalising commitments of commercial importance. As Financial Services are an important infrastructure for the production and export of goods and services, the further liberalisation of trade in financial services as provided under the Protocol is also likely to benefit users and other exporters.
On 2 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, gave the following response to a question on notice from Mr Greg Wilton (House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1998, p 149):
The Edinburgh Commonwealth Economic Declaration will provide a boost to trade liberalisation by highlighting developed and developing country agreement on the need for and benefits of trade liberalisation. Australia’s initiative to establish a Trade and Investment Access Facility under the Commonwealth umbrella will also help maintain the momentum for liberalisation by assisting developing Commonwealth members manage the potential economic and social impacts of trade and investment liberalisation. The initiative was endorsed by Commonwealth leaders and backed by funding commitments from Canada, Britain and New Zealand.
The declaration was also helpful in emphasising the importance of encouraging investment flows—especially through sound macroeconomic policies and financial systems, strong regulatory and supervisory frameworks and political stability—and the key role of the private sector in achieving economic growth.
On 3 March 1998, the Agreement on Judicial Assistance in Civil and Commercial Matters and Co-operation in Arbitration between Australia and the Kingdom of Thailand, done at Canberra on 2 October 1997 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…The major benefit of the Agreement is that it will enhance co operation between courts in Australia and Thailand in civil legal proceedings. It is envisaged that the Agreement will contribute to the reduction of costs for litigants and to the more efficient conduct of litigation. The main purpose of the Agreement is to facilitate the service of process and taking of evidence in civil and commercial legal proceedings in Australia and Thailand. The objective of such agreements is to overcome some of the difficulties that can arise when a party in one country attempts to pursue civil legal action against a party in another country. These difficulties can be substantial in a country, like Thailand, which regards unauthorised acts by or on behalf of foreign courts within its territory as a breach of its sovereignty. The Agreement sets out agreed procedures for courts in each country to assist courts in the other country with service of process and the taking of evidence. It also sets out the grounds upon which requests can be refused. The Agreement provides a framework for direct co operation between Central Authorities established in both countries to transmit requests by courts for assistance in serving process or taking evidence. The use of Central Authorities will avoid the delays involved in sending requests through the diplomatic channel. The Agreement is similar in many respects to a number of bilateral agreements on service and evidence to which Australia is a party. The bilateral agreements were negotiated by the United Kingdom with a number of European countries. Australia subsequently succeeded to the bilateral agreements. The Agreement will be the first agreement on service and evidence entered into by Australia and another country in the Asia Pacific region. …The Agreement will be implemented under existing Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation on service and evidence. This legislation was enacted in previous years to give effect to bilateral agreements with European countries to which Australia is a party. The legislation does not specify particular countries but refers generally to 'Convention countries'. In relation to Federal Courts, the relevant law is found in the Foreign Evidence Act 1994 and the rules of the High Court, Federal Court and Family Court. In relation to State and Territory courts, the law is found in the relevant State and Territory Evidence Acts and Supreme Court Rules. Requests for assistance received from the Thai Central Authority will be referred by the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department to the relevant State or Territory law Department for action. Requests for assistance to the Thai authorities will be transmitted by the Commonwealth Attorney General's Department (in relation to requests issued by federal courts) or by State and Territory law Departments (in relation to requests by State and Territory courts) to the Thai Justice Ministry.
On 3 March 1998, the [Second] Protocol, done at Canberra on 5 November 1997, to amend the Agreement between Australia and Finland for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income and [First] Protocol, of 12 September 1984 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…A key objective of a bilateral double tax agreement is to promote economic cooperation between the two treaty partner countries by eliminating possible barriers to trade and investment caused by the overlapping taxing jurisdictions of the two countries and thus provide a reasonable element of legal and fiscal certainty within which cross border trade and investment can be carried on. Another key objective is to create a framework to assist the tax administrations of the two countries to combat international fiscal evasion. …The entry into force of the 1984 Agreement and Protocol formed another step in advancing the foreign and trade policy objective of strengthening ties with Europe - by expanding commercial relations; increasing two way trade; ensuring a favourable environment for Australian joint venture partners and wholly owned investments; and encouraging Australian exporters to break into these rich and sophisticated markets. Amendments to the 1984 Agreement and Protocol are required for three reasons: first, to update Finland's list of existing taxes to which the 1984 Agreement and Protocol apply; second, to make provision for a reciprocal dividend withholding tax (DWT) exemption for fully franked dividends (FFDs) - and so modify the general 15 per cent DWT rate limit in the 1984 Agreement and Protocol - as Finland and Australia have both introduced dividend imputation systems since the 1984 Agreement and Protocol entered into force; and third, to include the latest methods adopted by Finland to eliminate international double taxation. The reciprocal DWT exemption which would be provided by the 1997 Protocol for FFDs is the most significant feature of the 1997 Protocol. It reflects the imputation system principle of company profits bearing only one level of tax and the effect given to this principle by Australia's domestic law DWT exemption for FFDs. It is also consistent with current Australian double taxation treaty negotiating policy which seeks a reciprocal zero rate, or a rate limit not exceeding five per cent, in respect of certain dividend flows. Against the background that dividends derived by Australian companies from subsidiaries in listed countries are generally exempt from Australian tax, this approach also benefits Australian companies with investments in treaty partner countries by reducing the effective foreign tax rate (and therefore cost) on those investments. ["Listed" countries consist of the seven "broad exemption listed" countries and the fifty two "limited exemption listed" countries as so designated for purposes of the foreign source income provisions of the income tax law. The broad listed countries (eg. Japan, United Kingdom and United States of America) are considered to have tax systems closely comparable to Australia's, while the limited exemption listed countries (eg. Austria, Finland and India) are considered to have tax systems which are similar to Australia's but not closely comparable.] For other DWT exempted dividends derived offshore that remain subject to the foreign tax credit system, Australia's revenue may also benefit to the extent that greater after tax profits are remitted to Australia and subject to Australian tax.
On 14 May 1998, Senator Chris Ellison introduced the Government response to the 7th Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in the Senate. Extracts of the response follow (Senate, Debates, 14 May 1998, p 2867):
…the Government is not in a position at this time to provide a positive response to the [Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ recommendation that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Tax Office keep the exclusion of accounting and audit services from tax sparing incentives in the 1992 Double Taxation Agreement with Vietnam under review and, if Vietnamese legislation is amended, commence negotiations to remove that exclusion]. The possible removal of the exclusion of accounting and audit services from the scope of the tax sparing provisions in the Agreement with Vietnam would be a matter for decision by the Government, in the context of its overall policy on the grant of tax sparing, if and when the relevant Vietnamese legislation should be amended.
On 12 May 1998, the Agreement between Australia and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan on the Promotion and Protection of Investments (IPPA), done at Islamabad on 7 February 1998, was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…The IPPA, by guaranteeing certain treatment for investments, is intended to encourage and facilitate bilateral investment by citizens, permanent residents and companies of Australia and Pakistan. Australian companies are increasingly taking advantage of the benefits of Pakistan's economic reforms, including making use of attractive investment incentives offered by the Government. For example, in 1997 Australian investment in Pakistan reached an estimated A$310 million. There are also several significant investment opportunities in the mining and oil and gas sectors which could raise Australian investment to over several billion dollars in the next few years.
On 3 June 1998, the Agreement on Mutual Recognition in relation to Conformity Assessment, Certificates and Markings (MRA), between Australia and the European Community was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…For traded goods subject to mandatory technical regulations in an EC Member State, there is often a requirement for product to be tested and/or certified for compliance with regulatory requirements by a body located in the importing country. For many Australian exports to the EC, demonstrating compliance with EC regulations currently requires conformity assessment to be undertaken by a Notified Body located within the EC. …The MRA will enable conformity assessment (ie testing, inspection and certification) of products intended for sale in the other party's territory to be undertaken in the country of origin. Removal of the requirement for assessment in the importing country has potential to reduce the costs incurred by exporters in demonstrating conformity of their products to EC requirements. The MRA also has potential to reduce the time required for certification of products for export. The evidence of a number of Australian industry associations and individual exporters indicates that the time and cost of undergoing testing and certification in the EC can mean the difference between success and failure of an exporting venture. All third party conformity assessment procedures applicable to specified products will be covered by the MRA. It will substantially reduce a significant technical barrier to trade between Australia and the EC. The MRA will initially apply to the following sectors: • pharmaceuticals (Good Manufacturing Practice) • medical devices • telecommunications terminal equipment • electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) • automotive products • simple pressure equipment • machinery • low voltage electrical equipment. The provisions of the MRA are consistent with the approach to conformity assessment taken in the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade ('TBT Agreement'). Australia is a party to the TBT Agreement… …There should be significant trade benefits arising from the MRA through reduced costs for exporters on both sides. Economies are offered by the opportunity to have products assessed by the same CAB for both domestic and EC export markets at the same time. Producers also have a greater choice of CABs and will be able to avoid the higher costs arising from the current requirement for conformity assessment activities to be carried out in the importing country. Reduction in the cost of supplying EC goods covered by the Sectoral Annexes to the MRA is expected to benefit Australian consumers, to the extent that these reduced costs are passed on. Australian markets for the relevant goods will become more readily accessible to exporters based in the EC, which in turn may increase the level of competition for these goods in Australia. In this context it should be noted that in some instances Australia already accepts certificates of conformance issued in the EC.
On 11 November 1998, the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Ukraine on Trade and Economic Cooperation, done at Kyiv on 17 March 1998 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…In 1994 Ukraine requested negotiation of a bilateral trade and economic cooperation agreement as the basis for the new commercial relationship with Australia. The signing of the Agreement in March 1998 represents a significant step forward in Australia Ukraine relations. The Agreement demonstrates the commitment of Australia and Ukraine to develop further commercial links at a time when Ukraine is moving to a market based economy. Once in force, the Agreement will provide an improved institutional framework, including facilitation and encouragement from both Governments for Australian companies conducting business in and with Ukraine. Two way trade between Australia and Ukraine has improved in recent years. The range of items now traded is much broader than during Soviet times, providing a very sound base from which trade can continue to grow. Amounting to just over $A14 million in 1997, more than double the 1995 level, the growing commercial interest in Ukraine will be further encouraged by this Agreement.
Dear Minister Thank you for your letter dated 23 March 1988 seeking endorsement for the signing of a Science and Technology Agreement with the Republic of Korea (ROK). I am pleased to lend my support to the proposed Science and Technology Agreement between Australia and the ROK. Bilateral relations with Korea have become increasingly complementary and productive, reflecting a growing commonality of interests, shared emphasis on the importance of the Asia Pacific region, common middle ranking power status and mutual recognition of the benefits of close cooperation. Strengthening science and technology cooperation has long been a priority of both Governments, not only for the potential commercial benefits for Australian companies, but to ensure that Korean Government and industry are fully aware of Australia's manufacturing and high technology capabilities. That awareness is particularly important given the ROK economic crisis, which means Australia will have to increase its efforts to ensure Korean Government and industry remain focused on the bilateral relationship, on Australia's value as an interlocutor and partner and on the opportunities for trade, investment and enhanced cooperation with Australia. Accordingly. I endorse Australia signing the Agreement (subject, of course, to proper verification of the Korean language version of the text) Yours sincerely Tim Fischer
On 12 May 1998, the Films Co-Production Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Ireland, done at Dublin on 4 February 1998 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. An extract from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follows:
The purpose of the Agreement is to foster cultural and technical development and exchange by facilitating international films co productions with Ireland. The Agreement will open up new markets for Australian film and enable a creative and technical interchange between film personnel. It also has the potential to increase the output of high quality productions through the sharing of equity investment. A primary aim of the Agreement is to ensure that an overall balance is achieved in the employment of nationals of both parties in major creative, craft and technical positions related to film co productions under the Agreement. There are also financial benefits available to co productions, including eligibility to apply for funding from the Australian Film Commission ('the AFC') and the Australian Film Finance Corporation, and tax concessions on private investment through Divisions 10B and 10BA of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936. In Ireland, an official co production is considered an Irish production for the purposes of official financial support.
The purpose of this bill is to establish a framework for the provision of financial assistance by Australia to countries that are undertaking economic adjustment programs with the support of the International Monetary Fund. …Over recent months, the fund has requested Australia to participate in support arrangements for Thailand, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea. The government has agreed to do so, subject to certain conditions, for an amount in each case of up to $US1 billion. The Government's decisions to provide support reflect the importance of economic and political stability in the region for Australia and the Australian economy. It was apparent that a crisis in one country could spread and set off further crises elsewhere. And the more severe the crisis became, the greater the risks to Australia, to Australia's export industries and to Australian jobs. It is important that governments are able to act swiftly in such circumstances to help mobilise international support to deal with a crisis and to provide commitments on our own participation. At present there is no legislative framework for handling these situations, which have in the past been dealt with in an ad hoc manner. In 1995, when Australia was requested to assist a fund supported adjustment program in Papua New Guinea, a government to government loan was put in place without specific legislation using funds obtained initially from the Minister for Finance's Advance. When the support arrangements for Thailand were agreed last year, the funds were required quickly and went well beyond what was available through the Minister for Finance's Advance. Our assistance was therefore provided by way of a currency swap between the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of Thailand. However, it would be inappropriate to continue to draw on the balance sheet of the Reserve Bank for such arrangements, which are properly matters for governments and should be reflected in the government's accounts. The bill provides a new framework for handling them. Under the bill, the Treasurer may, on behalf of Australia, make agreements for the provision of financial assistance for countries undertaking fund supported adjustment programs. Such agreements must meet some important conditions. There must be a request by the International Monetary Fund for Australian assistance and the agreement must allow Australia to require repayment if the fund program is suspended or prematurely terminated. This is to ensure that Australian assistance is provided only where a fund program is in place and continues to be adhered to by the recipient country. The Treasurer must also be satisfied that other countries or international organisations will also be providing support to the recipient country as part of the fund program. This is to ensure that Australia is not alone in providing any assistance under the bill, but that it is part of an international effort. It is normal in international arrangements in support of fund programs for the participants to coordinate their efforts to ensure broad consistency in the terms of their assistance and in its timing. In particular, it is established practice for such support to be provided at a cost to the recipient country which at least covers the lender's costs of funds and often with a margin to allow for at least part of the risk involved. Such terms need to be negotiated in individual cases and cannot be prescribed in advance in legislation. However, it is the firm intention of the Government to continue to adhere to this practice in any support arrangements that may be undertaken under the bill. This will ensure that these arrangements do not impose direct costs on Australian taxpayers and that there is scope to earn some income to offset risk. It also means that any support provided by Australia under the bill will not be counted as overseas development assistance and will not constitute part of Australia's aid program. The purpose of the transactions involved is to provide balance of payments support to the recipient country, in order to boost market confidence and help stabilise financial flows across the country's exchange markets and reduce volatility in its exchange rate. They are one off transactions to provide temporary assistance to deal with financial crises; unlike official development assistance, they do not provide continuing transfers of real resources to the recipient country. The bill provides for support to be given either through loans or currency swaps. The government intends to provide its assistance to Indonesia and Korea by loans, which is the simpler arrangement. Loans may be made in Australian dollars or in another currency. For example, the loan to Korea is expected to be made in United States dollars. Currency swaps are now also widely used as a means of providing emergency support. They involve a temporary exchange of assets on agreed terms. Under a currency swap, Australia would receive currency of the other country to hold in return for the funds provided by Australia. Some countries are providing their support by way of currency swaps and the bill provides flexibility for Australia to use them if this appears warranted in particular circumstances. Detailed terms and conditions for loans or swaps in agreements under the bill will need to be negotiated in the individual circumstances of each case. The bill also makes provision to cover the government's commitments to Indonesia and Korea if agreements with these countries are reached prior to the commencement of the act. Last year the parliament agreed to amendments to the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947 to ratify Australia's participation in the International Monetary Fund's New Arrangements to Borrow. Those arrangements have not yet come into effect, as several participants are still to complete their ratifications. When they do, the fund's access to resources in crisis situations will be substantially enhanced. The increase in fund quotas agreed to by fund governors last month will also expand the fund's capital base. Together, these steps will enable the fund to continue to play its central role in the handling of international financial crises. However, circumstances are likely to continue to arise, from time to time, when Australia will be asked to participate in support arrangements for fund programs. It is to be hoped that such calls for assistance will be rare, exceptional events. Nevertheless, when they do occur, governments must be in a position to respond quickly. This bill will allow Australia to play its part in international cooperation efforts when necessary to safeguard and promote Australian interests. Financial Impact The bill appropriates the funds required by agreements to which it applies. Loans to Indonesia and Korea could amount to up to $US2 billion, but detailed arrangements have yet to be agreed. The extent of other transactions under the bill will depend on what requests may be made of Australia in future years. Details of the budget treatment of transactions under the bill are set out in the explanatory memorandum. I present the explanatory memorandum for the bill and I commend the bill to the House.
On 11 November 1998, the General Agreement on Development Cooperation between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, done at Jakarta on 9 July 1998 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. An extract from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follows:
The purpose of the Agreement is to provide a generic legal framework for Australia's development cooperation program with Indonesia. Previously each aid project required its own MOU that covered not only project specific activities and responsibilities but also generic obligations of the Australian and Indonesian Governments. The Agreement will standardise and give covering authority to all subsidiary aid arrangements in areas such as the Australian and Indonesian Governments' respective responsibilities; the privileges and immunities applying to project personnel; and the importation of project equipment. This will greatly simplify the negotiation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for each aid project, as only project specific information will need to be included in each MOU.
On 16 April 1998, a statement was delivered by the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. Extracts of the statement follow:
…Australia firmly believes that the realisation of good governance creates the environment in which civil and political rights can be better protected. Good governance also promotes an environment for sound economic management and sustainable use of resources to increase prosperity. These conditions are important to the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. …Australia therefore takes the view that practical efforts that can directly improve the human rights situation on the ground should be the top priority for individual governments. International co operation and, where necessary, constructive comment, nonetheless still have an important role to play in encouraging states to fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter and international human rights instruments.
On 19 August 1998, Mr Alexander Downer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, made the following comments in the course of a speech to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consultations with human rights non-governmental organisations:
The protection of human rights to promote the dignity of the individual is too important a matter for symbolic gestures alone. It is only through the pursuit of practical and effective efforts to promote human rights that we show our real commitment to the welfare of individuals and society. And it is vital to such practical outcomes that we orient our approach to human rights to emphasise co-operation and the creation of durable structures. By promoting good governance we will be far more effective in achieving our human rights objectives than by taking a confrontational and hectoring approach.
On 30 October 1998, the following comments were made in the course of a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly:
In conclusion, Australia wishes to reaffirm in this the year of the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration, our continuing commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights - and to a cooperative approach to meeting that goal. We welcome in this regard the leadership role that the Secretary General and the High Commissioner have personally given to the human rights cause and in assisting the international community to define a vision of the future promotion and protection of human rights worldwide. The Australian government wishes to assure them of our full support in the implementation of our shared objectives.
On 9 November 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of a speech to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Conference:
Our starting point is that human rights are universal. The right to freedom of association and freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence and the right to vote in free and genuine elections by secret ballot are rights.
Which should be respected around the globe. These are rights to which every person should feel entitled, whether they live in Surabaya or Sydney, New York or Nairobi. These fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration should and must have no respect for national boundaries.
On 9 December 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the House of Representatives in response to a question without notice from Mr Andrews (House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1998, p 1729):
…the Australian government, over the last 2 and a half years, has made one very significant change to our human rights diplomacy, and that is to focus a great deal more on what is called ‘institution building’. One of the institutions that we established … was a Centre for Democratic Institutions. This is one of the ways that we will be able to encourage the spread of good and democratic governance throughout the Asia-Pacific region. There are many other initiatives in the area of institution building that we have pursued, and this Government can be proud of what it has achieved in international diplomacy to advance human rights.
On 2 November 1998, a statement concerning the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action was delivered by the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly. Extracts of the statement follow:
The … recommendation in the VDPA that all States consider drawing up National Action Plans on Human Rights … was a proposal put forward by Australia ... We believe that National Action Plans provide a blueprint for the future as well as a valuable check and balance list for governments. We are convinced that all governments would find the preparation of such Plans a valuable exercise and therefore urge all countries that have not done so to develop one.
…The Australian Government, as a matter of public policy, recognises and encourages the cultural and ethnic diversity of modern Australia. The most significant development in recent years has been the enactment on 13 October 1995 of the Racial Hatred Act 1995. It amended the Racial Discrimination Act to introduce a civil prohibition on offensive, insulting, humiliating or intimidating public behaviour based on race.
We acknowledge the special place of indigenous Australians in our society. The Prime Minister has made clear that he recognises the commitment Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have to preserving their unique culture while reaching out to non-indigenous Australians to build a shared future in a spirit of reconciliation. He has also acknowledged the pressing practical needs of Australia’s indigenous people, such as health, housing, education and employment, and that these should not be subordinated to symbolic gestures.A number of legislative steps have also been taken and programs put in place to improve the status of women in Australia. As well, significant steps have been taken to protect the rights of our children.
On 9 November 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of a speech to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Conference:
… the Human Rights Manual produced by my Department as a training tool for Government officials involved in human rights work… I hope [it] will additionally prove useful to the Australian public interested in these issues and their contemporary legal and policy framework. As a further recognition of the fundamental importance of human rights education as a tool for protecting and promoting human rights, the Government has endorsed the establishment of a National Committee of Human Rights Education. The establishment of a National Committee demonstrates Australia's commitment to playing its part in implementing UN recommendations for activities for the Decade of Human Rights Education between 1995 2004. The Attorney General and I are also committed to revising Australia's National Action Plan on Human Rights and will commence work on this, including the process of consultations, shortly.
On 19 August 1998 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following statement concerning the Government’s approach to human rights in the course of an address to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consultations with human rights non-governmental organisations:
…The Government views human rights as an inseparable part of Australia’s overall foreign policy approach, both because the treatment of human beings is a matter of concern to Australians and because promoting and protecting human rights underpins our broader security and economic interests. For too long human rights diplomacy was quarantined from the mainstream of the international policy agenda. We have set about ensuring that human rights discussions take place in the context of our overall foreign relationships.
…In putting this approach to human rights into practice, Australia is guided by two considerations: first, a realistic assessment of what can and cannot be done on particular human rights issues and a practical approach to our human rights goals; and second, a clear analysis of the way in which human rights concerns fit with Australia’s interest in maintaining security and enhancing prosperity.
We have therefore taken a very outcomes-oriented approach across the full range of our human rights activities. These include bilateral representations, constructive dialogue with other governments, a broad range of multilateral activity, principally in United Nations forums, and practical support through our aid program.
But in our view, the real basis for a sustained improvement in the quality of human rights needs to be through domestic reform founded on working institutions which guarantee participation and accountability. Reform of the institutions must, however, come from within.
It is clear that the ability of each state to protect human rights effectively depends to a significant degree on the strength of its own institutions, including a representative legislature, an accountable executive and an independent judiciary. A vigorous civil society is another important element in creating a culture of human rights and we have accordingly increased substantially this year grants to in-country organisations for small, practical, on-the-ground activities.
On 2 November 1998, the following comments concerning Australian human rights policy were made in a speech delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly:
Australia’s human rights policy is based on these fundamental tenets of universality, indivisibility, interdependence and inter-relatedness of all human rights. Our approach has been consistently to reject the view that there exists a hierarchy or priority with respect to those rights embodied in the Universal Declaration. We also reject the view that conditions can be placed by governments on the observance of civil and political rights, on the basis that greater prominence should be given to addressing economic development problems. Similarly, political and civil rights should not be accorded less priority than, or waived in favour of, economic, social or cultural rights.
On 9 November 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of a speech to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s National Conference:
I’d like now to outline some of the concrete actions our Government has been taking to advance the cause of human rights in our own region, and globally.
We have a very simple starting point when it comes to the promotion of human rights. Whatever we do, we want to be effective. Megaphone diplomacy has no place for us in this debate. There is no real point apart from the self-serving one in my issuing a condemnatory press release and then going to bed at night knowing it was of no real value to the people whose rights we are trying to protect and promote. This debate is not about whether I feel good about myself for shouting a few slogans and getting a nice headline in the domestic press.
The issue here is whether Australia has effectively promoted the ideals proposed by the Universal Declaration. I believe we have done so in practical and realistic ways.
…Last week, I announced in Parliament new guidelines which will provide a clear and practical framework for supporting human rights activities through our aid contributions. This framework ranks civil and political rights equally with economic, social and cultural rights and places a particular emphasis on the creation of durable institutional capacity to promote and protect human rights.
The 1998 Budget also provides for a five-fold increase in funding for the Human Rights Fund compared with last year’s Budget. Part of this funding is allocated to HREOC for its work as the Secretariat for the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions. Established in 1996, this body has become a vibrant, collegiate force in the regional human rights system and an example of how institutions from countries with different cultural and religious backgrounds can work together in the pursuit of universal human rights goals. Australia has contributed $275,000 since 1996 to finance its establishment and operations. This work has proved very effective and I am pleased to announce today that funding for it will increase to $225,000 a year for the next three years.
…That brief outline of recent activity illustrates several different aspects of our Government’s approach to human rights.
First, we have ensured that consideration of human rights has been brought into the mainstream of our foreign policy agenda, and placed squarely in the context of our overall bilateral relationships.
Second, our approach is guided by the practical benefit that proposed activities can bring to the people most in need, not by the possibility of providing a good throw-away line for the evening news.
We are not interested in dealing with human rights issues through the megaphone. We want the satisfaction of knowing that someone will really benefit from our activities, not the smug self-satisfaction that we have managed to put a flea in someone’s ear, even if to no result.
We have therefore unapologetically taken a very outcomes-oriented approach to all our human rights activities, whether bilaterally or multilaterally, or through our aid program.
There is much to celebrate on this 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration, but there is also much yet to be realised. The Government will steer a clear course to promote and protect all human rights equally.
Let me finally assure you that Australia will continue to work with our closest neighbours and the international community at large to make all human rights a reality for all in the new millennium.
On 16 April 1998, the following comments were made in the course of a statement delivered by the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-third Session of the Human Rights Commission:
…As we are all aware, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights — the cornerstone of the international human rights system and the foundation upon which the two international covenants, and other global human rights instruments, have been built. As a founding member of the United Nations, Australia takes great satisfaction in having played a key role in the drafting of the Declaration. It is a document which reflects some of the fundamental principles upon which our own society is based — tolerance, diversity, the rule of law, freedom of the press and the accountability of governments to the will of their people. The Declaration also underlines some of the key economic, social and cultural rights to which we give high priority, both domestically and as a constructive contributor to the economic development of our neighbourhood.
On 22 September 1998, the following comments concerning the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were made in the Australian statement in the general debate of the Fifty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly:
…Australia's commitment to upholding the fundamental human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains as strong now as it was in 1948 when the Declaration was proclaimed. Australia was one of the eight countries tasked with the drafting of the Declaration and we also played an important role in ensuring that human rights provisions were included in the UN Charter. Fifty years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represented a common statement of goals and aspirations - a vision of the world as the international community would want it to become. Australia still believes in this vision. The fundamental principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration express values central to Australian society today. By their very nature, these principles will continue to be relevant into the next millennium. Australia therefore sees the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a time for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to this powerful document.
On 9 November 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the course of a speech to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's National Conference:
When the Universal Declaration was drafted in 1948 with its timeless language, the human rights concerns of that day were the same as those we are discussing today. Human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration are not an evolving notion - they are clear and they are precise. They are intended to be the means to allow people around the world to live freer and more fulfilling lives. And they are universal. There are those who would challenge the universality of the rights set out in the Declaration. Usually the challenge is couched in terms of cultural relativism, arguing either that, in developing economies, economic and social rights are more important than political and civil rights. Then there are those who argue that a preoccupation with civil and political rights threatens to undermine the social cohesion of a more communitarian tradition. In our own neighbourhood, this argument is often linked to an appeal to "Asian values", but exactly the same kinds of arguments have in fact been used in relation to Africa, Latin America, and even Eastern Europe. Let me make my point clear. For too long there have been people in Asia and elsewhere who have clung to the misguided notion of "Asian values" as a justification for clamping down on democratic movements or the natural inclination of people to participate in the democratic process. They have also used so called "Asian values" as an excuse for not allowing for an appropriate evolution of an open civil society. It is only an open civil society which can be inclusive, tolerant and truly outward looking. The development of civil society is the second aspect of our approach to human rights. The point is that to develop properly, a successful society needs many foundations. It needs strong institutions and guiding principles to operate as a cohesive yet flexible entity where debate and criticism are allowed to flourish. Such institutions include a free and open press, an independent legal system and an accountable government. Without them, people are held back and prevented from fully developing their potential. And when this happens it is the societies and the countries they inhabit as much as the individuals concerned, that lose out. Elections are one of the most fundamental of these institutions. Governments of genuinely free countries win legitimacy by being elected by popular opinion under a form of broadly representative voting. In these circumstances the will of the people has been expressed. The government they have voted into office is accountable to them through the various other institutions that are part of a civil society and is again at a future time accountable through the ballot box. The opposite to democracy breeds resentment and despair because it lacks public. accountability and therefore credibility. Let me add here though that it is not enough for governments merely to hold elections to qualify as democratic. If they follow those elections by erecting barriers to civil society such as suppressing dissent, hobbling the judicial system, cracking down on the media, inhibiting transparency they are weighting the scales unfairly and undermining democracy. That lack of transparency was arguably, more than anything else, the underlying reason for the Asian economic crisis - the greatest economic crisis of a generation. The lack of financial and prudential rigour that comes naturally to a transparent civil society was missing across much of the region as it chased a dream of economic well being at the expense of real democratic advances. It should be noted here that Australia - one of the most open and transparent democratic societies in the region - now has an annual growth rate of five per cent and has just concluded an election process. …Openness and accountability stimulate debate and criticism - policy makers are not always comfortable with this and on occasion it does slow down decision making. But they do make for better policy and they lead to a freer society and greater economic flexibility. Moreover by improving the information and the equity available to everyone, they enrich the lives of all of us and that is what the Universal Declaration written fifty years ago seeks to guide us towards. Let it be said that authentic conceptions of freedom have long been found throughout Asia, where they have developed from many diverse cultures and societies - the idea of freedom is not just a Western import. We've seen how that can turn a society around - for example, in the Republic of Korea, where two short decades ago the notion that there might be a free and fair election was simply a dream, let alone the idea that a political dissident might one day end up being President. It is worth quoting the words of that one time political prisoner, Kim Dae Jung:Actions infringing upon the dignity of human beings should not be tolerated. Regional or cultural characteristics should no longer serve as excuses for the violation of human rights. We must uphold what history has already proven, that human rights is a universal value.While the current crisis in the region has provoked an upsurge in domestic criticisms of traditional political approaches in some regional countries, regional democratic movements and challenges in fact pre date this and have arguably grown out of the economic success that the region has enjoyed for several decades. One should not be surprised that concepts of freedom and human rights in Asia should take on more prominence as living conditions have improved throughout the region. As people become less concerned with their very subsistence, are better educated, and have greater access to information, they become both aware of their own social and political needs and of the alternatives that might be available to them. Indeed, this is the very process that societies in the West have passed through in developing their approaches to the concepts of freedom and human rights. This process is self reinforcing - greater freedom in the political sphere can enhance freedom in the economic sphere, and vice versa. If you don't have a free society, if government policy making is not open and contestable, the decisions made are likely over time to deteriorate in quality.
On 10 November 1998, a statement concerning human rights questions was delivered to the Fifty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Australian delegation:
…Australia is well aware of the depth of the financial crisis currently afflicting parts of the globe, especially in our own region. In order to minimise the social impacts of the crisis, it is important that all the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration — economic, social, cultural, civil and political — are protected. One set of rights cannot be championed at the expense of another. Civil and political rights cannot hope to be effective in a vacuum of absolute poverty. Likewise, the long-term economic viability of a nation ultimately depends upon the political freedoms afforded to its citizens. In times of economic pressure, it is vital that governments do not overlook basic rights such as freedom of religion and political expression, and that they use national security legislation in an appropriate manner.
Australia believes strongly that cooperation rather than confrontation; constructive dialogue rather than rhetoric; and practical action rather than gestures, are the most effective means we have in advancing the cause of human rights. It is why Australia has focused on institution building and good governance — such as the creation of our Centre for Democratic Institutions, and our support for the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.
Our statement to the Assembly today will highlight some human rights questions in other countries. On certain occasions there is a valid role for international attention to be directed to states, in an effort to encourage them to implement fully the principles encapsulated in the Universal Declaration. This is one of those occasions.
…There remains an enormous amount of work still to be done. Human rights violations continue on a daily basis in all corners of the globe. This sad fact ensures that the Universal Declaration retains its power as a living and breathing document, no less important now than it was fifty years ago. The UN’s motto for the 50th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration is, appropriately, “all human rights for all”. Australia recommits itself to the realisation of this goal.
On 20 April 1998, a statement concerning the rights of the child was delivered to the Fifty forth Session of the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the Australian Delegation:
Australia is pleased that promotion and protection of the rights of the child continues to attract growing attention as an important area of human rights work. For too long, children have suffered as a result of attitudes which refused to acknowledge that children are entitled to protection in their own right. In this year of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Australia welcomes the fact that, with currently 191 states parties, the Convention on the Rights of the Child has almost achieved universal ratification. The Convention has been a significant factor in raising awareness of children's rights, in acting as a catalyst for change and in providing a practical framework for addressing the needs of children. In order that this protection can become truly universal, Australia would urge the very small number of states which have not yet ratified the Convention to do so as soon as possible.
On 19 October 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly. An extract from the statement follows:
The challenge, of course, remains to implement the Convention. This must be done primarily at the national level. In this context, Australia welcomed the opportunity in September last year to present our first periodic report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. I am pleased to report that the Committee commented positively on Australia's firm commitment to protecting and implementing children's rights. In particular the Committee praised the wide range of welfare services available to children, the advanced health and education systems in Australia, and our ongoing commitment to international development assistance. The Committee also made a number of suggestions and recommendations to which the Australian Government, in conjunction with state and territory governments, will be giving careful consideration. These include issues such as minimum ages in respect of employment and criminal responsibility, the situation of indigenous Children and youth homelessness.
On 22 October 1998, a statement concerning the promotion and protection of the rights of children was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly. Extracts of the statement follow:
Australia believes in investing in the future of humanity — in those that will shape tomorrow’s world — our children. We are pleased at the increasing international attention being given to ensuring the development and protection of all children. The international community has adopted declarations and enacted international treaties to safeguard this most vulnerable group amongst us — these measures have ranged from the 1924 Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child to the most explicit and comprehensive instrument on children — the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
But it is a sad fact that children continue to suffer exploitation, abuse and deprivation — and as we approach a new millennium, we are constantly confronted by new challenges. Advances in information technology have provided easy access to child pornography, and children in some troubled parts of the world are increasingly drawn into frontline operations in armed conflict.
As we are approaching the tenth anniversary of the Convention, Australia is pleased that the CROC has almost achieved universal ratification with 191 State Parties and urges the very small number of states that have not ratified the convention to do so as soon as possible.
Adoption and ratification of Treaties is of course only the first step — it appears that implementation and enforcement of domestic legislation is proving to be the most difficult challenge. Take for example, the problem of child labour — nearly every country in the world has laws which regulate the circumstances in which children may be employed, but children continue to work under exploitative and hazardous conditions worldwide.
Australia takes implementation of its commitments seriously and is attempting to respond to these new challenges.
…It is 50 years since the world community adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and over that time, the protection of our children has been high on the international agenda. We have adopted various instruments to set the ground rules for the proper treatment of children, and indeed, made significant advances in implementing these rules. But as we approach a new millennium, children continue to suffer at the hands of those who should be protecting them. Australia looks forward to working with the international community to ensure that it will not take us another 50 years before we can fully eliminate the exploitation of the world’s children.
On 20 April 1998, a statement concerning the rights of the child was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty forth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from the statement follows:
The challenge, of course, remains to implement the Convention [on the Rights of the Child]. This must be done primarily at the national level. In this context, Australia welcomed the opportunity in September last year to present our first periodic report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. I am pleased to report that the Committee commented positively on Australia's firm commitment to protecting and implementing children's rights. In particular the Committee praised the wide range of welfare services available to children, the advanced health and education systems in Australia, and our ongoing commitment to international development assistance. The Committee also made a number of suggestions and recommendations to which the Australian Government, in conjunction with state and territory governments, will be giving careful consideration. These include issues such as minimum ages in respect of employment and criminal responsibility, the situation of indigenous Children and youth homelessness.
On 20 April 1998, a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights contained the following comments concerning trafficking in children:
While national action is essential, there is of course considerable scope at the regional and international level for joint action, especially in tackling problems of a cross border nature such as trafficking in children, child sex tourism and child pornography. Late last year in Manila, the Australian Foreign Minister signed with the Philippines Foreign Secretary a memorandum of understanding for joint action to combat child sexual abuse and other serious crime. The MOU is the first of its kind for Australia and represents a landmark in building regional cooperation against child sexual abuse. The MOU will complement action that Australia is already taking against child sexual abuse, including the Child Sex Tourism Act - which allows the Australian legal system to try Australians for conduct occurring outside Australia. The Australian Government, through the Australian Agency for International Development, AusAID, is also assisting governments in developing countries in tackling the sexual exploitation of children. Assistance includes the rehabilitation of children and providing alternative sources of income for their families, and funding activities involving advocacy and awareness raising. Last year in this forum Australia welcomed the initiative of the Swedish Government, in conjunction with UNICEF and ECPAT, End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking, in organising the 1996 World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. The Australian Department of Health and Family Services is currently developing a national agenda for action against the commercial sexual exploitation of children, which will implement one of the major commitments under the World Congress Agenda for Action. Another important area of international cooperation in dealing with the sexual exploitation of children is the development of a Draft Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Australia looks forward to the conclusion of an effective Protocol in which key elements should be a requirement for Governments to criminalise the sexual exploitation of children and to establish or strengthen regimes for extraterritorial jurisdiction, extradition and mutual legal assistance in relation to these crimes. While some progress was made at the last session of the Working Group, it is of concern that further work was slowed down by differing views as to whether the scope of a protocol should be limited to sexual exploitation, or whether the instrument should have a wider scope, encompassing sale of children for purposes other than their sexual exploitation. Australia looks foreword to a speedy resolution of these differences, noting the inclusion in this year's Resolution under Item 20 of a reference to inter sessional consultations by the Chairman of the Working Group. We will be pleased to participate in such informal consultations with the aim of finalising the Draft Protocol at the next session of the Working Group.
On 22 October 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly the following comments were made concerning trafficking in children:
We are pleased to report on a current legislative initiative in relation to the protection of children from sex slavery and trafficking for the purpose of their sexual exploitation. In April 1998, a Discussion Paper recommended that modern slavery practices, and in particular, offences relating to trafficking in persons for their sexual exploitation, be criminalised at both Federal and State and Territory levels. All jurisdictions have since agreed that this should take place. The first stage of implementation of this initiative is already underway. Federal legislation to address these offences where there is an offshore element — for example the trafficking of persons, including minors from overseas — had been introduced as draft legislation before the recent national election. It will now proceed with the recent return of Government.
We have also recently been examining the operation of Australia’s extraterritorial Child Sex Tourism legislation, which was enacted in 1994. That exercise has involved considering the operation of practical aspects of the legislation and prosecutions conducted to date, particularly with a view to ensuring that the adequate protection of child victims and witnesses.Following our active support of the 1996 Stockholm World Congress Against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, the Australian Government is now well underway with the development of a National Plan of Action against Commercial Sexual Exploitation. We hope to have the Plan ready by the year 2000 to meet the commitment made at Stockholm. An early stage in this work has been the preparation of a stocktake of legislation and programs relating to, and analysis of the level of, commercial sexual exploitation of children in Australia. Australia believes that there is greater scope for coordinated and, in some cases, joint action at the regional and international level, especially in tackling problems of a cross border nature such as trafficking, child sex tourism and child pornography. In recognition of the contribution a coordinated regional effort could make to combating these problems, we have provided support, through our aid program, for regional wide efforts in developing countries aimed at creating and/or increasing public awareness of the exploitation of children. These have included such projects as support for activities of ECPAT (End child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking). The most recent activity supported by Australia in this area was a workshop in Suva for Pacific government and non government organisations. The workshop, which focused on the prevention of child sex tourism of children in the Pacific region, agreed to adopt the Stockholm Agenda for Action and to use it as a framework to prevent the commercial sexual exploitation of children in the region. Australia has recently been engaged in developing two bilateral instruments to formalise cooperation with regional partners in combating the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Last year, at UNGA52, we reported on the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. A similar document is now under discussion with the Government of Fiji which we hope to sign in the near future. These arrangements facilitate a high level of cooperation, including the sharing of information between relevant law enforcement agencies and government departments bilaterally, and other practical mechanisms. An important area of international cooperation in dealing with sexual exploitation of children is the work underway to elaborate an Optional Protocol to the Convention of the Rights of the Child, in order to strengthen international legal standards and cooperation against sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Australia has been disappointed with the lack of progress in finalising this new instrument. However, we will continue to participate actively in the process and hope that we will be able to take this work forward at the next session in time for its completion by the tenth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the year 2000.
On 20 April 1998, a statement was delivered to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the Australian Delegation. An extract from the statement concerning children in armed conflict follows:
International cooperation is also essential in dealing with the involvement of children in armed conflict. Australia welcomes the first report of Mr Otunnu in his capacity as the Secretary General's Special Representative on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. Australia remains a strong supporter of the development of an optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on Children in Armed Conflict. There is a pressing need to address the issue of age limits for recruitment into armed forces and the participation by children in armed conflict. With only a few issues remaining to be resolved in the negotiations, again we welcome the reference in this year's Rights of the Child Resolution for the Chairpersons to conduct inter sessional consultations. We urge the working group to make every effort to complete the drafting of the Protocol at its next session so as to ensure that the appropriate legal protection is extended to children in this area. On a related issue, Australia recognises the plight of significant numbers of child victims of Antipersonnel land mines and the need for appropriate mine awareness programs and child focused rehabilitation. Australia strongly supports international initiatives aimed at restricting and prohibiting the indiscriminate use of anti personnel land mines and we welcome the range of current initiatives, including the Convention opened for signature in 1997. In Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Laos, Australian assistance supports programs on mine awareness and victim rehabilitation, specifically focusing on school age children.
On 22 October 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly. An extract from the statement concerning children in armed conflict follows:
One of the most deplorable developments in recent years has been the increasing use of children as soldiers. In 1998 alone, child soldiers numbered as many as 200,000. In 1995 and 1996, children took part in 33 armed conflicts. Australia is participating actively in the Working Group developing a draft Optional Protocol to the CROC on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Again, Australia has been disappointed at the slow progress being made. However, we are pleased that the new Chairperson has held intersessional consultations this year and look forward to her report of these consultations at the next session of the Working Group in January 1999. We encourage her to continue this work with a view to early completion of a final text.
Of all weapons, few are more lethal to children than land mines. These deadly devices have killed or maimed hundreds of thousands of children, often as they go about simple tasks, such as herding animals, collecting firewood, planting crops or just playing. The Australian Government places a high priority on supporting de-mining and rehabilitation programs and is committed to reducing the humanitarian and economic impacts facing many countries as a result of land mines. The Australian Government has been active in recent developments and is a leading country in the funding of de-mining and other related activities. We aim to be an original state party to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines when it enters into force on 1 March 1999.
On 20 April 1998, a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights contained the following comments concerning child labour:
Finally, I would like to refer to the problem of exploitative child labour. Despite the legal obligations contained in Article 32 of the Convention, children continue to be exploited for their labour. An important development is the work underway within the ILO which we hope will see the adoption in 1999 of new instruments dealing specifically with the mist intolerable forms of child labour. These new instruments, together with welcome developments in the area of voluntary codes of conduct involving industry, international agencies and local communities, bode well for more effective action to eliminate the worst forms of child labour in the near term.On 22 October 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly. The following is an extract from a statement concerning child labour:
I would now like to turn to a matter of deep concern to Australia - exploitative child labour. The international community has adopted various instruments in an effort to protect children from performing work likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education or be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. We applaud these efforts, but more needs to be done. The ILO is on the threshold of adopting a new instrument aimed at the prohibition and immediate elimination of the worst forms of child labour. This will be a significant development in the long battle against the exploitation of children.
In this, the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must acknowledge that although much has been achieved in advancing the status of women internationally, for many millions of women these aspirations have not yet been realised. Discrimination and violence against women persist, embedded in cultures around the world, so much so that many women themselves consider it a normal part of life. We hope that the high level plenary review in 2000 will be an opportunity to develop strategies for overcoming continuing barriers to the full implementation of the Beijing Platform. …As we celebrate this year the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there are still too many women around the world excluded from the fundamental rights proclaimed in the Declaration. Even as we congratulate ourselves on progress achieved, there is no room for complacency. The promotion of women's rights must be a priority, and Australia will continue to work energetically with the international community to achieve this.
Domestically, at all levels of government, Australia has implemented wide ranging reforms to advance the status of women. Since the signing of Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1980, and its ratification in 1983, Australia has put in place a robust framework of anti discrimination legislation, including the 1984 Sex Discrimination Act, as well as positive legislative measures, strategies and programs such as establishing an Affirmative Action Agency, to assist women. Specialised machinery has also been set up at Federal, State and Territory levels to advise on issues relating to the status of women and to monitor and evaluate the outcomes for women of government policies and programs. Australia has a strong history in the international arena in its commitment to the objectives of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. Within Australia, actions that violate the human rights of women are prohibited, and all forms of physical and sexual violence against women have been criminalised. Of particular note is its concerted campaign to eliminate domestic violence. In November last year, the Prime Minister convened a National Domestic Violence Summit. The Summit, which was attended by heads of all State and Territory governments, agreed on a new initiative - the Partnership Against Domestic Violence - for testing new approaches to prevent domestic violence. The Government originally provided funding of $25 million over three and a half years and has pledged a further $25 million to the project. Australian society is made up of people from all parts of the world who bring with them many traditional, religious and cultural practices. Australia welcomes the diversity of our society but practices that constitute violence against women cannot be overlooked nor justified on the grounds of tradition or culture. In view of Australia's concern that young women and girls migrating from some parts of the world may be at risk from Female Genital Mutilation practices after settling in Australia, Federal and State Governments have adopted a two pronged strategy to prevent FGM, involving both legislation and community education initiatives. In addition, there are programs and services to assist those women and girls now living in Australia who have already been subjected to this practice. Australia recognises that a major factor in women's enjoyment of fundamental rights is their ability to participate fully in the political and economic life of the society. Although women are still under represented in politics at the State and Federal levels, significant progress has been made in recent years. In February this year, a Constitution Convention was held to discuss the possibility of Australia becoming a republic. The Australian Government was determined to ensure that women were given an opportunity to fully participate in this important event. To this end, the Government ensured that of the 36 non parliamentary appointed delegates, half were women. Immediately prior to the Constitution Convention, a Women's Constitutional Convention was held which was attended by about 300 women from around Australia. I am pleased to advise that the Australian Government, earlier this year, appointed the first woman president of Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Professor Alice Tay). The Government has also recently appointed a woman (Ms Susan Halliday) as the new Sex Discrimination Commissioner. Their appointments reaffirm the Australian Government's commitment to the appointment of competent women to senior positions. I am also pleased to note that in the past ten years, the number of women participating in the Australian labour force has grown by 30 per cent, almost double the increase for men. Women now make up 43 per cent of the 8.3 million people employed in Australia.
It is important the United Nations itself remain the uncompromising advocate of women's rights. International machinery to promote the human rights of women has developed along two parallel paths - specialist women's machinery and the general or mainstream human rights system. To be effective, it is important that the gap between the specialised and mainstream mechanisms be bridged so that women's issues may be fully integrated into the broader framework. Human rights treaty monitoring bodies and special procedure mechanisms, such as special rapporteurs, need to continue to give increasing attention to the gender dimension of their work. In this context, we would emphasise the importance of an effective partnership between the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Human Rights. Australia welcomed the presence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the last meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women and initiatives such as the basic information kit, "Women's Rights: the Responsibility of All". The importance of the involvement of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in such areas as providing gender disaggregated data on human rights monitoring, identifying gender specific violations and providing training for human rights monitors in the field, cannot be underestimated. …The leadership shown by the UN in its attention to gender equality is an important part of supporting governments in their own efforts to achieve the goal of gender equality. We therefore welcome the Secretary General's renewed commitment to achieving gender equality in the Secretariat. However, there remains considerable distance to be covered in achieving the goal of gender equality in the UN by the Year 2000. In the Secretary General's latest report on "The Status of Women in the Secretariat", we note that while some progress has been made on improving the representation of women at the D 1 level and above, representation of women at these levels remains unacceptably low. Women's overall representation in the Secretariat has increased only incrementally. We, therefore, welcome the new strategies being adopted to achieve the 50/50 goal by the year 2000, specifically the strategy of ensuring that heads of departments and offices develop gender action plans with specific targets to achieve the goal of gender balance in their departments, and holding managers accountable for implementing these plans. We agree that managerial commitment and accountability are an essential element in achieving improved gender balance in the UN. Australia has been active in encouraging the Secretary General to consider qualified women candidates when appointing Special Representatives. We are pleased that in the past year several women have been appointed as Special Representatives or Deputy Special Representatives. We encourage the Secretary General to continue to seek qualified women for these posts. We also encourage Member States to nominate competent women candidates for consideration.
On 30 October 1998, a statement concerning the Human Rights Treaty Bodies was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty third United Nations General Assembly. Extracts of the statement follow:
We welcome the renewed focus in the ninth meeting of the chairpersons of treaty bodies on technical assistance to countries which have not yet ratified and the continuing practical assistance to this end provided by treaty bodies and United Nations agencies. In this regard, we acknowledge the technical assistance being provided by UNICEF on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We support the High Commissioner's work to better coordinate technical assistance within the United Nations system.
On 30 October 1998, a statement concerning reform of Human Rights Treaty Bodies was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty third United Nations General Assembly. Extracts of the statement follow:
…We also see this year as a time to restate our own commitment to work in cooperation with United Nations agencies, treaty bodies and like minded States to bring about further improvements to the treaty body system. Australia has for many years recognised the effective functioning of the human rights treaty bodies as critical to the work of the United Nations in promoting and protecting human rights. The final report of the independent expert, Professor Philip Alston, in 1997 highlighted many areas for improvement and has focussed subsequent debate. We are keen not to lose the momentum gained to date. We are encouraged by the valuable work of the treaty bodies in the area of procedural reform and we welcomed the scheduling of an additional meeting of the chairpersons of treaty bodies in February 1998 to pursue this task. Increasing the linkages between the treaty bodies has already provided considerable benefit. Devising new procedures such as early warning measures and follow up measures is made easier when the experience of other treaty bodies can be drawn on. We support the intention expressed by some treaty bodies to provide more focussed concluding observations and joint statements on issues of common concern. The resources available to the treaty bodies have remained static for many years, notwithstanding the very large increase in the number of States parties and communications. The chairpersons of the treaty bodies at their ninth meeting highlighted the need for additional resources if the treaty body system is to function effectively. In this regard, we commend the Secretariat for its thorough analysis and report to the 10th meeting of the chairpersons on the amount of professional time required to service the treaty bodies. This report clearly supports the chairpersons' call for further resourcing of the secretariat, in particular the need for qualified staff to assist with communications. We urge the High Commissioner for Human Rights to ensure that servicing the treaty bodies is a priority. The continuous improvement of the treaty bodies website is also reaping dividends. Indeed, the Secretary General reports that, since inauguration on 10 December 1996, the website has been accessed more than 3,000 times per week. Careful thought should be given to whether there are ways of decreasing the volume of paper documentation in the light of the availability of this resource. We encourage the treaty bodies and the Secretariat to continue to enhance their procedures to effect better implementation of human rights. For our part, we aim to produce more focussed and shorter periodic reports. We hope that this step will reduce the volume of documentation while simultaneously enhancing dialogue between the relevant State party and the treaty bodies. We will continue to work with each treaty body concerning the most appropriate way to implement such a system and look forward to further consideration of the issue by the chairpersons. Australia believes it is important that treaty bodies coordinate their work with each other and with other United Nations humanitarian and peace keeping agencies. We support the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and look forward to her continuing leadership in this regard.
On 2 April 1998, a statement concerning human rights defenders was delivered on behalf of the Australian delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. Extracts of the statement follow:
Australia warmly welcomes the consensus adoption of a draft declaration by the working group drafting a declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and project universally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms at its thirteenth session this year. We look forward to the early adoption of the text during this session and then at the General Assembly later this year. Delegations will recall the long association that Australia has had with the draft declaration, including through the work of the working group's first two chairmen, both of whom were Australians. In this year of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … it is … appropriate that through the adoption of the draft declaration we should recognise the crucial role that individuals and NGOs have played and will continue to play in the struggle to promote and to ensure respect for these rights and fundamental freedoms. The purpose of the draft declaration is to clarify and reinforce rights already recognised in existing international instruments. It should be seen as a charter for human rights defenders the world over. These human rights defenders - whether they be individuals, groups, NGOs, lawyers, journalists, trade union leaders or anyone committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms - often act as our conscience and remind us of the international obligations to which we are committed. The declaration will provide valuable protection for these people in their struggle towards objectives upon which we have all agreed.
On 28 May 1998 the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a letter to Mr Wilson Tuckey:
The text of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was developed by a group of independent experts, known as the Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) elected by the Sub Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities ("the Sub Commission") of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The text of the Draft Declaration prepared by the WGIP did not represent the views of nation states, but rather as the WGIP has stated, it reflected the "legitimate aspirations of Indigenous peoples as a whole, as well as a number of suggestions and concerns advanced by observer Governments". The Draft Declaration was submitted to the Sub Commission on August 1993, which referred it, unchanged, to CHR in 1994. In 1995, the CHR created an inter governmental Working Group to consider the Draft Declaration. Australia has been taking part in the Working Group.
On 6 April 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-fourth Session of the Commission of Human Rights. An extract concerning national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights follows:
Australia is a strong supporter of independent and pluralistic national human rights institutions. These institutions, established in conformity with international human rights standards and taking into account national circumstances, are one of the most practical and effective vehicles for the promotion and protection of human rights. To be truly effective, Australia believes it is important that national human rights institutions conform to the principles relating to the status of national institutions. These principles, agreed at the First International Workshop on National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Paris in 1991, were later endorsed by the UN General Assembly and this Commission. The principles sanction the creation of independent, adequately resourced institutions established by law which have the power to investigate human rights violations and promote better protection of human rights. Australia welcomes the work done - and the very considerable progress made in recent years - on establishing and strengthening national institutions in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific. It is our strong hope that this work will continue and expand. We encourage the High Commissioner in her ongoing efforts to integrate the work into the core activities and budget of her office. Australia notes the Secretary General's report concerning participation by national institutions in United Nations meetings dealing with human rights, and the possible forms of such participation outlined therein. We remain of the firm view that independent national institutions have a particular and quite distinct contribution to make to the proceedings of the Commission, and that they should be able to make this contribution in their own right. Interim arrangements, which allocate to national institutions speaking time independent of the time allocated to governments, is a helpful, but only a first, step. We encourage further work to realise the goal of separate representation for independent national human rights institutions. The work of national institutions in individual countries can be strengthened through regional and sub regional arrangements. These arrangements provide a framework for cooperation, exchange of experiences and assistance in the establishment of new national institutions. In this context, Australia warmly welcomes the progress made by the Asia Pacific Forum on National Human Rights Institutions. In particular, we note the outcomes achieved at the Second Regional Workshop held in New Delhi in September 1997, and the announcement by the governments of Bangladesh, Mongolia and Nepal that they are in the process of establishing national human rights institutions. Australia also welcomes the intention of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights to host the nest meeting of the Forum later this year. In addition, we draw attention to the inclusion of national institutions in the regional cooperation program agreed on at the recently held Tehran Workshop on Regional Arrangements in the Asia-Pacific.
On 19 August 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of an address to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade consultations with human rights non-governmental organisations:
Australia gives priority to institution building in the human rights field. We have therefore put considerable effort, as well as substantial funding through our development cooperation programs, into promoting and supporting institution building as an effective means of achieving good governance and the observance of human rights. Australia takes the lead on the annual UN Commission on Human Rights resolution on national institutions. This resolution underlines the priority placed on this issue by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, and encourages her to continue to integrate this work into the core activities of her Office. Australia has also been a major financial contributor - to the tune of $A1.2 million from July 1995 - to the work of the Office of the High Commissioner in assisting and advising governments on the establishment and strengthening of national institutions in Africa, Europe, the Asia-Pacific and Latin America.
On 2 November 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Third Committee of the Fifty-third United Nations General Assembly. Extracts of the statement follow:
Australia’s approach to promoting human rights internationally is based on a cooperative and practical model. We have, therefore, put considerable effort, as well as provided substantial funding through our development cooperation programs, into promoting and supporting institution building, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, as an effective means of achieving good governance and the observance of human rights. We believe that National Human Rights Institutions established in conformity with international human rights standards, such as the Paris Principles, are one of the most practical and effective ways to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights within the State. As a result of Australia's active political and financial support for the work on national institutions by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, we are pleased that assistance to national institutions is now a core component of the technical cooperation program of the OHCHR. An important initiative aimed at promoting the development of national institutions in our own region was Australia's hosting in July 1996 of the first Asia-Pacific Workshop of National Human Rights Institutions. As a result, the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions was established. Membership of the Forum, initially comprising the Human Rights Commissions of Australia, India, Indonesia and New Zealand, has now expanded to include the Philippines and the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commissions. At the last meeting of the Forum in Jakarta, several other countries revealed their intentions to establish a National Institution by the end of the year, raising the prospect of a doubling of members by the next meeting. Australia is providing the bulk of funding - some AUD 275,000 over three years - starting in 1996 97 - for our Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to provide secretariat services to the Forum. …Australia firmly believes that good governance and the existence of an active civil society creates the right environment in which civil and political rights can be better protected. Good governance also promotes an environment for sound economic management and sustainable use of resources to increase prosperity. These conditions are important for the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. In August this year, Australia established a Centre for Democratic Institutions - or the CDI - with funding of up to AUD 5 million over five years. The CDI is the domestic flagship of our approach to good governance. It will provide practical support for the development of democratic institutions in developing countries, especially in the Asia Pacific Region. The CDI's core business will be to design and deliver intensive training programs in support of the democratic process and the strengthening of civil society. It will not promote any particular democratic model: rather, it will focus on common elements - consent, legitimacy and accountability - that are vital to democratic processes.
We believe that national institutions established in conformity with international human rights standards, and taking into account different national circumstances, are one of the most practical and effective vehicles for the promotion and protection of human rights. A key strength of such institutions is their ability to reflect to a significant degree the different culture and local conditions of the societies in which they are established, while at the same time remaining faithful to international human rights standards. We have therefore made promotion of such institutions a pillar of our policy. That approach has, for example, shaped the development of our human rights dialogue with China. Our two countries have together developed a detailed and comprehensive agenda for action, with broad based participation by experts from a range of relevant agencies. We have agreed on a "Joint Program of Cooperation" which incorporates a comprehensive program of human rights technical assistance. While we remain concerned about the human rights situation in China - just yesterday, for instance, we made representations to the Government in Beijing regarding our concerns about the treatment of Xu Wen Li and members of the China Democratic Party - the progress we have achieved demonstrates the dialogue has made a difference on the ground and can encourage the Chinese to move forward on human rights. Within our region, I take great personal satisfaction in the establishment this year of the Centre for Democratic Institutions based at The Australian National University as the domestic flagship of our approach to good governance. The CDI under the directorship of Roland Rich will, I believe, make a very practical and useful contribution in assisting the development and strengthening of democratic institutions in developing countries, especially in the Asia Pacific region.
On 16 April 1998, the leader of the Australian Delegation, H.E. John Campbell, delivered a statement concerning the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from the statement follows:
Australia welcomes the opportunity once again to make a formal statement on human rights situations around the world. As we are all aware, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights - the cornerstone of the International human rights system and the foundation which the two international covenants, and other global human rights instruments, have been built. As a founding member of the United Nations, Australia takes great satisfaction in having played a key role in the drafting of the declaration. It is a document which reflects some of the fundamental principles upon which our own society is based - tolerance, diversity, the rule of law, freedom of the press and the accountability of governments to the will of their people. The Declaration also underlines some of the key economic, social and cultural rights to which we give high priority, both domestically and as a constructive contributor to the economic development of our neighbourhood. Australia firmly believes that the realisation of good governance creates the environment in which civil and political rights can be better protected. Good governance also promotes an environment for sound economic management and sustainable use of resources to increase prosperity. These conditions are important to the protection of economic, social and cultural rights. Australia therefore takes the view that practical efforts that can directly improve the human rights situation on the ground should be the top priority for individual governments. International co operation and, where necessary, constructive comment, nonetheless still have an important role to play in encouraging states to fulfil their obligations under the UN Charter and international human rights instruments. It is in this constructive spirit that we offer the following observations on some of the human rights situations which are currently before this Commission. …In conclusion, my delegation wishes to assure the Commission of Australia's continuing commitment to working constructively with the community of nations, and with individual countries, in the pursuit of the universal observance of international human rights standards.
On 16 April 1998, a statement was made on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from that statement concerning Afghanistan follows:
Australia remains concerned about the human rights situation throughout Afghanistan, particularly the strict social policies imposed by the Taliban. These policies impact negatively on the human rights of all Afghans, but most acutely impinge on the rights of women and girls. Australia is concerned at recent moves by the Taliban to restrict the movement of foreign Muslim women in Afghanistan. We urge all Afghan factions to respect the universal human rights norms, and to give full support to the UN in its work to deliver vitally needed humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.On 10 November 1998, a statement was delivered to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Australian Delegation concerning human rights questions. An extract from the statement follows:
Australia is deeply disturbed by the deteriorating human rights situation throughout Afghanistan. The slaying of Iranian diplomats and the harassment and murder of UN officials are flagrant violations of international law. Australia also remains seriously concerned about the strict social policies of the Taliban, which are especially detrimental to the human rights of women and girls. We urge all Afghan factions to respect the universal human rights standards, and to establish conditions which guarantee security for a return of UN staff to Afghanistan in order to deliver vitally needed humanitarian assistance.
On 16 April 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights the following comments were made concerning human rights in Algeria:
The Government and people of Australia share the profound concern of the rest of the international community about the alarming situation in Algeria. We welcome the Algerian Government's assurances that it is in the process of consolidating the rule of law and the protection of human rights, including the right to life, in Algeria. We urge the Government of Algeria to invite special rapporteurs to visit Algeria before the next session of the Commission.On 10 November 1998, a statement was delivered to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Australian Delegation. An extract from the statement concerning Algeria follows:
The Australian Government and people have been deeply concerned about the plight of the Algerian people. We were encouraged last July by the Algerian Government's readiness to receive the fact finding panel appointed by the Secretary General and hope that the presidential election early next year will lead to positive change and a decrease in violence.
On 16 April 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from the statement concerning Burma follows:
We have seen some positive, albeit modest, developments in Burma such as the decision by the State Law and Order Restoration Council to meet the National League for Democracy (NLD) Chairman in mid July and to allow the NLD to hold a congress on 27 28 September last year, the first such meeting to proceed unhindered in seven years. Recently, the State Peace and Development Council, as it is now called, followed on from its decision last October to allow Philippine Foreign Minister Siazon to see Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by giving Malaysian Foreign Minister Badawi access to her. These are definite steps forward. At the same time, these concessions take place against a background of on going repression of the NLD over the past year. It is particularly disappointing that the NLD leadership, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was prevented recently from attending several NLD party meetings in Rangoon townships. It is also disturbing that the regime continues to imprison people for peaceful political activity. Australia calls on the Government of Burma to release all political prisoners unconditionally. We also look to the regime to make substantive progress on political reform.On 10 November 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly the following comments were made concerning human rights in Burma:
Australia hopes that the recent welcome visit to Burma by the Secretary General's Special Representative will be the start of a constructive dialogue between the Burmese Government and the United Nations, leading to progress in the political and human rights situation. At the same time, we regret the continuing violation of human rights, including the use of forced labour and the escalation of detention of opposition members. We call on the Burmese Government to release these and other political prisoners unconditionally. We urge the Government to avoid confrontation and to enter into substantive discussions as soon as possible with the National League for Democracy and the ethnic minorities, in order to facilitate the process of national reconciliation and bring about genuine improvement in human rights
On 16 April 1998, a statement was made on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-fourth session of the Commission on Human Rights. The following is an extract from that statement concerning human rights situations in Cambodia:
In commenting on the promotion of human rights infrastructure through advisory services and technical assistance, my delegation wishes to make a few comments with regard to Cambodia. …The international community has a continuing role to play in supporting the restoration of peace and political stability in Cambodia and considers the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the holding of free, fair and credible national elections this July, as critical elements in that process. The Australian government warmly welcomes the return on 30 March of Prince Ranariddh to Cambodia to participate in the electoral process in Cambodia. The conditions for Prince Ranariddh's return were one of the key issues addressed in a recent Japanese government initiative, which Australia strongly supported, aimed at resolving the political crisis in Cambodia and moving forward to the national elections. Australia now calls on all the Cambodian parties to continue to cooperate in moving forward in an electoral process free from violence and intimidation, in which all the parties can campaign freely. The Australian government also strongly urges the Cambodian parties to maintain the cease fire and not to resort to the use of force. The protection of human rights and the ability for all parties to campaign freely are key issues in creating a climate conducive to the holding of free, fair and credible elections. A major concern in Cambodia over the past year has been the issue of political violence and intimidation and the reports of extrajudicial executions, especially in the aftermath of the fighting in early July last year but also more recently. Australia strongly urges the government of Cambodia to investigate and to bring to justice those responsible for such serious crimes through proper judicial procedures. The issue of impunity has been highlighted in the report of the special representative and remains a matter of critical and urgent priority and essential to the creation of an atmosphere conducive to the holding of free, fair and credible elections. It is essential that it is unequivocally established that all individuals and all institutions are subject to the rule of law. The Australian government is also concerned that senior Khmer Rouge leaders be brought to account for the acts of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Cambodia in years past. Australia is keen to join with other members of the international community and relevant international organisations in efforts to put in place procedures and processes that will bring these leaders to account. In closing, my delegation wants to reiterate that Australia remains committed to assist efforts to promote and protect the human rights of the Cambodian people and to work for the restoration of peace and stability in that country.On 10 November 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly. An extract from the statement concerning Cambodia follows:
Australia welcomes the Royal Government of Cambodia's efforts at improving the country's human rights situation, including the development of an Action Plan to combat child prostitution and trafficking, improvements in access to and quality of education, and extension of the mandate of the Phnom Penh Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. However, as the reports of the UN Special Representative make clear, there remains much to be concerned about, including the continuing problem of impunity for those who commit abuses. In this context, we welcome the appointment by the Secretary General of a Group of Experts to evaluate information on human rights violations committed by the Khmer Rouge and options for bringing the perpetrators to justice. Political stability in Cambodia is an essential element in the realisation of all human rights for all Cambodians. We share with the majority of the international community the view that the July 1998 elections, while not perfect, were broadly representative of the wishes of the Cambodian people. We therefore urge all parties to accept the election results and to make the compromises necessary to establish a workable government capable of dealing with the chronic issues facing their country.
China has made welcome progress in the realisation of economic and social rights, in the democratisation of local government structures, and in the ongoing implementation of legal reforms. We welcome China's recent signature of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its stated intention to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We would encourage early accession to both Covenants. Australia also notes the number of dialogues that China is conducting with other countries on human rights, and the constructive progress that has been made in our own dialogue. We would hope that the dialogue process can contribute to further improvements in civil and political rights in China, particularly in the areas of freedom of speech and assembly, religious freedom, and the detention of dissidents.On 6 October 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning China's signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Extracts of the release follow:
I welcome China's signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The signature yesterday represents another significant step towards full adherence to international standards on human rights, and complements China's signature on 27 October last year of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). 10 December 1998 marks the 50th Anniversary of the UN General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which, together with the ICESCR and the ICCPR, comprise the International Bill of Human Rights - the foundation on which the international human rights framework has been built. China's signature of the ICCPR prior to this important anniversary is a significant reflection of its increasing commitment to the promotion and protection of civil and political rights. Australia urges China now to take the necessary steps to ratify and implement both the human rights Covenants as soon as possible. China's accession to the Covenants has been a matter I have consistently emphasised in my discussions with the Chinese Government, and has been a priority for us in our bilateral human rights dialogue. Most recently, Australia raised this issue during the second meeting of the dialogue held in Canberra in August. In its first term in office, the [Australian] Government has demonstrated its commitment to the promotion of better human rights standards throughout the world and our region, by pursuing constructive dialogue with other countries and by offering technical assistance to strengthen human rights institutions. The Australia China human rights dialogue is an example of this commitment. The Government will continue the practical efforts to improve universal respect for human rights during its second term.On 10 November 1998, at the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly the following comments were made in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation: Australia welcomes China's recent signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ratification of the Covenant will assist the realisation of improvements in a range of areas, including in relation to the detention of dissidents, restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, and religious freedom. Australia urges the early ratification and implementation into domestic law of both the human rights covenants China has now signed, without significant reservations. Australia also welcomes China's increasing engagement on human rights matters with the broader community of nations, as evidenced in the dialogue mechanisms which it has established with numerous countries, including our own. Similarly, Australia encourages the recent steps which China has taken to enhance cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and looks forward to further visits to China by UN human rights officials.
On 10 November 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly. An extract from the statement follows:
The Australian Government urges the Government of Cuba to ensure freedom of expression and assembly, including by reforming legislation so as to allow political parties, media and non-governmental organisations to function freely. We continue to be concerned about the condition of persons detained for activities of a political nature, and call upon the Government of Cuba to conform with international standards in this area.
On 16 April 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from the statement follows:
We are encouraged by a number of positive developments in human rights observance in Indonesia. These have included: the Komnas Ham has continued to investigate and comment openly on instances of human rights abuse; the military handbook on human rights adopted for use by the military operating in Irian Jaya appears to have resulted in an improvement in the civil rights situation there; and the people's Consultative Assembly's endorsement of a broad outline of state policy from 1998 2003 made substantial reference to human rights and the need for state policy to respect human rights. We also hope that there will be improvements in the human rights situation in East Timor. In addition, until the recent economic crisis, Indonesia had made substantial advances in guaranteeing economic and social rights. Indonesians living in poverty had declined to about 15% of the population. The Australian Government would hope that in the context of the current crisis the Indonesian Security Authorities exercise appropriate restraint in the management of social unrest, demonstrations and other expressions of political opinion and ensure that all those involved are dealt with in accordance with the law and due process.On 9 November 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning human rights in Indonesia in the course of a speech to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's National Conference:
Out of the ashes of the regional economic crisis, Indonesia, I am pleased to say, is now evolving into a more open and accountable society, where ideas are contested and criticisms aired. Indonesia is a society in transition moving towards what must be its most democratic election since 1955. The painful lessons of the crisis are being learned and implemented. As I have often said before, the regional economic crisis will no doubt hurry along the opening up process for a number of societies affected, but the changes in Indonesia may well be more dramatic than elsewhere, given that the crisis there has been particularly severe. Australia stands ready to help the development of the process in any way it can. In Indonesia, we are confident that our program of assistance to the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, Komnas HAM, will be put to good use given that it has proven its effectiveness when confronted with a multitude of human rights issues since its establishment.On 10 November 1998, the following comments concerning human rights situations in Indonesia were made in the course of a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly:
Australia is very encouraged by recent developments in Indonesia on human rights, including the release of many political prisoners and preparations for free and fair general elections to be held in the middle of 1999. It is encouraging to see that many institutional and legal changes to promote and protect human rights are included in Indonesia's reform process. We welcome the launch of Indonesia's National Action Plan on Human Rights, and the consolidation of the role of the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, Komnas HAM. Australia also notes that the Indonesian Government has conducted an investigation into the circumstances of the civil disturbances in May, including allegations of rapes and other human rights abuses. We would encourage the Indonesian Government to implement the recommendations made in the report.
We have sought to assist Indonesia's human rights efforts in practical ways, including through a comprehensive financial assistance program for Komnas HAM, and have expanded our program of aid to Indonesia, in recognition that the economic crisis has made the achievement of economic and social rights more difficult. Australia welcomes Indonesia's efforts, through the UN Tripartite talks process, to negotiate a settlement for East Timor, and urges all sides to refrain from actions which diminish current efforts toward a peaceful resolution.
On 16 April 1998, a statement was delivered to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the Australian Delegation. Extracts of the statement follow:
Whilst Australia has been encouraged by the Iranian Government's stated intention to introduce change in the fields of social policy and personal freedoms in Iran, we remain concerned about the human rights situation there, including the treatment of the Baha'I minority. We urge the Iranian Government to allow the UN's special representative to visit Iran again in the near future.On 10 November 1998, in a statement delivered by the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly the following comments were made concerning human rights situations in Iran:
The Australian Government recognises the stated commitment of President Khatami to the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran. We also acknowledge Iran's willingness over the past year to promote dialogue on human rights with international bodies, and welcome in particular the Iranian Government's disassociation from the reward offered for killing Salman Rushdie. Nevertheless, serious human rights problems remain in Iran, including in particular, the treatment of the Baha'I community. We urge the Iranian Government to extend the protection of the Constitution to all Iranian citizens, regardless of religion.
On 16 April 1998, the following comments were made in the course of a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights:
The re emergence of ethnic tension in the Balkans is a matter of deep regret for the Australian Government. We join with others in the international community in urging all parties in Kosovo to show restraint and to refrain from further violence. The Australian Government fully supports the Commission's statement on human rights in Kosovo, and calls on all parties to undertake a constructive dialogue aimed at reaching a long term solution which respects the human rights and interests of all concerned. The Government welcomes the efforts of the contact group and other appropriate bodies to assist in the search for a settlement.On 10 November 1998, a statement was delivered to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Australian Delegation concerning human rights questions. An extract from the statement follows:
Australia has been deeply concerned by the serious human rights violations that have taken place in Kosovo. It is crucial that current efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement to the critical situation be successful in time to ensure that the onset of winter does not compound further the plight of the many thousands displaced by the conflict.
On 16 April 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights the following comments were made concerning human rights in the Great Lakes Region:
The human rights situation in the Great Lakes region remains tenuous and of deep concern to us. The Australian Government is also very disturbed at reports on the abduction of children from Northern Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army and calls for the immediate safe return of these children to their families.On 10 November 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly. An extract from the statement follows:
Australia remains concerned about continuing serious abuses of human rights taking place in the Great Lakes region. We urge the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to assist the UN human rights investigations to continue as soon as possible. Whilst acknowledging the increased number of trials of those accused of genocide in Rwanda, we would urge the application of the due process of law in dealing with the accused.
On 16 April 1998 a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from the statement follows: to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights. An extract from the statement follows:
Australia calls on the Government of Nigeria to proceed with its stated commitment to return Nigeria to democratic civilian rule without delay. Australia fully supports the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group in its efforts to encourage greater integrity of the process of transition and respect for human rights in Nigeria.On 10 November 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly the following comments were made concerning human rights situations in Nigeria:
Australia has welcomed the recent constructive developments in the human rights situation in Nigeria. While concerns remain, we acknowledge General Abubakar's Administration's commitment to the implementation of a program of democratic elections over the next few months, and hope for a peaceful and smooth transition to civilian government for the Nigerian people in the first half of 1999.
As a close and friendly neighbour of Papua New Guinea, Australia warmly welcomes the positive developments towards an enduring peace and respect for the human rights of the people of Bougainville. In particular, we commend all the parties for having respected a cessation of hostilities since October 1997 and, since May 1998, for observing a ceasefire. Australia continues to give strong support to the process of reconciliation and respect for human rights, both through our aid program and our involvement in the multinational peace monitoring force.
On 16 April 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights the following comments were made concerning human rights situations in Sri Lanka:
We encourage the Sri Lankan Government to ensure human rights observance in a difficult security environment. Whilst we acknowledge continued improvements in the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, we urge the Sri Lankan Government rigorously to pursue prosecutions against security forces for human rights abuses. The Australian Government deplores and condemns all acts of terrorism.
On 6 April 1998, Senator Robert Hill, as the Minister representing the Prime Minister in the Senate, gave the following response to a question without notice from Senator Brian Harradine concerning intercountry adoption with China (Senate, Debates, 6 April 1998, p 2054):
Senator Harradine-My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate representing the Prime Minister. Minister, you would be aware that the bilateral agreement between the PRC and Australia relating to intercountry adoption has not been signed, although there has been seven years of negotiation, and despite the fact that there was an agreement in principle last year. Could the minister please explain to the Senate why there has been a continuing delay in this very important humanitarian project on which the Chinese government is keen to see the agreement take place? Could the minister please explain when the agreement will be signed? Senator Hill-…I had discussions with the Chinese Ambassador to Australia and also with the Victorian minister responsible for negotiating the bilateral agreement. I acknowledge that progress in this matter has been very slow. Whilst it is still not finalised … progress is being made … Adoption matters are the responsibility of states and territories. This agreement is … being negotiated by the Victorian Department of Human Services in line with the resolution of the Community Services Ministerial Council. The major issue to be resolved in the establishment of an intercountry adoption program with China is the automatic recognition of Chinese adoptions by Australia. There is no consistent legal mechanism in the States and Territories for the automatic recognition of overseas adoptions. Under current arrangements, a child entering Australia after being adopted overseas comes under the provisions of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act until such time as the adoption is formally recognised by a state or territory court. Whilst that has been a satisfactory arrangement for other countries … the view of the Chinese government is that it is insufficient and that they need an automatic recognition of the adoption process that has taken place in China. The matter could have been resolved through the ratification of The Hague Convention by both Australia and China, as parties to the Convention are obliged to recognise adoptions made in accordance with its arrangements. But as China is not expected to ratify the Convention for some time, we have looked at other ways to progress the matter. We have agreed that the Australian laws should now be amended to allow for the automatic recognition in Australia of foreign adoptions from prescribed countries where a bilateral agreement has been made with Australia. We will introduce this bill into the parliament in the next session … I trust that the parliament might be prepared to deal with it in the one session so we can put it into effect. That will enable finalisation of the bilateral agreement with China. The effect will be that the arrangement under the bilateral agreement will, in addition to the law, have the effect of recognising the adoption that had taken place in China. There will then be in place an arrangement for ongoing adoption of children from China under this process. It has been frustratingly slow, but I am pleased that progress is now being made. I trust that it can be brought to a conclusion within the next few months.
On 1 April 1998, the Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption, done at The Hague on 29 May 1993 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. An extract from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follows:
The main objective of the Convention is to establish international procedures, standards and co operation mechanisms between government authorities involved in safeguarding the interests of children subject to intercountry adoption. There has been a dramatic increase in intercountry adoptions in many countries since the late 1960s. Intercountry adoption has become a worldwide phenomenon, often involving the movement of children over long distances and from one society or culture to another. These adoptions can give rise to complex human rights and legal issues. In the past some State and Territory Governments in Australia have negotiated bilateral arrangements on intercountry adoption with some countries. However these arrangements were negotiated in the absence of any comprehensive multilateral Convention dealing with the subject. Australia played a role in the drafting of the Convention by the seventeenth session of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. The meetings of the Special Commission of the Conference were marked by a large attendance, not only by core members such as the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, but also by a number of invitees from the third world. The Australian delegation included Commonwealth and State representatives. The importance of the Convention for Australia lies in the benefits of having internationally agreed minimum standards for processing intercountry adoptions. The Convention establishes legally binding standards and safeguards to be observed by countries participating in intercountry adoption, a system of supervision to ensure that these standards and safeguards are observed, and channels of communication between authorities in countries of origin and countries of destination for children being adopted. By establishing uniformity of standards and predictability of procedures between countries, the Convention will assist parents in Australia who wish to adopt children from other Convention counties. There are currently 19 countries which are parties to the Convention.
Bilateral medical treatment agreements provide for reciprocal access to public health facilities for residents of either country travelling, or otherwise temporarily, in a country where such an agreement exists. These agreements contribute to a safer travel environment for Australians travelling abroad on business or holiday. Australia has concluded a number of bilateral medical treatment agreements with countries which have health systems of an equivalent standard to Australia and which can provide a high level of health care. Australia and Malta entered into such an agreement in 1988. It is now necessary to amend that agreement in order to clarify the specific entitlements that it provides to Australian and Maltese visitors in each other's countries.
On 11 November 1998, the Exchange of Letters, done at London on 29 May 1998, Constituting an Agreement to Amend the Agreement on Health Services between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of 21 March 1986 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. An extract from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follows:
Presently, there are … Agreements in place with New Zealand, Italy, Malta, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland. It is now necessary to amend the 1986 Agreement with the United Kingdom in order to clarify the specific entitlements under it and extend the eligibility of persons temporarily in the territory of the other party.
On 30 June 1998, the Agreement on Medical Treatment for Temporary Visitors between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand, done at Melbourne on 4 May 1998 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
Australia has concluded a number of bilateral medical treatment Agreements with countries which have health systems of an equivalent standard to Australia and which can provide a high level of health care. Bilateral medical treatment Agreements provide for reciprocal access to public health facilities for residents of either country travelling, or otherwise temporarily in a country where such an Agreement exists. These Agreements contribute to a safer travel environment for Australians travelling abroad on business or holiday. Presently, there are Agreements in place with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Italy, Malta, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Ireland. As mentioned above, the 1986 Agreement with New Zealand currently in force, will be superseded by the 1998 Agreement, on its entry into force. …The requirement for a new Agreement arose after the introduction in 1992 of user charges for many health services in New Zealand and subsequent changes which have resulted in the reduction of benefits for Australians visiting New Zealand. Access to subsidised out of hospital medical services were removed for Australian visitors to New Zealand, leading to a disparity of access between the two countries as New Zealand visitors continued to have access to subsidised out of hospital medical services whilst visiting Australia. Since October 1994, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) has sought to renegotiate the 1986 Agreement with New Zealand to re establish similar recognition and access between the two national health systems. The 1998 Agreement will achieve these aims by re establishing full reciprocity.
On 12 May 1998, the Exchange of Notes constituting an Agreement to further amend the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand on Social Security of 19 July 1994 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
Bilateral social security Agreements provide for access, on a reciprocal basis, to certain social security payments for people who move permanently between the two countries concerned. These Agreements generally allow people to receive pensions resulting from contributions made to foreign pension funds and allow earlier access to Australian pensions. In the Australia/New Zealand context, where both countries operate a residence based pension system, prior residence in one country is counted as qualifying residence in the other country. The proposed treaty action will have the effect of deleting from the 1994 Agreement as amended, Article 15 [Benefits for the Unemployed]. …The deletion of Article 15 is required because the 1994 Agreement as amended, restricts access of newly arrived migrants to benefits for the unemployed. It contains a 26 week waiting period before citizens of each country can gain access to benefits for the unemployed in the other country. The 1998 Amendment will remove the waiting period from the 1994 Agreement as amended, and hence allow the domestic laws of each country to apply. Final treaty action will be taken after amendments to the Social Security Act 1991 have been passed, ensuring New Zealanders are included in the range of people who are subject to the newly arrived resident's waiting period. When all amendments have been completed (including final treaty action) New Zealand citizens migrating to Australia will be required to be in Australia for a total of 104 weeks before gaining access to newstart allowance in Australia. This will bring New Zealand citizens into line with migrants from all other countries. … Australian residents migrating to New Zealand will have to reside in New Zealand for 12 months before gaining access to New Zealand unemployment benefits.
On 14 May 1998, in the House of Representatives, Mr Peter Reith, the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business, answered a question on notice from Mr Robert McClelland. Mr McClelland asked the Minister which International Labour Organisation conventions listed by the International Labour Office as basic human rights conventions had not been ratified by Australia and what steps still had to be taken before Australia ratified the conventions which it had not ratified. (House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1998, p 3527):
…Conventions 141 [Rural Workers’ Organisations, 1975] and 151 [Labour Relations (Public Service), 1978] have not been ratified by Australia.
…The normal Australian practice in relation to ILO conventions is that two pre-conditions be satisfied before ratification is considered. These are that law and practice in all relevant jurisdictions (Commonwealth and/or State and Territory) comply with the provisions of the convention and that all State and Territory governments that have an interest in the convention have formally agreed to ratification.
The Commonwealth considers that all jurisdictions comply with the provisions of convention 141. All States and Territories, except Tasmania, have formally agreed to ratification.
With respect to convention 151, it is not clear whether all jurisdictions are in full compliance with the convention. However, only New South Wales has not formally agreed to ratification.
Agreements obtained from some jurisdictions are now relatively old. In these cases, the relevant State/Territory would have to be given the opportunity to confirm their agreement prior to any consideration by the Commonwealth Government of ratification.
On 1 April 1998, the Convention for Establishing Facilities for Finding Employment for Seamen, done at Genoa on 10 July 1920 [International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 9, Placing of Seamen, 1920] was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
3. The Government of Australia (the Government) is proposing to denounce Convention No. 9 as part of a range of measures. These follow a process of consultation and consideration with the shipping industry in relation to reforms aimed at improving the international competitiveness of Australian shipping. 4. In March 1997, the Government received the report of the Shipping Reform Group (SRG). The SRG recommended significant and constructive reforms aimed at halting the rapid reduction in the Australian trading fleet and ensure the survival of the shipping industry. A critical element of these reforms involves changes to working arrangements and practices, including extension of company based employment to all seafarers, consistent with employment arrangements already applying to officer crewmembers. 5. The report concluded that the existing industry employment arrangements for seafarers failed to provide the flexibility necessary for Australian ship operators to compete effectively with overseas operators. These arrangements were found to inhibit employment continuity for seafarers, increase training costs, prevent transfer of ratings between each ship operator's vessels, involve both inadequate selection arrangements and barriers to promotion for seafarers, as well as imposing additional administrative costs on the industry. 6. In addition, independent reports to the Government highlighted the adverse impact of the industry employment arrangements on occupational health and safety in the maritime industry. The extension of company based employment to all seafarers is seen as important in helping to reduce the current high incidence of work related injury and disease. This should improve the selection of seafarers to suit the physical demands of particular seagoing jobs and allow specialised training to be provided to seafarers employed by a particular ship operator. 7. The Government has concluded that implementing the SRG reforms to working arrangements and practices is essential to improve the efficiency and international competitiveness of Australian shipping. The Government has encouraged the industry parties to implement company employment for all seafarers. The shipowner and seafarer organisations have indicated their acceptance of company based employment. They have been negotiating since mid 1997 about these arrangements which would make the public employment service for seafarers, the Seamen's Engagement System (SES), redundant. In view of these developments, the Government announced on 18 December 1997 that it intended to withdraw from administering the SES by 1 March 1998, and that it was initiating action to denounce Convention No. 9. The SES was intrinsic to Australia's ability to demonstrate compliance with Convention No. 9. 8. Following the Government's withdrawal from administering the SES on 27 February 1998, shipowner and seafarer organisations have agreed to transitional arrangements whereby the industry is operating a temporary engagement service for seafarers. The parties' express intention is to facilitate the conclusion of their negotiations on implementing company employment by 30 June 1998, or earlier. Until the implementation of company employment, they intend that the transitional arrangements will continue. 9. Under company based employment arrangements, seafarers will be recruited and placed through direct contact between shipowners and seafarers. This may include private arrangements between shipowner and seafarer organisations and private employment agencies. 10. In these circumstances, with the intentions of the shipowner and seafarer organisations now clear, it is no longer appropriate for Australia to be a party to Convention No. 9, particularly as the placement of seafarers will no longer be carried out in accordance with the requirements of Article 4… 11. Convention No. 9 is no longer considered by the Government to be relevant to Australia's shipping industry, given the Government's policy of encouraging company based employment for all seafarers. It is among the earliest of the Conventions adopted by the ILO and reflects the social concerns of that time. The ILO itself has acknowledged that Convention No. 9 is out of date. For instance, ILO Convention No. 179, Recruitment and Placement of Seafarers, 1996, adopted by the 84th (Maritime) Session of the International Labour Conference in October 1996, revised Convention No. 9. Among other things, the prohibition on fee charging employment agencies was removed. The Government is considering its position in relation to ratification of Convention No. 179. However, the Government is unlikely to make a decision until the shipping reform process has been finalised.
On 30 June 1998, the Minister for Immigration, Mr Phillip Ruddock, wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer concerning the Humanitarian refugee program. An extract from his letter follows:
…In line with the Cabinet decision the program retains a focus on the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and Africa. You will note that the allocation for Europe — mostly the former Yugoslavia — has been reduced by about 760 places, in recognition of continuing progress with the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords. At the request of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees I am proposing an allocation of about 180 places for the resettlement of Armenians originally from the Baku region who have been in Moscow since they fled the ethnic-based disturbances in their homeland in 1989/90.
I intend to increase the allocation for Africa by about 100 places, reflecting the views of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concerning resettlement needs in this region. This increase will be mostly used for Sudanese and displaced persons in the Horn of Africa region, but consideration is also being given to a small number from West Africa (such as Ogoni students who fled Nigeria into Benin) and of people party to ethnically mixed marriages in the Great Lakes region who are at risk from the recent inter-ethnic violence. Resettlement from the Middle East will continue to be focused on Iraqi Christians, Kurds, Baha’i’s and other minorities. In South West Asia the focus will be on Afghans in Pakistan and India.
In recognition of improved conditions in Sri Lanka I propose that the Special Assistance Category (SAC) for Sri Lankans be reviewed during the year, seeing that the level of civil disturbances in that country would no longer seem to clearly justify the humanitarian need for this particular SAC. However, in recognition of ongoing problems of discrimination against Ahmadis in Pakistan I propose a modest increase in the small SAC for this group from 50 to 70 places.
I propose that the Burmese in Thailand SAC be maintained in 1998/99 to 100 places, the same level as 1997/98. However, the Burmese in Burma SAC remains effectively non-operational due to difficulties eligible applicants have in gaining permits to leave Burma. No places were allocated for this SAC in 1997/98, and I intend doing the same in 1998/99.
On 11 November 1998, the Exchange of Letters, done at Canberra on 14 July 1998, between Australia and the Republic of France, constituting an Agreement relating to the Movement of Nationals between the Two Countries was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. An extract from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follows:
The Agreement secures France's waiver of visa requirements for Australian short term visitors to France and its Overseas Departments and Territories in exchange for Australia's extension of the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) system to French short term visitors to Australia. The ETA system links the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' visa data bases with computer systems used by airlines and travel agents, enabling participating airlines and travel agents to provide tourists and short term business travellers with an electronic travel authority, which includes pre clearance for entry, by entering personal details into the computer at the time of making travel bookings. Under this system, a traditional visa label is no longer issued. This simplification of the visa issuing process facilitates travel to Australia, an important consideration at a time of reduced tourism from some traditional Asian markets. Visa waiver by France under the Agreement eliminates the cost and inconvenience to the many Australians who visit France and its Overseas Departments and Territories each year. The saving to Australian travellers is estimated at over A$13 million per annum. In the past, delays in obtaining visas has acted as a deterrent to business visits where travel arrangements must often be made at short notice. The Agreement therefore also assists Australian exporters.
On 26 August 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning the opening of an Australian Embassy in the United Arab Emirates:
I am pleased to announce that the Government has agreed to the establishment of an Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi. This decision reflects our long-standing and friendly relations with the United Arab Emirates, the UAE’s political and economic importance in the Gulf region and its growing economic importance to Australia.
Australia’s commercial relationship with the UAE is our largest in the Middle East. Last financial year our exports to the UAE increased by 60 per cent to a record $1.065 billion. The UAE is Australia’s second largest customer for passenger motor vehicles and an important market for alumina and live animals.
The UAE is also a potentially significant source of investment for Australia.
The new Embassy in the UAE will contribute significantly to the underpinning of Austrade’s trade promotion efforts in the region and enable the Government to provide better consular service for some 2000 Australians who live and work in the Emirates. An Embassy in the capital Abu Dhabi will be a valuable addition to Australia’s existing Consulate-General in Dubai.
The UAE Embassy in Canberra has done much to promote bilateral cooperation since opening one year ago, and I would hope that an Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi would complement that work.
This decision demonstrates the Government’s determination to pursue commercial interests on a truly global basis and our growing links more generally with the countries of the Gulf.
On 26 May 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, was asked a question on notice by Mrs Janice Crosio. The question and response follow (House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1998, p 3809):
Mrs Crosio asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 3 March 1998:
1. 1. Have current employees at overseas Australian Government missions ever been found guilty of (a) sexual harassment or (b) sexual assault; if so, is he able to (i) identify the (A) employees, (B) mission at which each is employed, (C) exact nature of the offence committed by each, (D) year the offence was committed and (E) year each began employment at the mission and (ii) explain why the employees are considered to be of fit and proper character to represent Australia by working at an overseas mission; if not, why not.
2. Before a person is employed at an overseas Australian Government mission, is a check conducted on whether the person was ever found guilty of a criminal act; if not, why not.Mr Downer—The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1. I have been advised by the agencies covered by the Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio—i.e. the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Agency for International Development and the Australian Trade Commission—that a check of the relevant disciplinary files held by these agencies has not revealed any current employees of those agencies at overseas Australian Government missions as having been found guilty of sexual harassment or sexual assault. If the Honourable Member is aware of any employee who has been found guilty of such offences and she believes appropriate follow-up action has not been taken, I urge her to provide all relevant information to either myself, the relevant agency within my portfolio or the Australian Federal Police. I can assure the Honourable Member that if she were to bring any such information to my attention it would be investigated promptly and thoroughly.
2. I have been advised by the above agencies that such checks are conducted.
Current information concerning treaties that Australia has signed, ratified or acceded to is available from:
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Barton ACT 0221
Alternatively, the information is available at <www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat>
On 27 May 1998, Senator Richard Alston presented to the Senate the Government’s response to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ report entitled ‘Amendments to the Bonn Convention’ [Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals]. An extract concerning governmental policy on international agreements follows (Senate, Debates, 27 May 1998, p 3275):
The Australian Government will continue to pursue optimising membership of international agreements with a view to ensuring the membership of each agreement contains as many as possible of those nations affected by or influencing the subject matter of the agreement.
On 5 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, gave the following response to a question without notice from Mr Bill Taylor concerning the treaty making process. Extracts follow (House of Representatives, Debates, 5 March 1998, p 585):
Before the last election there were widespread allegations in the community, and there was a lot of uncertainty in the community as well, about the previous government negotiating treaties in secret and not consulting the public before the ratification of those treaties. This Government when it came to power decided it would rectify that, come clean with the public and be transparent in the whole of the treaty making process.
As a consequence of that, the government established the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties… We table all treaties in Parliament with national interest analyses and leave them open for debate, and a Treaties Council has been established for consultation with the States. So with this Government the process is not secret; it is completely transparent.
On 2 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams, was asked a question on notice by Mr Daryl Melham concerning the implementation of Genocide Convention Agreements. An extract from Mr Williams response follows (House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1998, p 154):
The Government has a number of priority projects currently underway in the human rights area and resources have been allocated accordingly. The enactment of Commonwealth legislation to implement the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is not the highest priority issue for the Government at this time. As I have already informed Mr Melham in responses to similar Questions on Notice, the Convention does not require the creation of a specific offence of genocide provided other laws of the State party adequately give effect to the provisions of the Convention. I have also informed Mr Melham that the Government has been advised that the common law and criminal codes of the States and Territories provide adequate punishment for a number of acts prohibited by the Convention.
On 2 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, was asked a question on notice by Mr Barry Jones. Mr Jones asked the Minister whether Departments and agencies had considered accession by Australia to the Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects and whether State and Territory Governments, collecting institutions and other stakeholders had been consulted about accession by Australia. An extract from the answer follows (Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1998, p 147):
The relevant departments and agencies, including the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have not met at the inter-agency level to consider accession by Australia, nor has a timetable been established to do so.
…There is no timetable established for consultations with State and Territory governments. However, such consultations must take place before a decision regarding Australian accession to the Convention is made.
…Further consideration and consultation must be undertaken in accordance with the normal treaty-making process before any decision is made on whether Australia should accede to the Convention. This includes consultations at the Commonwealth inter-agency level, as well as with State and Territory governments, followed by the tabling of proposed treaty action in Parliament. At this stage it is not possible to estimate the likely duration of this process.
On 26 May 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, provided the House of Representatives with the following in response to a question on notice from Mr Barry Jones (House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1998, p.3824):
Mr Jones asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 25 March 1998:
1. Does his Department have to consult with State and Territory governments and agencies in deciding whether Australia is to become a party to the Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 1954); if so, with which State and Territory governments and agencies has his Department consulted and on what dates, in what form and with what outcomes.
2. Which Parties to the Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 1954) are not parties to the Protocol.Mr Downer—The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1. No decision has been made as to whether Australia is to become party to the Protocol to the Hague Convention. The Department of Communications and the Arts, the Department of Defence, the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to review this issue at the inter-agency level. In making such a decision, the Commonwealth Department with prime responsibility for Australia’s potential ratification of the Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 1954) must consult with State and Territory governments before Australia could ratify the Protocol, pursuant to the treaty-making process. To date, no such consultations have occurred.
2. The following countries are a Party to the Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (The Hague, 1954), but are not Parties to the Protocol: Argentina; Australia; Côte d’Ivoire; Croatia; Dominican Republic; Estonia; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Oman; Panama; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; Tanzania; Uzbekistan.
On 5 February 1998, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, made the following comments concerning the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol in the course of a speech delivered to Outlook:
On this foundation, and through close consultation between all levels of government, industry and the wider community, Australia’s approach to the negotiations was developed. We identified what was at stake for us and defined the nature of the differentiation we needed. We then set about ensuring that our particular national circumstances were understood by others and taken account of in the final outcome.
To achieve this, we launched a major diplomatic effort. In addition to the negotiation team’s efforts, key Government agencies and Australian embassies geared up as we sought to explain to others our concerns and the approach we wanted to see taken. Over the year and leading up to the Kyoto Conference, the Prime Minister and senior Government Ministers took up Australia’s case with their counterparts around the world at every available opportunity. This political and diplomatic effort was intensified in the final lead up to the Kyoto meeting, leaving other governments in no doubt as to the importance we attached to getting an acceptable outcome for Australia.
On 21 May 1998, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, made the following comments concerning the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol in the course of a speech to the ABARE Emissions Trading Conference:
In the run up to Kyoto, Australia worked hard to shape the Protocol outcome. We were successful in having the Kyoto Conference accept our position that differentiation made sense. It made sense both from the perspective of gaining a good agreement to help protect the environment and because it also allowed our particular national interests to be taken into account.
As was the case last year, in the post- Kyoto negotiations on emission trading Australia has its own perspectives to bring to the negotiating table and its own interests to protect.
The continued development of our thinking on emission trading will require, as did our approach to the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol, sound analytical work such as can be provided by ABARE and continued close liaison with the full spectrum of Australian industry and other stakeholders. In this way Australia’s negotiators will be informed sufficiently to protect Australia’s interests in these negotiations.
On 22 September 1998, H.E. Penny Wensley, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, made the following comments concerning United Nations reform in the course of a speech to the Fifty-third General Assembly. An extract from the statement follows:
Some progress has been made. We welcomed the agreement reached on key elements of the Secretary General's reform package. We worked hard and quietly to help achieve this. It is important now to ensure that what has been agreed is effectively implemented, that the task forces and reviews of specific aspects of UN organisations produce concrete outcomes, and that real change does in fact occur. Critical to the achievement of real reform will be resolution of the ongoing problem of non payment of arrears in financial contributions. The failure of many member states, including the major contributor, to address this situation hinders efforts to strengthen the Organisation. Much of the reform process has been focused to date on rationalising and refining the structures and mechanisms of the United Nations and on administrative measures to improve the way it works. The next phase of the reform process must be to give more structured thought to the kind of United Nations we expect and want in decades to come. A thorough review of priorities is overdue. Although the lofty ideals enshrined in the UN Charter remain as valid as ever, we need to give serious thought to modernising the ways in which we give effect to those objectives in terms of operational activities. We understand that the responsibility for this next phase of the reform process rests with member states but we once again look to the Secretary General to guide us, and to help initiate a "Track III" of the process. Australia is concerned that debate on Security Council reform has stalled. We have had an exhaustive - but regrettably inconclusive - discussion over the last year. It is time now to move beyond general discussion to serious negotiation of a reform package: one which will usher in a remodelled Council that is more representative, transparent and suited to the new millennium. This will require serious engagement and flexibility from all. Australia remains committed to finding ways to move the debate forward on this central issue. Australia's Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, raised in this Assembly last year the issue of electoral groups. Australia continues to assert that an important element in the reform debate must be reconfiguration of the electoral group system. It is over 30 years since the last significant change was made to the regional groups. It should not be omitted from the process of UN modernisation and revitalisation. The drawbacks of the present configuration are becoming more obvious: substantial disparities in the size of the various groups and an inadequate level of representation available to many sub regions, including Australia's own geographical region of the Pacific and East Asia. We have noted quickening interest among member states in this subject, and I think it is time we recognised this as an element of reform which will need to be addressed. Changing the groups to reflect better contemporary realities and the interests of the current membership will require careful thought and patient discussion, and it is too early to put forward a particular formula. However we could begin by discussing the principles on which a new system could be built, and by exchanging views, in a thoughtful and non acrimonious way, on how we might take the process forward.
On 14 May 1998, in the Senate Senator Chris Ellison tabled the Government response to the Seventh Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. An extract from the response follows (Senate, Debates, 14 May 1998, p 2867):
The Government notes and endorses the approach reflected in [the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’] recommendation that savings achieved from Australia’s withdrawal from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation be redirected to other areas of the aid program where they can be more effectively utilised]. In doing so, the Government welcomes the Committee’s conclusion (Paragraph 2.38) that more effective utilisation of Australia’s aid budget may be obtained through the funding of other aid programs. The Government notes, however, that the anticipated savings are part of managing the Australian Agency for International Development’s (AusAID) global budget rather than a discrete sum that might be identifiably re-allocated. With reference to Paragraph 2.36, it notes that, at the time the decision to withdraw was made, AusAID wrote to all parties affected by the decision to advise them of the withdrawal and the rationale behind it.
On 30 June 1998, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Final Acts of the World Radio Communication Conference (WRC-95), done at Geneva on 17 November 1995 — Partial Revision of the Radio Regulations of 5 December 1979 were tabled in both Houses of Parliament. An extract from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follows:
Australia signed the WRC 95 Final Acts incorporating the Radio Regulations revision and may now either : a) take action to advise the Secretary General of the ITU that Australia does not consent to be bound, b) take no action and have the WRC 95 revision become binding after thirty six months from date of commencement of provisional applications of the revision, or c) take action to formally consent to be bound. To now decline to be bound by the WRC 95 revision would be inconsistent with Australia having signed. Further, it could place Australia's administration of the Radio Spectrum, (which is the range of frequencies (3kHz 300GHz) that are useable for radiocommunication and broadcasting purposes) at odds with other Members, causing interference where spectrum has common international usage eg satellites. No case can be found where a Member has taken such an extreme course of action. The WRC 95 revision makes additional radio frequency spectrum available for mobile satellite services, sets power limits for earth stations in certain frequencies, and opens additional spectrum for high frequency broadcasting. Expansion of the spectrum available to mobile satellite services for example will benefit rural users and rural business the most, as the new spectrum allocation made by WRC 95, and reflected in the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan (which is the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) plan for managing spectrum allocations in Australia as required by sections 30 and 34 of the Radiocommunications Act 1992), are targeted at remote unpopulated areas. This will be available for future satellite based telephony and wide band data systems. Taking no action and allowing the WRC 95 revision to come into force at the end of the thirty six month provisional application periods may have a negative effect on Australia's standing within the ITU and on Australia's negotiating position at future reviews of the Radio Regulations. Taking action to formally consent to be bound by the WRC 95 revision is the proposed option, as it continues Australia's good standing in the ITU and would place Australia's administration of the Radio Spectrum in line with the rest of the world. As Australia contributed to and signed the WRC 95 Final Acts incorporating the revision, formal consent to be bound would confirm Australia's intention in signing the Acts.
On 18 May 1998, the Minister for Trade, Mr Tim Fischer, made the following comments in the course of a speech delivered to the Second Session of the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Geneva:
We must also rise to the challenge of demonstrating to the public what the WTO does and the benefits it brings. We must find ways and means, particularly at the national level, to ensure that all those with an interest in our work have adequate access to what we do, and why we do it. We need to explain and sell the message that an open multilateral trading system benefits all of us. In this connection, let me note with appreciation the recent study by the OECD entitled “Open Markets Matter”. Its examples of the effects of trade liberalisation and the costs of protection are very cogent. The Australian Government has mirrored these efforts at the domestic level with a number of publications and activities aimed at informing the community on the benefits of trade liberalisation for Australia and the international trading community.
We should be clear, however, that the WTO is an intergovernmental organisation which deals with legal rights and obligations. It must work effectively, and we should bear this well in mind as we look for greater transparency.
…Universality is a key issue. More than 30 economies have applied to become members. Joining the WTO is qualitatively quite different to joining most other global bodies. The acceding member not only has to demonstrate that it can administer the WTO agreements effectively. Accessions must be completed on terms that provide commercially viable access for existing WTO Members and ensure that the balance of rights and obligations enjoyed by existing Members is maintained. The accessions workload is a large one and the political investment on the part of both aspiring and existing WTO Members is substantial. But the goal of a smoothly-functioning trading system that conveys its benefits equally to all Members is crucial.
…Looking back today, Australia takes pride in its own contribution to the multilateral trading system. We have been active and constructive participants over the past fifty years. We continue to have faith in the multilateral approach to trade which we believe is of enduring vitality. We look forward to continuing to play our part in upholding the principles that underpin the WTO.
On 23 June 1998, Senator Judith Troeth presented the Government’s response to the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade entitled ‘From Empire to Partnership: report on a seminar on the Commonwealth of Nations’. An extracts of the response follows (Senate, Debates, 23 June 1998, p 3812):
…Support for the Commonwealth continues to be an important element of Australian foreign policy. In earlier days the Commonwealth was seen primarily by Australia as an adjunct to our close relations with Britain. Its chief value to Australia now lies in the opportunity it provides to pursue and promote foreign policy objectives in a multilateral forum, which brings together a broadly representative cross-section of the world’s English speaking countries particularly from Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Asia.
As the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, said in his statement to Parliament on 19 November 1997, following the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh, “the Commonwealth also complements our key bilateral relationships and our focus on regional forums such as APEC and the South Pacific Forum. It is the major avenue for our engagement with many Commonwealth countries beyond our immediate region. As the third largest financial contributor to the Commonwealth, Australia has a positive role in promoting the economic and social development of those countries”.
The active role taken by Australia at CHOGM—particularly the Prime Minister’s initiative in establishing an International Trade and Investment Facility to assist developing countries benefit from globalisation—reflects the government’s commitment to the Commonwealth as a valuable international network.
That said, Australia has long emphasised the importance of the Commonwealth focusing its activities on areas in which it has genuine comparative advantage and responding to the changing needs of its members as efficiently and effectively as possible. Australia believes the Commonwealth has an important role to play in the promotion of fundamental political values among its members including, in particular, democratisation, good governance and institution building. Australia’s interest in the Commonwealth is also influenced by its relevance to our wider foreign and trade policy interests.
Australia is very pleased to have been able to join with Brunei in co-chairing the 1997-98 meetings of the Intersessional Support Group on Confidence-Building Measures (ISG on CBMs).
…Some of you may recall that Australia hosted the first ever ARF intersessional activity — a second track CBMs meeting held in Canberra in November 1994.
But this is the first time Australia has co-chaired an official ARF activity.
This demonstrates Australia’s strong and enduring commitment to the ARF. The ARF continues to enjoy impressive success in giving practical expression to an emerging common interest among regional countries in promoting stability and security.
…Australia is particularly pleased to be hosting this meeting because we see it as the core ARF intersessional activity.
…Of course, the ISG is a valuable confidence-building measure in its own right because it provides a highly respected forum for senior defence and foreign affairs officials from across the Asia-Pacific to come together and exchange views on key regional security issues.
Every intersessional year, participants in the ISG have the opportunity to discuss developments in the regional security environment and to enhance transparency in the region through an exchange of views on defence policies and approaches.
The ISG is also the principal mechanism whereby military officers and defence civilians are integrated into the ARF process — a goal which Australia supports wholeheartedly.…the pivotal role of the ASEAN Regional Forum … is recognised and endorsed in the White Paper [In the National Interest] and Australia's Strategic Policy. …I want to conclude my remarks with the thought that the valuable work of this group - and the wider endeavours of the ASEAN Regional Forum - demonstrate the sort of flexibility and creativity that all our regional and national institutions will need to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Australia will continue to be a thoughtful source of practical ideas and inspiration for the ARF, and other key regional and global institutions. It is fair to say that the ARF does not enjoy the highest profile in the region's press, nor does it often attract the public plaudits that its quiet but immensely effective work deserves. But the ARF is having a positive impact on the region's well being and quality of life, and it has great potential for future development. It is building the indispensable habits of consultation, cooperation and openness which lie at the heart of the region's future stability and security. That is why the Australian Government wants to see the work of the ISG go forward and develop even more momentum. And that is why we will remain firmly committed to the ASEAN Regional Forum as an important step towards the creation of a sense of strategic community in the Asia-Pacific.
On 26 May 1998, in the Senate, Senator Grant Tambling provided the Government response to the Third Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. An extract concerning the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission follows (Senate, Debates, 26 May 1998, p 3107):
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties recommends that the Commonwealth Government:
a) notes Western Australia’s particular interest in the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission;
b) facilitates their participation in the delegation to and any consultations relating to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission where possible.Response
The Commonwealth Government has fully consulted with the Government of Western Australia on IOTC issues and has extended an invitation for the Western Australian Government to participate in Australian delegations to IOTC meetings. The Western Australian Government has declined to participate in meetings to date, but has expressed its interest to take part in future IOTC meetings.…Australia deposited an Instrument of Acceptance of and then became party to the Agreement to Establish the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in November 1996. Australia attended the first meeting in December 1996 and the leader of the Delegation was elected interim Chair.
On 12 May 1998, the Headquarters Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna, done at Canberra on 20 January 1998 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
Australia's commercial southern bluefin tuna fishery is worth up to $100 million annually. Accordingly, Australia has an important national interest in the conservation and management of this species. At the Second Annual Meeting of the [the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (''the Commission'')] in September 1995, the Commission decided to establish its headquarters in Canberra. The Government viewed this decision as a very positive outcome for Australia. In addition to the international prestige associated with hosting the headquarters of an international organisation (the only other one in Australia being the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources), the location of the headquarters in Canberra gives the Government of Australia ready access to the Commission. The Commission's Secretariat was established in May 1996. In September 1996 the Secretariat moved into office premises located at 19 Napier Close, Deakin in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Article 6 of the [the Convention for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (''the Convention'')] requires that the privileges and immunities to be enjoyed by the Commission and its officers in the territory of a Party shall be determined by agreement between the Commission and that Party. Accordingly, at the Second Session of the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Commission in January 1998, the Commission and Australia signed such an agreement (the Headquarters Agreement). The Headquarters Agreement sets out the respective rights and obligations of the Commission and its officers in Australia, and of the Government of Australia as host.
On 14 May 1998, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances, Mr Bill O’Chee, wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer concerning the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations 1998. Extracts from his letter and Mr Downer’s reply follow:
I refer to the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations 1988, Statutory Rules 1998 No 66, which grant legal personality to the Network and confer various privileges and immunities on it.
Regulation 2 validly allows these regulations to take effect from a day determined by the Minister under subsection 13(2) of the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963. Subsection 14(4) of that Act, however, refers to determinations made after the commencement of the Legislative Instruments Act 1997, which has not yet passed through the Parliament. Subsection 13(4) is an important safeguard but the Regulations do not provide an equivalent safeguard for determinations made before that Act commences. The Committee would therefore be grateful for your assurance that if any such determinations are made they will be tables in both Houses of Parliament.Yours sincerely
Bill O’Chee Dear Bill
Thank you for your letter dated 14 May 1998 concerning the Network and Aquaculture Centres in Asia and the Pacific (Privileges and Immunities) Regulations.
Any determinations made under subsection 13(2) of the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963 prior to the passage of the Legislative Instruments Act 1997 through the Parliament will be tabled in both Houses of the Parliament.Yours sincerely
On 22 October 1998, a statement concerning the environment and sustainable development was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Second Committee of the Fifty-Third Session of the United Nations General Assembly contained the following comments:
…the 1999 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Small Island Developing States will be an important opportunity to focus the international community’s attention on environmental and developmental problems of relevance to SIDS. Australia has continued to support implementation of the outcomes of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS. We have been closely involved in efforts to further the Barbados Program of Action in the South Pacific, including through our engagement with Pacific regional organisations and support for the continuing development of the Global Ocean Observing System. We continue, as a matter of course, to incorporate Barbados priorities into our bilateral and regional development assistance program. Australia welcomes the opportunity to support preparations for the Special Session, and encourage broader international support for the sustainable development of SIDS through progressing the Barbados Program of Action. Australia supports the move to reform and strengthen UN activities in the environmental area. We welcome the report of the Taskforce on Environment and Human Settlements and have been giving it close examination. It is our sense that this report, as well as the Secretary General's report "On Ways and Means of Undertaking the Review of Progress in Implementing Conventions related to Sustainable Development", will require very careful reflection as we consider the desirability and means of achieving better linkages between the various conventions dealing with global, but distinct, environmental issues. …On a final note, we would like to commend the Second Committee for its focused and efficient work practices with regards to environment issues this year and support fully the proposal to consider environment conventions in a single omnibus resolution.
The seventh Commission on Sustainable Development also represents an important meeting on next year's calendar for Australia. We consider the work program of the Commission agreed at the Special Session to have identified many themes of great importance and significance for Australia, not least those due for consideration at this coming session of the Commission; namely Oceans, Tourism, SIDS and Sustainable Consumption. One of the challenges for the CSD7 will be to establish linkages between these themes. From 23-27 November this year, Australia is to host a symposium on International Coral Reef Initiative and Planning for the International Tropical Marine Environment Management. The outcomes from the Symposium, which are to be fed into the CSD7 process, should provide a constructive example of the need for such an integrated approach in the sustainable management of our oceans and coastal areas. …The format of our discussions has taken a step forward this year with the inclusion of the industry segment. We look forward to similar innovations in the future that will help us as delegates ensure our deliberations produce useful outcomes beyond the conference room. The world needs those outcomes. Next year from CSD we need practical outcomes on oceans. And we need practical outcomes from the Special Session of the General Assembly which will confirm our determination to implement the Barbados Plan of Action and reduce the vulnerability of small island states. Our discussions here are only a small part of making it all happen. The real work is on the ground. To see real progress by the time of our next review individual nations and the international community must commit themselves to ensuring sustainable development is a part of our daily practice, rather than just a conceptual framework. Australia reaffirms its commitment to this task.
For the world to achieve real sustainability of water resource use, we need management which fosters integrated catchment planning, involves the local community, acknowledges the need to maintain the ecological integrity of freshwater systems and employs economic instruments for greatest efficiency.
We must encourage an operating environment which attracts private sector investment and more efficient use of resources available for development assistance. We need stable and effective macroeconomic management, market-oriented policies, effective and accountable institutions and ongoing investment in human resources development.
All of these are vitally important to the sustainability of integrated water resource management efforts.
For our part, Australia has under way an extensive water reform program on a national and regional scale, with all these elements. It has been agreed by all Australian Governments, the national Government and six State and two Territory Governments, which under our Constitution, own water resources. This gives us many relevant trans-jurisdictional experiences.
The program is complemented by the $1.25 billion Natural Heritage Trust established by Australian government — the largest environment program in Australia’s history. This funds the sustainable management, rehabilitation and conservation of Australia’s natural capital.
The impact of these reforms has already achieved water savings of almost 20 per cent across urban Australia over recent years. Full cost recovery pricing combined with improved institutional arrangements, including devolution of responsibility and water trading in rural areas is encouraging water use effectiveness and the transfer of water to higher value uses. Specific allocations are being set aside for environmental flows. And in the Murray-Darling Basin, covering more than one million square kilometres across four States and one Territory, Governments have agreed to cap the amount of water to be taken out of the river system.
Community participation has been a central element in the Australian activities as it is in other countries. Devolution of responsibility must be accompanied by capacity building with the provision of access to training, expertise and technology appropriate to local needs. Australia’s aid program helps in achieving these objectives elsewhere.
In addition to government aid, private capital flows (both international and domestic) are an increasingly important source of investment for the water sector. Public/private partnerships are one way of attracting these capital flows.
I am pleased to announce today that the Australian Government will join the Global Water Partnership. We believe the partnership to be an important mechanism by which we can support integrated and consistent water resources management programs at a global level. We look forward to sharing our knowledge and expertise on water resources management and to helping develop effective solutions.Institutional arrangements
It is important to ensure that the opportunity presented by the current international attention on freshwater is not wasted. Australia supports arrangements for reporting back to the CSD on progress in improving institutional processes; regular monitoring and evaluation of our work is an important part of achieving our goals. We believe this can be achieved without compromising the integrity of the CSD’s work program.
Australia believes that capacity building in developing countries is integral to sustainable development and is encouraged by the trends that have emerged in this area in the last several years. We fully support the idea that national commitment and ownership must drive the process of building capacity and agree that the growing effort in many countries to involve a wide range of participants is one of the most encouraging trends to date.
We note the close relationship between successful capacity building and essential elements of good governance including participation, bureaucratic transparency and accountability. We continue to stress the important role the private sector can play in capacity building.
The transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) is an important means of achieving sustainable consumption and production. While ODA remains an important source of funding for the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, commercial participation is growing rapidly in importance. Governments also have roles to play in setting environmental goals, standards, guidelines and protocols and in creating the enabling conditions for commercially-driven technological development.
Turning to industry, Australia sees our goal for the 2002 review as achieving the full engagement of industry in the sustainable development debate. This means, among other things, more comprehensive reporting by industry (accountability), use of life cycle systems and acceptance of a range of regulatory and voluntary approaches.
Industry has a major role to play in the achievement of sustainable development. Through improving its own practices industry will contribute substantially to sustainable development where it is located. As well, industry plays a major role in the transfer of appropriate technologies from developed to developing countries, assisting those countries to move towards sustainable development.
Our key task here is it encourage industry to engage effectively in the sustainable development agenda. I am pleased that the Industry segment last week was successful and hope that the format can be used in the years ahead to continue to strengthen CSD’s policy rigour as well as its future reach.
To influence and encourage industry in this, we cannot rely only on regulation or indeed altruism. Viability and competitive advantage remain business imperatives. That is why concepts such as sustainable consumption and production and eco-efficiency really matter.
Eco-efficiency makes sense for industry because it results in better environmental outcomes from industrial practices, and also improves economic efficiency. Tools such as cleaner production, life cycle assessment, environmental reporting, environment management systems and environmental accounting are very useful in helping industry move down the eco-efficiency path. Governments should do what they can to promote their use.
Australia has a flexible approach to the implementation of environment policy that encompasses regulation, incentives and voluntary action. This approach involves a careful consideration of each challenge or market failure and the matching of the appropriate solution to the specific problem.
On 5 February 1998, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, made the following comments concerning the Kyoto Protocol in the course of a speech delivered to Outlook:
Put simply, equity and realism of targets was the only means of making the Kyoto Protocol realistic, fair and implementable…
We took a leading role in advocating differentiated country targets to take account of individual national circumstances. We argued that not all economies are the same, and nor should they be required to become so.
From the outset we carried the case for a comprehensive framework. We achieved that goal. All six greenhouse gases and all greenhouse gas emission sources and sinks, including the land use change and forestry sector, are included.
…We, along with the U.S. and other countries, pressed for the inclusion of emissions trading, banking, borrowing and opportunities for Joint Implementation.
…The EU bubble was a major issue for us. We worked closely with other like-minded countries — to gain tougher disciplines on the bubble. In future, the EU cannot simply enlarge to take in new members and re-distribute emissions credits. It also provides for increased accountability of EU members on compliance.
…the Government was committed to ensuring that Australia made a fair contribution to the global effort. The Government recognised that the potential risks posed by climate change are simply too serious. They warrant global action.
The other key consideration was Australia’s trade competitiveness. Our national circumstances are very different to those of most other developed nations. Ours is a small, highly specialised economy. Our strong comparative advantage is in energy-intensive production. We have strong trade linkages with developing countries, especially in Asia. Our economy was especially vulnerable to any outcome that imposed unfair and unrealistic emission reduction targets upon us.
We identified the risk to our national interests early in the negotiations. I would like here to acknowledge the important contribution ABARE’s analysis made. That work highlighted the nature of the stakes involved and the need for differentiation to achieve an equitable result. ABARE’s findings were reinforced and built upon by other work and analysis to assess the likely size and distribution of economic costs and potential losses.
…Our target, to limit emissions growth to 8% above 1990 levels, represents a significant cut in our emissions growth from business-as-usual. It will be just as tough as for most other developed countries. It is no free-ride. Despite the progress already made in reducing our projected emissions growth, the measures announced by the Prime Minister last November and the inclusion of land use change emissions in the accounting, we are confronted with a challenging emissions reduction task. It will require all sectors of the Australian economy to play their part.
The Government is committed to fully implementing its domestic action program. Progress is underway to implement the measures announced last year. The whole of government strategy that worked so well internationally has equal application at home. The Commonwealth will continue to work closely with state and territory governments, industry and the wider community to ensure that Australia plays its part in implementing an agreement we worked so hard to achieve.
On 30 April 1998, the Minister for the Environment, Senator Robert Hill, made the following comments in the course of a statement to the Sixth Session High Level Segment of the Commission on Sustainable Development which included the following comments on the Kyoto Protocol:
First though, let me reiterate Australia's commitment to addressing climate change, as further demonstrated by our signature yesterday of the Kyoto Protocol. It is encouraging that many states have signed and that we are looking to further progress at Buenos Aires. Australia is already taking concrete action following Kyoto. We are implementing a comprehensive range of new initiatives, with funding of some $180 million announced prior to Kyoto, to work with the community, business and the States and Territories towards meeting Australia's part of this global challenge. We encourage all countries to engage in implementing what we agreed at Kyoto. I am confident that the Clean Development Mechanism will provide opportunity to do so for both developed and developing countries. We must work to secure the effective global cooperation necessary to address this global issue - in all our interests, and most immediately those of vulnerable island states.On 22 October 1998, a statement was delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Second Committee of the Fifty third Session of the United Nations General Assembly. An extract from the statement concerning the Kyoto Protocol follows:
…the Fourth Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Buenos Aires next month represents an important opportunity to advance the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol adopted last year. While the Kyoto Protocol was a significant first step forwards and a landmark agreement, a number of difficult and complex implementation issues remained to be resolved. The flexibility mechanisms provided for by the Protocol - emissions trading, joint implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism - are a vital means of ensuring that the emissions commitments under the Protocol can be implemented at the least possible cost. Operationalising these mechanisms so that they provide for the most cost effective outcomes will be critical to the success of the Protocol. Another issue central to our longer term goals is that of realising an effective global response to climate change. We are conscious that, even with the action that will flow from the Kyoto Protocol, commitments by the developed countries alone will not be sufficient to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention. Australia will be looking to Buenos Aires for agreement on a comprehensive framework for the negotiation of these outstanding issues, so that the momentum which brought us a successful result at Kyoto is maintained into the future.On 12 November 1998, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, made a statement to the Fourth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. An extract from the statement concerning the Kyoto Protocol follows:
The adoption of the Kyoto Protocol last December represented a watershed in the world's response to climate change. Before Kyoto, Australia signalled its strong commitment to effective global action when the Prime Minister announced an extensive package of measures to address the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions across a wide range of sectors in our economy. At Kyoto, we accepted a challenging target that represents for Australia a reduction in projected emissions of some 30 per cent from 1990 levels by 2010, as compared to business as usual projections. Since we accepted that target, we have been working on the domestic front to implement the measures that will make it possible for us to meet our commitments. We have established the world's first dedicated greenhouse office - the Australian Greenhouse Office - which co ordinates and delivers policies and programs relating to greenhouse. We are designing the means of implementing the target we have announced for electricity supplied and large users to source an extra 2% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010. This will take us from our current level of 10% renewables in our energy mix, to 12%. We we also implementing best practice standards for power generation based on fossil fuel classes. We announced a package of some $60 million to support the commercialisation of solar, wind and other renewable technologies. We are also taking action on the energy efficiency front, advancing minimum energy standards and energy labelling for appliances, and we will be requiring improved energy performance in the commercial and domestic building sectors, In transport, our goal is to achieve at least an extra 15% fuel efficiency in new vehicles by 2010, and to improve fuel efficiency labelling on a model specific basis. We are also extending the existing compressed natural gas infrastructure in some of our major cities. We have a highly successful voluntary industry program, the Greenhouse Challenge, which now involves some 270 companies across Australia that between them are committed to delivering savings of over 20 megatonnes off projected emissions growth by the year 2000. The program has now been expanded to include small and medium enterprises. In partnership with local governments, the Australian government is providing substantial support for the Cities for Climate Protection Program. By 2003, we anticipate that 200 local governments will be participating in the Program and contributing substantial gains at the local level. In the land use change and forestry sector, which has particular significance for Australia, as it constitutes one quarter of our national emissions, we are reducing the rate of land clearing and have major revegetation initiatives underway through our Natural Heritage Trust. As part of our greenhouse initiatives, we are developing a National Carbon Accounting System which will provide us with an accurate and verifiable measurement of emissions and removals from vegetation and soils. We are preparing to take even further action. A new National Greenhouse Strategy will be released in two weeks' time. It is a joint commitment by State and national governments to enhance our capacity to meet our Kyoto target. Just as we are taking action domestically, we are looking for international action to bring the Kyoto Protocol into early effect, to maintain the Kyoto momentum. At this Conference, we need to settle a work program for the flexibility mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol. We want the most cost efficient outcomes and rules, underpinned by robust monitoring and reporting requirements. We need to work toward a strong and effective compliance framework. Consistent with these objectives we support international emissions trading as a crucial means to reduce the cost of emissions abatement. We are exploring options for domestic emissions trading to mesh with an international regime and we oppose redundant measures such as supplementarily restrictions which would frustrate least cost solutions. Finally, the scientific evidence is clear. Even with the commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, action by Annex I Parties alone will not be sufficient to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention. To address this, the Parties must be able to explore pathways for broader participation and commitments in the future. These pathways allow for approaches appropriate to individual circumstances and development aspirations. They must also be determined in accordance with our common but differentiated responsibilities. Madam President, because our high costs of abatement, adequately responding to the greenhouse issue has not been easy for Australia but we have accepted the challenge and responsibility of making an equivalent effort to others, are proud to have signed the Kyoto Protocol and are committed to work co operatively towards its early and effective implementation. It is time to turn process into action, to achieve a better global outcome.
On 5 February 1998, H.E. Meg McDonald, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, made the following comments in the course of a speech to Outlook:
Australia will be working to ensure that approaches to emissions trading and to joint projects with developing countries result in outcomes which are cost-effective, transparent and equitable. Many questions about the operation of an international emissions trading scheme need to be resolved. We do not yet know how an international emissions trading regime might operate or what the scope might be for any domestic emissions trading regime. We want our access to traded emission credits to be on equal terms with others. Only a fair, transparent and competitive international emissions trading scheme would deliver the kind of flexibility necessary to achieve emissions reductions at the lowest possible cost.
The achievement of the inclusion of sinks and the treatment of emissions from the land use change and forestry sector will require thought in implementation. Guidelines are to be developed on the methodologies to be applied. We need to ensure that there is no back-sliding by others on this part of the agreement.
On 21 May 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning climate change to the ABARE International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading:
International emissions trading provides the means of harnessing the power of the market to provide cost-effective solutions to emission abatement.
…In agreeing to play Australia’s part in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our government accepted that same precautionary principle. In the face of the current scientific evidence supporting global warming, to do otherwise would have been foolhardy.
The responsible approach, which the Australian Government took, was instead to advocate an approach of equitable burden sharing, or differentiation, along with flexible implementation, to make the climate change framework workable and sustainable over the long term.
…in the leadup to the Kyoto Conference last year, … [w]e vigorously and relentlessly pursued an environmentally effective, but fair outcome, sometimes against quite openly hostile opposition.
…the Kyoto outcome, agreement to negotiated differentiated targets that reflect national circumstances, vindicated Australia’s stand.
We now have a framework that forms a sound basis for further elaboration.
…It is an agreement which provides the framework for environmentally effective, equitable and durable action to address climate change.
Kyoto though is but one step along the long term path.
Critical steps still remain for the future. We need to fill in the details and make operational the far reaching market mechanisms we agreed in the Protocol. And we need to take concrete steps towards negotiation of greater involvement by developing countries.Post Kyoto negotiations
The resolution of outstanding issues in the on-going international negotiations will impact on the cost-effectiveness of national emission abatement programs.
It will be important to ensure that the final design of the Kyoto Protocol is compatible with global economic growth and prosperity.
The current economic downturn we are witnessing in our region, with its implications for global growth, is a timely reminder of the importance of nurturing economic growth through sound institutional structures.
Our negotiating strategy is guided by our assessment that the Kyoto Protocol, if it is to deliver a sound institutional structure for global emission abatement, it must meet one overriding principle — it must allow all nations equal access to the most cost- effective means of emission abatement.
The stakes are high for Australia. While the Prime Minister’s November package takes us a long way forward, meeting our national target of 8% above 1990 levels by 2008-2012 will still be challenging, as it demands a substantial reduction in our business-as-usual emissions.
The choice we face in meeting this challenge will be either to buy emission credits or take additional abatement action, which may prove more costly.
Moreover, the resolution of outstanding issues in the on-going international negotiations could impact on Australia’s emission abatement task and the measures required to meet our target.
So while Kyoto is over the task of protecting our national interests is not.
…Of vital importance is the key role that the Kyoto Protocol has assigned to the private sector. In providing for flexibility mechanisms, in particular emissions trading among industrialised countries, the Kyoto Protocol determined what would be the key driving force behind global emission abatement action.
This the Kyoto Protocol gives the private sector, a key stake holder, an opportunity also to be the key player in driving the fundamentals of global emission abatement action.
Commonsense, as well as business-sense tells us that a transparent, unimpeded market offers the best prospect of delivering low-cost, non-distortionary outcomes.
Outcomes that match the priorities of the private sector and reduce the level of interference imposed upon the market in meeting new challenges — in this case the challenge of moderating our impact on the environment.
Australia’s key negotiating objective will be to develop and design, in consultation with others, an emissions trading framework that does not impede the power of the market.
Rather, we will be advocating a regime that harnesses the power of the market. A regime that empowers the private sector to use flexible and innovative approaches to emission abatement.
…In these negotiations, the Government will be attaching the highest priority to ensuring that Australia’s competitiveness is maintained.
We are an efficient producer of many energy-intensive goods.
A competitively-priced emissions trading framework will project Australia’s international competitiveness.
We made it clear at Kyoto and we will continue to make it clear to our negotiating partners — Australia will not accept any outcome that seeks to disadvantage us simply because we are a competitive, highly-efficient producer of energy-intensive goods.
Of course we must be allowed to continue doing what we do well.
The global environment will be no better off if second-rate producers, using second-rate technology are able to appropriate our legitimate production activities.
Such an approach is wrong headed.
Such an outcome would be wasteful and costly.
A well-designed, competitively-priced international emissions trading regime will, however, by minimising costs will also minimise the risk of greenhouse-intensive industries relocating away from industrialised countries, such as Australia, to those without any target commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
…While the Kyoto Protocol does not provide for developing country commitments, it does include provision for a clean development mechanism.
The design of the clean development mechanism provides industrialised countries with the potential for low cost emission reductions, as well as providing significant economic incentives for developing country participation.
Along with the US and others, Australia is working hard to ensure that an economically efficient and environmentally effective mechanism is developed.
The competitiveness issue is also an important element in the design of an international emissions trading regime. Therefore the many countries are attaching a high priority to making early progress in the development of a framework for open, transparent, cost-efficient international emissions trading.
Australia attaches considerable importance to emergence of the Umbrella Group at Kyoto.
The group includes the Asia-Pacific Group of countries — Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and Japan — who were joined in Kyoto by Russia, The Ukraine, Norway and Iceland.
The Umbrella Group, is an influential like-minded group of countries, which affords its members an important opportunity to advance and protect their common interests in establishing a cost and environmentally effective international emissions- trading regime.Emissions trading: unresolved issues
The right of parties to engage in emissions trading, for the purpose of fulfilling their abatement commitments, is enshrined in the Kyoto Protocol, but the operational details have been left unresolved.
…Australia’s view is that the international emission trading system should be economically efficient, have open and non-discriminatory access to participants and not compromise the environmental effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol.
Australia wants, first and foremost, a trading system does not compromise the environmental effectiveness of the Kyoto Protocol.
We also seek an international emission trading system that is efficient and enables the lowest cost abatement options to be realised.
We want Australian participants to be able to trade on equal terms to other parties and a framework which ensures that transactions costs are kept to a minimum possible.
In all of this we need to make sure that the competitiveness of Australian industry is not undermined.
Australian industry faces particular trade competitiveness concerns because of the importance of their competitors based in developing countries, with the risk that loss of competitiveness could lead to carbon leakage.
A final issue … will be how any international regime might link with any domestic trading regime.
…[A] business-friendly emissions trading regime … could harness the power of the market to provide Australian industry with cost-effective solutions to emission abatement.
…This is a time for cooperative effort, sound analysis and the development of practical solutions if we are build a framework for emissions trading that is business-friendly.
Business is after all a key stakeholder in global environment negotiations.
My government has always been a strong supporter of market-driven outcomes.
We recognise that markets often know better than governments.
We also recognise that harnessing market power will allow for low-cost greening of the market.Concluding remarks The challenge the government faced in the leadup to Kyoto was twofold: to contribute constructively to an outcome that deals with the problem of global warming and simultaneously to protect Australia’s national interests.
The Kyoto outcome has, I believe, the potential to deliver on both fronts.
The challenge was to negotiate a treaty that could be implemented and that could do the job at hand.
Namely averting the threat posed to the world community by climate change.
The impetus that Kyoto has provided will lead to increased efforts on all fronts — by governments, firms and individuals- to address the greenhouse problem.
It is individuals and firms who will bear the brunt of global environmental change.
Ultimately it is also individuals and firms that need to act if we are to avoid the risks posed by climate change and if we are to meet our international commitments.
In making my concluding remarks I would like to emphasise that in the ongoing climate change negotiations Australia’s key objectives will be to ensure that the design of the international emissions trading regime:
empowers the market to pursue flexible. Low-cost emission abatement, and treats Australia fairly, in particular that the design of the regime ensures that the competitiveness of Australia’s export industries is not undermined.
This conference and the range of participation here today presents a good opportunity to develop ideas and pose further questions.
I would encourage you to use the chance to put your views to governments and regulators who need to know your concerns if they are to negotiate outcomes and implement policies which meet those interests while at the same time protecting Australian trade and trade competitiveness interests.
On 21 May 1998, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, made the follow comments in the course of a speech to the ABARE Emission Trading Conference:
One of the most important achievements of the negotiators in Kyoto was the last minute securing of provisions allowing for international emission trading. Those of you that followed the negotiations know that this was hard won agreement.
The provisions of Article 17 of the Kyot Protocol are light on detail but they are unambiguous. The right of parties to engage in emissions trading for the purpose of fulfilling their abatement commitments under the Protocol is enshrined. It is not dependent on any further action or decision by the parties.
Inclusion in the Protocol of the go ahead for international emissions trading was an unambiguously good outcome for Australia. In Australia’s case it would complement the comprehensive set of domestic measures already being implemented. International emissions trading offers the potential to lower the costs for Australia along with other Annex I Parties of complying with the commitments adopted under the Kyoto Protocol. International emissions trading offers the potential to substantially lower the costs of reducing emissions for the same environmental outcome. International emissions trading promises to play a leading role in achieving successful implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, alongside the other flexible implementation mechanisms of the Clean Development Mechanism and joint implementation.I. Australia is a small player
As a small player in the world trading system we know from painful experience that being able to trade — while beneficial — is not always enough.
We will be looking to ensure that the emissions trading system that develops needs to be demonstrably open, efficient and non-discriminatory.
We will be looking to ensure that Australia is able to maximise the benefits to us from trading in terms of lowering our abatement costs.Competitively sourced supplies
One issue that frequently arises in discussions on emission trading system is the scope for use of market power internationally by large players. While some countries have referred to regulations as a way of coping with the effects of market power by large players, the best protection against such risks will be to ensure that there are numerous and diverse supplies of permits available for purchase.
This kind of market structure can be encouraged in a number of ways, including:Open and transparent market information
maximising the number of Parties participating in trading including, ultimately, the participation of developing countries;
encouraging private participation in the trading system; and
providing alternative or substitute mechanisms for purchasing assigned amounts — this could come from Joint Implementation, the Clean Development Mechanism or from sinks.
As a small player it will be important to have access to good information on market prices to be reassured that traders know they are trading at a fair and reasonable price.
This is unlikely to be a difficult issue in a world where there are many participants. In a system where there may be few participants and trades, however, there needs to be consideration given to mechanisms and rules which may govern aspects of market transactions.
Such requirements would have to be balanced against burdening participants with unnecessary regulation and high transaction costs.Constraints on border interventions
As a small player, it will be important to be able to trade in a market free of distortions. We would not want to want to see a system in which national government interventions regulated, taxed or subsidised sale of emissions permits across international borders to distort the market.
Such border measures could have large impacts on emission permit prices, especially for small players.
Consideration will need to be given as to how best to ensure that national governments are restrained from intervening in the market in ways which distort market outcomes.
Some very familiar trade policy issues arise.
Not all governments have yet come to the conclusion that the market should be allowed to drive down abatement costs to the lowest possible level. There have been attempts by some countries to interpret the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol in ways which would limit the extent that trading can be used to meet commitments.
In particular, Article 17 states that emissions trading should be supplementary to domestic actions for the purpose of meeting commitments. It does not define this relationship or authorise the Conference of the Parties to do so. However, some countries would like to use this provision to restrict trading through some across the board numerical limit. Such constraints ignore the differences in circumstances between countries and could easily lead to much higher abatement costs under the Protocol, without achieving any additional environmental gain. In fact, imposition of such limits could have the reverse effect in future.II. Australia’s trade competitiveness concerns
The limited country coverage of Annex B of the Protocol remains an issue for Australia.
The development of an international emissions trading system covering only some of our competitors raises serious trade competitiveness concerns for Australia. This is because Australia sends a large share of its exports to developing countries — more than any other Annex B country apart from Japan. Moreover, the main competitors for our industries are based in developing countries where there are no emission commitments for the moment. An efficient and equitable trading system will be one which, in tandem with the international trading framework, allows countries to develop the policies and measures which best suit their individual circumstances.III. Australia has a unique emissions profile
Another issue for Australia which will be raised is the extent of the coverage of gases and sectors for an international trading system. Familiar arguments are being put forward to limit trading on the grounds that the measurement uncertainty of most non-energy sectors is too high to ensure the integrity of the market.
It is not surprising to hear these arguments again. They mirror exactly the approach a number of countries took in the Kyoto negotiations on coverage of emission targets.
Restrictions based on coverage — whether through tighter monitoring requirements or discounting or exclusion of some gases — are not justified for the trading system. They would simply lead to lost opportunities to reduce abatement costs.
There is no reason — economic or environmental — to distinguish between the rules established on coverage for trading and those established for the Kyoto Protocol more broadly. Consequently, any remaining coverage issues will be more appropriately addressed within the continuing negotiations on general issues under the Kyoto Protocol.IV. Other co-operative instruments
Australia has two main interests when it comes to other co-operative mechanisms such as Joint Implementation and the Clean Development Mechanism.
The first objective is to ensure that these mechanisms operate efficiently with transactions costs kept to a minimum compatible with establishing environmental effective outcomes.
The second is to ensure that there is consistency in the rules agreed which govern these mechanisms with those which govern emission trading. This latter objective will help to ensure a level playing field across the various co-operative implementation mechanisms.
On 21 May 1998, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, made the following comments in the course of a speech to the ABARE Emissions Trading Conference:
As was the case last year with emission commitments, we can expect a range of diverse international views to emerge on the form of emission trading that should be developed.
The potential for disagreement underlines the significance of the emergence of a coalition of countries, known as the “Umbrella Group”. It includes the Asia-Pacific group of countries — Australia, NZ, the United States, Canada and Japan — as well as Russia, Ukraine, Norway and Iceland.
There is high degree of like mindedness among this group of countries on emissions trading issues and how we want to see our opportunities for emissions trading to develop.
The Umbrella Group therefore offers an important opportunity to advance and protect common interests on emissions trading.
On 5 February 1998, the Australian Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, made the following comments in the course of a speech to Outlook:
The provision in the Protocol for the Clean Development Mechanism is an important means of pursuing greater developing country participation in emissions reduction activities. These would generate emissions credits to be jointly shared with developed country investors. This concept, which was introduced at the Kyoto Conference, could be an important means of overcoming the difficulties which beset the negotiations over Joint Implementation.
Australia, along with others, was disappointed that the Kyoto outcome failed to include agreement on steps for negotiations of future commitments by developing countries. We were also disappointed that developing countries vetoed inclusion in the Protocol of a provision which would have allowed individual advanced developing countries to voluntarily negotiate their own differentiated commitments. Climate change is a global problem to which we all contribute. We all need to contribute to the solution. The lesson of Kyoto for approaching this issue in the future is that we must be conscious of the great amount of careful negotiation and political preparation that will be necessary. We must also be prepared to look at the specific needs and circumstances of individual developing countries. Without this we simply will be unable to reach agreement with developing countries for action to achieve an effective global response.
On 12 February 1998, the Ambassador for the Environment, H.E. Meg McDonald, delivered a speech to the Australian APEC Study Centre Conference. An extract from the statement follows:
Properly constructed, the Clean Development Mechanism which will serve as a clearing house for emissions offset projects in developing countries could be an important means of securing low cost reductions throughout the world. This could provide real economic incentive to lead developing countries to more climate-friendly technologies.
It is not a question of slowing their economic growth, but making it more environmentally sustainable, including through increased uptake of improved technology. Choices involving cleaner energy and sustainable resource use in investment decisions on new infrastructure could lead to less greenhouse intensive processes. Emissions trading and crediting provide an important new source of opportunities. In this area I’m sure that the private sector will have an important role to play alongside government agencies.
On 2 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, was asked a question on notice by Mr Greg Wilton concerning the Commonwealth Economic Declaration and greenhouse gas emissions. Extracts of the answer follow (House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1998, p 149):
The declaration recognised that the environment was a global resource and that the costs of protecting it should be borne in accordance with shared and differentiated responsibilities. This is exactly what Australia has been advocating in the climate change negotiations.
The language on climate change achieved an accommodation of the broad spectrum of different approaches to this issue. The declaration advanced Australia’s interests by recognising the need for:
all countries, developed and developing, to play their part in achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in order to solve what is a global problem
a successful outcome at Kyoto involving realistic and achievable goals.
Australia has consistently argued that an equitable, realistic approach to the global environmental problem of climate change should involve the adoption of differentiated emission targets, to ensure an equality of effort across all countries. Differentiated targets that take into account the characteristics of the Australian economy will ensure Australia does not bear a disproportionate economic burden.
…It was recognised that all Commonwealth countries will need to play a role in achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, Commonwealth countries agreed to:
underline the importance of a successful outcome at Kyoto, with all countries playing their part within the Berlin Mandate, with developed countries pursuing vigorously an outcome that would produce significant reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions through the adoption of a protocol or other legal instrument;
call on the Kyoto Conference to recognise that, after Kyoto, all countries will need to play their part by pursuing policies that would result in significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions; and
call for agreement at Kyoto to arrangements to monitor the reduction of emissions regularly.
On 12 May 1998, the Amendment, done at Montreal on 17 September 1997, to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, of 16 September 1987 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
1. Extension of trade measures in Article 4 to methyl bromide Methyl bromide is commonly used as a soil fumigant in horticulture and floriculture, and in quarantine and pre shipment fumigation of commodities prior to export and import. It is to be phased out in developed countries by 2005. To meet the international phase out timetable for methyl bromide with minimal disruption to our horticultural industries, Environment Australia developed a Draft National Methyl Bromide Response Strategy in consultation with governments, horticultural industry users and research scientists. The final strategy is due to be published in May 1998. …The 1997 Amendment will provide an incentive for non Parties to ratify the Montreal Protocol's 1992 Copenhagen Amendment which first introduced phase out controls on methyl bromide and HCFCs. To date, only 66 of 165 Parties to the Montreal Protocol have ratified the Copenhagen Amendment. Prohibiting trade with non Parties would encourage ratification of the Copenhagen Amendment, and would assist in minimising any competitive disadvantage Australia's producers could experience in phasing out methyl bromide prior to competitors yet to ratify the methyl bromide controls. ... …In addition, ratifying the 1997 Amendment has other potential benefits for the Australian community, namely environmental and health benefits from a more rapid elimination of ODS and the replacement of methyl bromide which potentially poses serious health risks. 2. Restriction on export of used, recycled or reclaimed substances from Parties in non compliance …The 1997 Amendment would insert a new Article 4A in the Montreal Protocol to restrict the export of used, recycled and reclaimed quantities of controlled ODS (other than for the purpose of destruction), in the event that a Party is unable to comply with its Protocol obligations to cease production of ODS for domestic consumption (other than for a strictly limited range of essential uses approved) under the Montreal Protocol. In this regard, ratification of the 1997 Amendment would have a minimal effect on Australia's interests, given that Australia does not manufacture any ozone depleting substances. However, ratification may help to reduce the potential problem of illegal trade in new ODS to countries that have already phased out these substances. Australia proposed the 1997 Amendment inserting Article 4A to the Protocol to address the anomalous situation in which some countries export ODS labelled as used, recycled and reclaimed, while also continuing to produce new quantities of the same ozone depleting substance apparently for domestic consumption, after the phase out dates applicable to them. If allowed to continue, this situation would provide increased opportunities for illegal trade, by allowing virgin ODS to be mis labelled as used, recycled or reclaimed and exported.
On 22 October 1998, the following comments concerning biodiversity were made in the course of a statement by the Australian Delegation to the Second Committee of the Fifty-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly:
…It is essential in our view that the Protocol [Biosafety Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity] deal only with the transboundary movement of LMOs [living genetically modified organisms] and not attempt to dictate to Parties on their domestic management of such organisms. The Protocol should provide a basis for information to be more readily available internationally to assist wider knowledge among all Parties about LMOs and developments in their regulation. In doing this, its procedures must be consistent with the multilateral trading rules that we have spent many years developing under the World Trade Organisation. A workable Protocol that assists Parties to protect their biological diversity while not imposing restrictions on international trade will help to build confidence and shared knowledge of biotechnology and LMOs. Australia is aware that many developing countries see the development of the Protocol as an important step in their management of future LMOs. We will continue to work with countries in our region through practical technical cooperation and capacity building activities to strengthen quarantine management, and encourage other countries to increase their efforts in this regard.
On 12 May 1998, the Amendment and adoption of Annexes, done at Kuching, Malaysia, on 27 February 1998, to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal of 22 March 1989 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
The Amendments will provide greater certainty to Australian industry and to the Commonwealth Government in determining what wastes are subject to the Basel Convention. The changes will not result in any increase or decrease in the scope of the Convention, but will clarify its existing scope. …Australia supported the 1998 Amendments when they were proposed at COP 4 because of the greater clarity the new Annexes VIII and IX will provide for both the Commonwealth Government and Australian industry. Previously, when it was unclear whether a waste material belonged to one of the broad categories outlined in Annex I, Australian industry had to contact Environment Australia to obtain advice on whether or not the waste was subject to regulation under the Basel Convention, and so subject to regulation under the Hazardous Waste Act. Because of the technical complexity surrounding many such questions, the matter often had to be put to the Hazardous Waste Act Technical Group, a statutory committee consisting of technical experts in the hazardous waste and related fields appointed by the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment to provide the Minister with advice on more complex technical issues arising from implementation of the Act. While some more complicated examples will still require resolution by Environment Australia and/or the Technical Group, the new Annexes in the Basel Convention will provide far more immediate and internationally recognised guidance on what wastes are subject to the Convention. In the majority of cases, industry, the community and the Commonwealth will be able to identify more quickly and easily which wastes are subject to the Convention.
On 3 March 1998, the Amendments (concerning phasing out sea disposal of industrial waste), done at London on 12 November 1993 under Resolution LC.49(16), to Annexes I and II to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter of 29 December 1972 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
On 12 November 1993, pursuant to Resolution LC.49(16) of the Sixteenth Consultative Meeting of Contracting Parties to the London Convention, amendments were made to Annexes I and II to the Convention to phase out sea disposal of industrial waste by 1 January 1996. The amendments prohibit such dumping as from 1 January 1996 and are legally binding upon acceptance by a Party. On 15 February 1994 a declaration was deposited for Australia with the IMO which stated the following: "Australia accepts the prohibition on the dumping of industrial wastes at sea from 1 January 1996 as envisaged in resolution LC.49(16) for all types of industrial wastes as defined by the resolution with the exception of jarosite waste for which it is necessary, for technical reasons which will be elaborated at future meetings of the London Convention, to retain the option of dumping at sea for a short period after the expiration of the deadline set down in resolution LC.49(16). Under no circumstances will the dumping at sea of jarosite be permitted by the Australian Government beyond 31 December 1997." The IMO interpreted lodgement of the declaration relating to jarosite as non acceptance of the amendments under Resolution LC.49(16) as a whole because there is no provision in the London Convention for partial non acceptance of amendments. Treaty action is therefore required to bring the amendments under Resolution LC.49(16) into force for Australia. Jarosite is a hydrous sulphate of iron and potassium, generated as a byproduct of zinc smelting operations. The dumping of jarosite at sea has now ceased, the company concerned has developed processes to recycle jarosite and has surrendered its sea dumping permit. There is now no reason for Australia not to accept the amendments under Resolution LC.49(16) without reservation.
On 27 May 1998, Senator Richard Alston presented to the Senate the Government’s response to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties’ report entitled Amendments to the Bonn Convention. An extract follows (Senate, Debates, 27 May 1998, p 3275):
Australia will be actively seeking conclusion of a Southern Hemisphere regional agreement under the Bonn Convention. Under the terms of the Convention, membership of Regional Agreements should include all Range States of the listed species, including those which are not members of the Bonn Convention. The Australian Government will seek the cooperation of a number of nations which are not members of the Bonn Convention in concluding and implementing the proposed Regional Agreement. A first step will be detailed discussions with Valdivia Group members on the feasibility and nature of the proposed Regional Agreement.
The Government proposes that the effect of a Regional Agreement will be to ensure effective global action to address the conservation of albatrosses. The Regional Agreement will complement the actions already taken by Australia and New Zealand within their respective Exclusive Economic Zones. The Regional Agreement will provide a necessary and complementary addition to the range of international actions already underway to deal with albatross-fishing interactions, such as those introduced by the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).
…The Government emphasises the need for effective communication and coordination between all agencies responsible for implementing Australia’s membership of the Bonn Convention to minimise duplication and ensure the maximum benefit is obtained. Those agencies have developed close, cooperative links and regularly exchange views on issues such as those relating to conservation, management and research.
The incidental capture of albatrosses during fishing operations is a major source of mortality. It also is a major source of cooperation between nature conservation and fisheries management agencies. These agencies and representatives of the Australian fishing industry are cooperating in the development of a Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) for the incidental catch (or bycatch) of seabirds in longline fishing operations, due for completion in July 1998.
Discussions between the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA), the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, Environment Australia and the fishing industry have identified as high priority research into longline gear intended to reduce albatross mortality, examination of the different impacts of day and night setting upon albatross catches, and dissemination of information on seabird bycatch reduction to fishers.
In terms of introducing effective mitigation at the international fisheries level, the Government considers the CCSBT to be a critical area of focus. Issues relating to the incidental capture of seabirds are discussed by the Commission’s Ecologically Related Species Working Group (ERSWG). A formal Australian ERSWG committee is to be formed to coordinate Australian actions both in and directed towards that forum. Membership of the committee will be drawn from all agencies with responsibilities relating to the conservation and management of both ecologically related species and fisheries.
CCAMLR is another critical fisheries forum in which action is being taken to conserve albatrosses. In 1994 the Commission formed a Working Group on Incidental Mortality of Albatross in Longline Fishing. Also in that year the Commission first introduced conservation measures requiring the use of various mitigation devices, initially “tori poles” but now a suite of measures. Australia will continue to actively pursue effective mitigation of the incidental capture of albatross at both Commission and Working Group
To ensure the actions taken in one forum are consistent with and complement those taken in another, close liaison takes place between lead agencies. This is particularly the case in the development of the Australian positions for major international meetings such as the CCSBT and the Bonn Convention.
…AFMA is currently considering the draft TAP to abate the threat posed by oceanic longlining to seabirds. AFMA is a member of the Threat Abatement Team, formed to develop the TAP. The draft TAP has raised the issue of observer coverage for the purposes of collecting data on mitigation measures and seabirds. Further, it seeks to maintain current observer coverage on foreign vessels operating in the Australian fishing zone (AFZ) and is considering its introduction on domestic vessels.
The cost of this initiative is substantial (up to $1 million per annum if applied to the pelagic longline fleet). AFMA is currently reviewing its existing observer program to improve its ability to deliver a flexible, cost-effective service that can meet the needs of a number of Government departments and agencies in relation to the collection of fisheries- related information. The Authority is also examining who should pay for each aspect of the observer program through the application of the Commonwealth Fisheries Cost Recovery Policy (March 1994). The review is scheduled for completion during 1998.
Under its current observer program AFMA regularly employs (under contract) observers with scientific training and expertise in seabird biology and field experience in pelagic longline operations, to complement the information gathered by regular observers. These observers are also given extensive training and briefing on seabird bycatch monitoring.
…the overwhelming body of existing scientific evidence is that night setting substantially reduces seabird bycatch. A smaller body of evidence suggests that catch rates of target tuna species are largely unaffected by night setting. It is this latter point, and the associated safety aspects of night setting, that would be the focus of night setting trials.
Preliminary discussions with representatives from both the domestic and Japanese tuna fleets, scientists and managers on night setting trials occurred during August and September 1997 under the aegis of the CCSBT. However, a major issue as to whether or not to proceed with the trials is the development of the TAP which is considering compulsory mitigation measures (including night setting) for domestic and foreign longline vessels operating in the AFZ. The draft TAP also proposes provisions to enable domestic operators to work cooperatively with AFMA to design new mitigation techniques and refine existing measures. The Authority supports this approach.
Australian vessels rarely fish the high seas for more than a short period. Further, conducting trials from foreign (most likely Japanese) vessels on the high seas is a complex matter, although it could be pursued by the Government through the CCSBT. A more practical approach currently being considered is to have the trial conducted on Japanese or domestic vessels or a combination of the two in the AFZ.
Overall, AFMA in association with Environment Australia and the fishing industry will assess how night setting trials should be progressed in the context of the development and implementation of the TAP within the AFZ. It is possible that the development of the TAP and experimentation on mitigation measures such as night setting can continue in parallel.
The Government is aware there has been active discussion in the CCSBT forum of the benefits and impacts of night setting. Night setting is one focus of Australia’s discussions within the CCSBT and in other relevant fora. At its first meeting the CCSBT’s Ecologically Related Species Working Group clearly identified night setting as the single most effective seabird bycatch mitigation measure. This view continues to be held, although there are insufficient data at present to determine whether this affects the catch of SBT.
The Government will actively pursue the introduction of mitigation measures such as night setting in the CCSBT and other suitable international fora.
The Convention is a multilateral treaty which regulates the conservation and utilisation of whale stocks. Although negotiated at a time when the primary focus was to ensure international controls over post-war development of the commercial whaling industry, the Convention and the Commission created by it have proved more recently to be an effective vehicle for some major conservation measures. These include the 1982 decision to implement a moratorium on commercial whaling and the establishment in 1994 of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Australia has been a strong advocate of conservation measures within the Commission since the closure of the last Australian shore-based whaling operation in 1979. The Commission is considered the most appropriate forum for pursuit of improved international efforts for the conservation of whales.
On 16 April 1998, in a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights the following comments were made concerning the situation in Cyprus:
Australia welcomed the resumption of face to face talks in the middle of 1997 between the two community leaders on Cyprus. We therefore very much regret the current political stalemate, as well as continuing tensions arising from the military build up on the island. We support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General, along with those of the United States, the European Union and the Commonwealth, to find a lasting and peaceful solution to the Cyprus question which would protect the human rights of all Cypriot people. Australia supports the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus.
On 25 June 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning the appointment of Australia’s Special Envoy to Cyprus:
I have today announced that the Australian Government has decided to appoint Mr John Spender as Australia’s Special Envoy for Cyprus.
The principal role of the Australian Special Envoy will be to support the efforts of the UN Secretary General to broker a solution to the problem. Mr Spender will convey Australia’s views directly to the parties involved and encourage them to cooperate with the UN to reach a final agreement.Mr Spender, who is also Australia's Ambassador to France, is expected to meet a range of officials including the US Presidential Emissary, Mr Richard Holbrooke and the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Cyprus, Mr Diego Cordovez. He will also seek talks with senior officials in Cyprus and with senior Greek and Turkish officials. Mr Spender will evaluate the situation on behalf of the Australian Government and identify ways in which Australia can further assist the search for a settlement. Thirty five years since the outbreak of intercommunal fighting and 24 years since the Turkish invasion of 1974, the problem of Cyprus remains unresolved. A settlement is long overdue. The Government is concerned that recent weeks have seen a deadlock develop over efforts to solve the problem. The efforts of Mr Holbrooke have been suspended; the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr Denktash, has refused to meet envoys of the European Union; and Mr Denktash has suspended further inter communal discussions. The Australian Government has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to helping to find a solution. Australia has strongly supported the efforts of the UN Secretary General and others to broker a solution. I have on numerous occasions raised the issue in discussions with relevant international leaders and officials, including successive UN Secretary Generals, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Cypriot leaders and members and representatives of the European Union and EU countries. The Australian Government gives practical assistance to relieving tensions on the island through the ongoing commitment of civilian police to the United Nations Force on Cyprus (UNFICYP). At the Edinburgh CHOGM in 1997, Australia supported the appointment of a Commonwealth observer. While recognising the reality of the current deadlock the international community must continue to assist the parties towards a negotiated solution. Ultimately, of course, any final agreement depends on the necessary good will of the major parties. Australia fervently hopes they will show that necessary goodwill. There are in Australia large communities of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Australians as well as Turkish and Greek Australians. Australia has been very successful in fostering harmonious relations between these and other diverse groups. I believe that there is scope for Cyprus to benefit from the experience of Australia's multicultural model.
On 24 November 1998, Senator Robert Hill answered a question without notice from Senator Vicki Bourne concerning East Timor. Extracts of the response follow (Senate, Debates, 24 November 1998, p 489):
…we are aware that these allegations [of reported killings near the town of Alas] have led to delay of the official level tripartite talks in New York until clarification is obtained. This, of course, underlines the need for all sides of the conflict to exercise restraint and refrain from the use of violence so that negotiations for a just and lasting settlement might proceed. In summary, we are anxious for progress to be made on a long-term, peaceful and just settlement of the East Timor problems and therefore, apart from the fact that we regret any violence, particularly violence that is destabilising or decreases the chances of achieving that goal, the Australian government will continue to do what it can to support positively the continuation of that process to a fair and just conclusion.
…I think we need to maintain pressure on the Indonesian government to behave responsibly towards all its citizens, to decrease troop levels within East Timor—although there have been signs that that has occurred; on the other hand, troop numbers are still at a very high level—and to find other ways to decrease tension and hopefully move positively towards this fair and just solution.
On 17 June 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a press release concerning the Ethiopian — Eritrean Conflict:
I am pleased to note that Ethiopia and Eritrea have agreed to a United States proposal for a total ban on air strikes against each other.
The Government deplores the recent use of force by Ethiopia and Eritrea to settle their border dispute and calls upon the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments to cease all military attacks on one another and declare an immediate ceasefire.
Australia hopes that mutual talks planned under the aegis of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) will allow the two countries to resolve their differences which have led to armed conflict in the region.
I welcome the peace-brokering roles being played by Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Kenya, Egypt, Libya, Rwanda, and Burkina Faso as well as the USA and Italy.
On 5 June 1998 my Department issued a travel advisory recommending that Australians defer all travel to Eritrea until further notice and that Australians in Eritrea consider departing the country for the time being unless there are essential reasons for them to remain.
A total of 43 Australians have subsequently been evacuated from Eritrea.
I am very appreciative of the assistance provided to these Australian citizens by the Canadian, British and United States and Phillipine Governments and their overseas representatives.
On 6 November 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning Iraq’s failure to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions:
I welcome the UN Security Council's unanimous adoption on 5 November of resolution 1205 condemning Iraq's decision to cease cooperation with UNSCOM. The language in that resolution reflects the international community's dismay and concern at the path Iraq has taken and the seriousness with which the Security Council views Iraq's latest provocation. We share the assessment of the international community that Iraq's 31 October decision to halt all cooperation with UNSCOM represents a very serious development, making it impossible for UNSCOM to carry out its disarmament and monitoring responsibilities. Iraq's decision to withdraw cooperation just when the Security Council had reached agreement on a comprehensive review of Iraq's compliance with relevant Security Council Resolutions is particularly disappointing. Iraq is demanding the immediate lifting of sanctions but there is only one way for Iraq to achieve sanctions relief and that is through full cooperation with UNSCOM and compliance with all relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Australia is seriously concerned by Iraq's actions and we will continue to register our views on this at the highest levels. The Iraqi Chargé was called in to my Department on 4 November and Australia's views on the unacceptability of Iraq's recent actions were made very clear. I strongly urge Iraq to comply immediately with the demands made by the UN Security Council in its latest resolution. A diplomatic resolution to this crisis is possible if Iraq immediately and unconditionally rescinds its decisions on noncooperation of 5 August and 31 October 1998 and demonstrates its willingness to resume full cooperation with both UNSCOM and the IAEA through positive actions on the ground.On 17 December 1998, the Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, issued a press release concerning military action against Iraq:
On 15 November - just one month ago - Iraq undertook unconditionally to cooperate fully with the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to allow the return of inspectors to resume all their activities on an immediate, unconditional and unrestricted basis in accordance with UN resolutions. This followed a period of high tension in August caused by Iraq's suspension of cooperation with UNSCOM. Sadly, notwithstanding that solemn agreement, Iraq has reverted to the pattern of non cooperation and obstruction that has characterised Iraq's behaviour since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Against that background, and aware that there were no other options open to them, the Australian Government fully supports the military action taken by the United States and the United Kingdom. The international community has bent over backwards to provide Saddam Hussein with opportunities to demonstrate that he was prepared to fulfil his obligations to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. His persistent defiance of UN Security Council resolutions requiring him to destroy these weapons and his repeated obstruction of inspections by UNSCOM has been a matter of the gravest concern for Australia as for other members of the international community. Iraq's refusal to allow UNSCOM to carry out its work has only exacerbated the concerns of the international community about Iraq's capabilities and intentions. Until Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and its capability to produce them have been destroyed, Iraq poses a threat to its region and to the world's security. Australia has a direct national interest in ensuring that weapons of mass destruction do not proliferate and that the mechanisms established by the international community are effective. Iraq has left the international community no option but to take military action to degrade Iraq's weapons capability and its capacity to threaten its neighbours.
On 5 June 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning the situation in Kosovo:
The Australian Government is gravely concerned at reports of a serious escalation of the conflict in Kosovo over the past week.
It is clear that the situation has deteriorated and we are very concerned at reports of a number of casualties and large numbers of refugees crossing the border into Albania.
I call on the government of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to take immediate action to achieve a peaceful resolution of the conflict and to stop the threat of violence.
These events show that finding a settlement to the conflict in Kosovo becomes more urgent every day if the international community is to avoid a repeat of the tragedy that occurred in Bosnia.
The escalation in fighting increases the onus on both sides to reach a political settlement through direct dialogue. I hope that it will be possible for another round of talks between the government of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovar Albanians to be scheduled in the near future and that it is able to make progress toward that end.
Australia calls for a political solution which provides an enhanced status for Kosovo in Yugoslavia and protects the human rights of all the people of Kosovo.
On 24 October 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning the conclusion of the Middle East Interim Agreement:
I warmly welcome the agreement reached overnight in the latest round of Middle East peace talks. Although this is an interim accord and therefore important steps remain to be taken, it is a crucial milestone on the road to peace. Indeed, 1 think it is fair to say that now there is a genuine hope that a just, secure and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is at last within sight.
Reaching this agreement has been a long and difficult process. We need to recognise that the issues involved have been complex and highly sensitive and that both parties have worked hard to put together an agreement which can work.
The Australian Government had been increasingly concerned at the lack of progress in the peace process over the past year and the increasing danger that the region would slide back to a climate of mistrust characterised by the rhetoric of confrontation. This agreement will breathe new life into that process and hopefully rebuild lost confidence on both sides.
There is still much to be done. Both sides will now need to work to see that this agreement works — not just in the detail of physical implementation but also in re-establishing a positive working relationship based on trust and optimism between Palestinians and Israelis. This will be essential to enable the parties to address the tough negotiating and political issues in the lead-up to a final status settlement.
The goodwill, commitment and hard work of the two sides were central to the positive outcome at the Wye Plantation Talks. President Clinton’s unflagging support for the peace process and the personal involvement of King Hussein of Jordan were also important factors in securing a successful outcome and I congratulate them on their achievement.
Australia will continue to support efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East. We hope, and believe, that today’s agreement has made that peace substantially more obtainable.
On 22 September 1998, H.E. Penny Wensley, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, made a statement to the Fifty-third General Assembly of the United Nations concerning non-proliferation and disarmament. Extracts of the statement follow:
Although we heard some pessimistic perspectives yesterday, in Australia’s view the progress the international community has made in the field of arms control and disarmament over recent decades has been remarkable — a trend to which the end of the Cold War lent added impetus. Many bilateral, regional and international agreements have been concluded, all contributing to making our world more secure. These achievements have been driven by the realisation. that we must work with determination towards a situation where the right to self defence of all nations, which is enshrined in the UN Charter, must be assured at the lowest possible level of conventional armament and without recourse to weapons of mass destruction. Events which have moved against the tide of this progress have been relatively rare but, when they have occurred, have stood in stark contrast to the preferred direction of the international community.
A survey of the progress made to date in the field of arms control and disarmament points to two key conclusions. The first is self-evident: there is more work to be done. The second is perhaps easier to overlook: in the face of periodic set-backs and challenges, it is vitally important, and in the security interests of all countries, that we stay the course on arms control and disarmament, that we not underestimate or take for granted the value of what has been achieved to date, and that we maintain broad-based political commitment to the norms and institutions we have put in place or are yet to build.
…the non-proliferation and disarmament regimes have had to withstand serious challenges from the DPRK and Iraq, and the progress towards a universal no-nuclear testing norm has been jolted by sporadic outbreaks of testing, most recently by India and Pakistan. Unresolved regional tensions in South Asia and the Middle East continue to thwart the attainment of the goal of universal membership of the NPT. (While being justifiably dismayed at the disdain of the few for the clearly expressed will of the international community, we can also draw encouragement from the strength of our national and collective responses to these challenges and the resilience of the regimes when so challenged.)
In the face of these setbacks, it is vitally important to stay the course, and to ensure that such events amount to no more than temporary deviations from the near universally accepted norm against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We believe it is in Australia’s national interest, but also in the interests of international and regional security, to uphold the nuclear and other non-proliferation regimes and to continue to pursue effective measures to reduce and eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.
The periodic setbacks to these efforts in fact serves to underscore the value of the progress made to date. The very existence of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its near universal membership, highlights the unacceptability of embarking upon a nuclear weapon program in today’s world. Similarly it is the existence of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the near universal point of view it represents — namely that nuclear testing should be a thing of the past — that rendered more powerful the widespread disapproval of the spate of nuclear tests earlier this year. The new ratifications which the CTBT attracted following the South Asian nuclear tests were eloquent testimony to the confidence of the international community in and its commitment to the no-testing norm.
Australia wishes to take this opportunity to congratulate Brazil and welcome it as the most recent member of the family of NPT nations. Australia also calls on that handful of states remaining outside the NPT to reflect on the possibility that the 187 countries which have decided that the NPT provides greater security than the nuclear weapons option may be right, and that they — the outsiders — might be wrong. Australia also calls on them to reflect on how much more seriously their national security interests would be degraded in a world where the overwhelming majority of states had not embraced the nuclear non-proliferation norm.
Australia has long been a firm supporter of universal adherence to international weapons of mass destruction treaties. We have signed all thirteen multilateral arms control and disarmament treaties and ratified all of these bar one — ratification of the Ottawa Landmines Convention is in progress. Only four other countries can match this record. Australia remains committed to making a difference where and when we can in building consensus on the way forward, and we will continue to be as diligent and creative as possible across the full range of arms control and disarmament issues.Our focus is on results rather than rhetoric, as illustrated by the pragmatic contribution made by Australia over the years to the development of key conventions and by our support for building and strengthening the institutions which work in various ways to support international arms control and disarmament goals and enhance national, regional and global security - institutions such as the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), the Korean Peninsula Energy Developments Organisation, the nuclear safeguards system, and the ASEAN Regional Forum. Australia's commitment in this field is founded on a clear sighted recognition of the value of international non proliferation and disarmament regimes. Experience has shown that these regimes cannot be taken for granted. Existing regimes require continual care, maintenance and vigilance to ensure that they remain effective and that political and financial commitment to them remains strong. The Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, for example, does need further work to maintain the strength of the treaty and to achieve full implementation and universality. The recent serious challenges to the non proliferation norm which the Treaty embodies will make the sixth Review Conference in 2000 one of the most significant in the history of the Treaty. But if we have a distance to go, in terms of the treaty's value, however, no one would argue that the world would be a safer place without it. Nor could it be argued that negotiation of the treaty back in the late 1960s, and the maintenance and strengthening of the treaty ever since, has not been worth the effort. And to those - few - who persist with the tired refrain that the NPT is a discriminatory treaty, we say yes, it is - and for one excellent reason. The NPT allows a temporary state of discrimination between the nuclear weapon states and the rest of us because, quite simply, the alternative was and is too horrible to contemplate. We may lament that, because of the Cold War, the state of discrimination has lasted too long. But we surely cannot argue that the alternative scenario would have made the world a safer place than it is today: for it was a commonplace of political forecasts in the 1960s - when nuclear weapons were a legitimate security option for any state - that over 20 states, including Australia, would likely choose to exercise that option. And it is surely perverse, when the titanic arsenals of nuclear weapons accumulated during the Cold War are at last being drastically cut, to act against the tide of disarmament by pursuing the nuclear option. Similarly, no one could argue that we would be better off without a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Its conclusion, its signature by the five Nuclear Weapon States - and ratification to date by two - is a major achievement, and highlights the recent nuclear testing as contrary to the will of the international community. All the more reason to press ahead with the establishment of the Treaty's implementation and verification structures, to work to achieve more signatures and ratifications so as to consolidate the commitment to a future without nuclear testing. A strong start has been made in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention and its effectiveness already amply demonstrated. Nevertheless, continued political will and financial commitment, as well as additional ratifications and accessions are needed for the full security benefits of the Convention to be realised. The Biological Weapons Convention is an important disarmament treaty. It was the first international treaty to ban an entire class of weapons of mass destruction. But, the treaty is weakened by its lack of verification and compliance provisions. This deficiency has been long recognised, and work is now underway in the (BWC) Ad Hoc Group negotiations to rectify this shortcoming. Australia therefore strongly supports the Ad Hoc Group which has been entrusted with this important task. An effective and workable protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention needs to be concluded as soon as possible within the Ad Hoc Group in order to address the threats to regional and global security posed by biological weapons, and to strengthen barriers against these weapons becoming the weapon of mass destruction of next resort. In order to support the progress achieved to date in the Ad Hoc Group negotiations, and to secure sustained high level political support for the further advancement of that work, Australia has been working collaboratively with many other countries to convene an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers. This informal meeting will take place tomorrow here in New York and represents the determination of many countries, at high political levels, to work together to bring us closer to the goal of an early conclusion of an effective protocol to strengthen the BWC. In conjunction with the international community's efforts to achieve full implementation and universality of existing regimes, new, reinforcing and complementary steps are also needed to achieve our arms control and disarmament goals. Commencement of negotiations for a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty is an excellent example of how we should be moving forward in this respect. It is the next logical step after the CTBT and one to which we hope this Assembly will lend unequivocal support and encouragement. The recent agreement in the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to commence negotiations on a Cut Off Treaty demonstrates the resilience of the non proliferation regime under pressure. It gives the lie to those who recently pronounced it dead. It is a sign of the international community reaffirming its faith in the non proliferation principle to which it has been committed for the past 30 years. It underscores once again the direction the international community wants to move in.
On 2 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning Australian policy on weapons of mass destruction (House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1998, p 29):
…it is a fundamental goal of Australian foreign policy to make every effort to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The recent white paper on Australian foreign and trade policy made it clear that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one of the major threats, if not the major threat, to global security and that Australia has a strong national interest in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons and banning chemical and biological weapons.
…Australia has a long and successful record of working towards preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction generally, and we have been instrumental in strengthening the global non-proliferation regime with respect to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Our diplomatic efforts and intellectual input were critical to the indefinite extension in 1995 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. We played a pivotal role in the adoption in 1996 of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and also in negotiating and finally bringing to fruition the chemical weapons convention.
On 4 July 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of a speech to Annual State Conference of the South Australian Branch of the Returned and Services League. Extracts of the statement follow:
Australia is committed to continuing to make every effort to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, through effective and verifiable means. These efforts can keep at bay the global dangers that would arise from unchecked proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the terribly destabilising effects that they would inevitably have on our own region.
On 3 February 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, addressed the Conference on Disarmament. Extracts from the address follow:
Australia is as committed as any in this room to the twin, linked goals of nuclear disarmament and non proliferation enshrined in Article VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. The sooner the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) achieves universal adherence and full implementation, the safer the world will be. But it is necessary to ask ourselves - and, most particularly, yourselves, distinguished delegates to the Conference on Disarmament - what practical, realistic contribution each of us can make to bringing this state of affairs about. The START process has, when measured against the complexity of the task and the titanic scale of Cold War nuclear arsenals, achieved substantial, real nuclear arms reductions in a very short time. I very much look forward to Russia's speedy ratification of START II and a formal beginning to negotiations on START III which will further reduce the strategic nuclear warhead stockpiles of both the United States and Russia to some 80 percent below Cold War peaks. Would it help, as some appear to be proposing, to bring the START process into this chamber and subject it to pre ordained timetables and negotiation by 60 countries instead of two? Would that accelerate the business of getting rid of actual nuclear weapons? I would guess that even the most ardent supporters of this institution - among whom I am happy to count myself - would concede that it would not. That was also the conclusion of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons whose report I had the honour to present to you last year - a report which, I am pleased to note, continues to be drawn on in the debate on the way forward on nuclear disarmament. This is not to say, of course, that this Conference and the great majority of the community of nations are to be forever excluded from a process of vital concern to their security. The post START III nuclear landscape will open up a range of exciting prospects in which the CD and nations outside the five declared nuclear weapon states - particularly those operating currently unsafeguarded nuclear facilities - will have a vital role to play in drawing down to a nuclear weapon free world, and constructing a verification regime so that we can all be assured it stays that way. It is moreover in this vital area of verification that the CD, with its expertise born of negotiating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and other instruments, will come consummately into its own. Nor must we conclude that there is nothing the CD can contribute immediately to the goal of a nuclear weapon free world. The Canberra Commission, in addition to proposing a number of practical steps to the nuclear weapon states, also identified as a "reinforcing step…for immediate action" the cessation of the production of fissile material for nuclear explosive purposes - in other words a "cut off" treaty, a mandate for which has lain unactioned before you since 1995.On 24 November 1998, in the House of Representatives the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, answered a question without notice from Mrs Kay Elson. Mrs Elson asked the Minister why the Australian Government did not support the United Nations resolution 'Towards a nuclear weapons free world: the need for a new agenda' and whether the Government has lessened its commitment to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. Extracts of the answer follow (House of Representatives, Debates, 24 November 1998, p 623):
…this government looks to achieve practical outcomes in foreign policy. We will support proposals that we think will help to advance the cause of nuclear non proliferation and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. We did promote the Canberra Commission's report. I presented it to the United Nations General Assembly, I presented it to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, and it was circulated to all relevant foreign ministries-just about all foreign ministries-around the world. One of the conclusions of the Canberra Commission's report … was that the nuclear weapons states themselves had to act to eliminate nuclear weapons. …But we have been doing more than that. We have been out there promoting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The achievements of the Australian government in bringing to life that treaty will stand as one of the great monuments to non proliferation by Australia. We are also in the process of promoting the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty, and I have very great optimism that, during the course of next year, a treaty can be concluded in the Conference on Disarmament. The new agenda proposal put forward by a number of countries has many features that are attractive, but it is an agenda which is ill defined. It includes, for example, the proposal for an international conference on disarmament and the elimination of nuclear weapons. Frankly, we believe that to hold such a conference now would complicate the work being done to promote the Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty and to conclude the further signatories of the comprehensive test ban treaty.
On 3 February 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following statements in an address to the Conference on Disarmament:
Why is a cut off treaty worth pursuing at this point in time? From our national point of view, Australia long ago decided that our security interests would be best served by not acquiring nuclear weapons. We made a commitment to this effect through the NPT, and joined similarly minded states in a system of mutual security assurances confirming that they would not seek recourse to nuclear weapons as instruments of political or military policy. We reached our position on the basis of a hard headed, pragmatic assessment of our national security interests. That is, the more nations that possess nuclear weapons, the greater the chance that a future conflict could lead to their use. If nuclear weapons were to proliferate in the Asia Pacific region, Australia's strategic environment would be fundamentally altered for the worse. As things stand however, our region benefits enormously from the fact that all regional countries have recognised the obvious value of NPT adherence as a means of permanently preventing nuclear proliferation. A similar pragmatic assessment of our national security interests has led us to the conclusion that a fissile material cut off treaty is very much in our interest - indeed in the interest of every country. Let me set out for you why I believe Australian interests would be served by a fissile material cut off treaty; but let me emphasise, too, that these arguments suggest compelling reasons why cut off would likewise advance the interests not only of other non nuclear weapon states like ourselves, but of all states, including nuclear weapon states and those states which, in their current security environment, are unwilling to make a commitment to foreclose the option of acquiring nuclear weapons: A fissile material cut off treaty would give us all greater security by putting a further nail in the coffin of the nuclear arms race and the vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons.On 8 April 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of the second reading speech for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Bill 1998 (House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1998, p 2734):Just as the CTBT is creating a barrier to the qualitative development of nuclear weapons, cut off will create a barrier to their quantitative development. It would contribute to the creation of an environment - in the words of the Canberra Commission - "conducive to the elimination of nuclear weapons". In stark terms, the process of reducing arsenals can only have meaning if we can be assured that there is no parallel build up of weapons useable material.…We envisage a fissile material cut off treaty including two basic undertakings: 1. an agreement not to produce fissile material for use in nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or in any way to assist, encourage or induce others to produce such material for use in nuclear weapons; and 2. an agreement by all parties, including nuclear weapon states, to accept international safeguards on all existing and any future facilities capable of producing fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons.In effect, this would mean that parties to the treaty would submit to safeguards inspections all enrichment facilities and reprocessing facilities.Parties to the treaty would commit themselves, within a short period of time of the entry into force of the treaty, to making a declaration listing all the facilities within their jurisdiction capable of producing enriched uranium or separated plutonium. A system of routine and non routine inspections would then be established under the IAEA to verify these initial declarations and to provide subsequent assurances that these facilities were not being used for purposes proscribed by the treaty. Obviously, there are a number of difficult technical issues which will need to be addressed in the cut off negotiations. These include the exact nature and scope of the verification regime; the method of paying for that regime; and the entry into force requirements. However, the CD has shown in the past that where there is political will, solutions can be found to the most difficult problems, and I have no doubt that all these questions will be resolved. …While a multilateral and effectively verifiable agreement to cease future production of fissile material may be possible now, it is our strong view that the cut off treaty should not try comprehensively to address existing stocks. One reason for this is that countries which have produced, or are producing, fissile material for explosive purposes, including those countries which continue to stand outside existing international arrangements, do not currently see it in their security interests to take the additional step of offering greater transparency of their existing stocks of fissile materials. This is a reality, however much we may wish it to be otherwise, and a genuine commitment to nuclear disarmament and non proliferation demands that we accommodate this reality in order to make the progress which is realistically possible. However, once we have all agreed to a cut off treaty, it is difficult to envisage significant further progress towards nuclear disarmament which does not include, sooner or later, multilateral verification of both fissile material production facilities and fissile material stockpiles. It is a simple fact that once there is a universal ban on production, we will all want to be confident that ongoing reductions in nuclear arsenals will be permanent. Australia therefore believes that in taking this first step in constructing, in the words of the mandate you agreed in 1995, a "non discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons", we will need to do so in the knowledge that it presupposes a following step which would bring existing stocks under strict and effective international control. All of us in this place should recognise that a cut off treaty is an essential step towards nuclear disarmament, and that it is an objective which is worth pursuing in its own right. Once a cut off treaty has been achieved, we will be able to consider the next steps towards nuclear disarmament. Cut off is achievable in the short term; the only obstacle is that some of us do not, perhaps, recognise its value and do not want it enough to look beyond shorter term interests. …I call on the CD to commence negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty without any further delay.
On 3 February 1998, in my second address to the Conference on Disarmament since becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs, I urged the Conference on Disarmament to begin immediate negotiations not only on a ban on landmines transfers but also on a convention to prohibit the production of fissile material for explosive purposes. I have instructed that Australia be active in Geneva and elsewhere in promoting this so called 'cut off' treaty as a priority arms control objective for 1998 and if necessary beyond. Just as the CTBT has brought an end to the qualitative further development of nuclear arsenals, so 'cut off' will cap the quantitative expansion of those arsenals.On 12 August 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release which included the following comments concerning negotiations on a cut off treaty on fissile material:
I warmly welcome the decision by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to commence negotiations on a cut off treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons purposes. The decision is a constructive and forward looking response by the international community to the recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and will serve to strengthen the international nuclear non proliferation and disarmament regime. These negotiations are a vital step for nuclear disarmament and non proliferation in the post testing environment. In my address to the Conference on Disarmament in February this year I called on the Conference to adopt a decision to begin negotiations on a fissile material cut off treaty. Parties to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty agreed in 1995 that it should be the next step for multilateral nuclear non proliferation and disarmament endeavours after the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Federal Government has always made the conclusion of a cut off treaty one of its major foreign policy objectives and yesterdays decision to start negotiations is a vital first step towards achieving that goal. A cut off treaty will also constitute an important security and confidence building measure in South Asia if India and Pakistan were to become parties to it. I welcome the agreement by these two countries to participate in the negotiations. The Conference is the international community's leading arms control treaty negotiating forum. It has a proven track record in negotiating effective, verifiable global disarmament and non proliferation treaties which have helped to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, including in Australia's area of primary strategic concern. The decision to proceed with these negotiations demonstrates the continued strength and relevance of the Conference as a key institution in addressing issues vital to international, regional and Australia's security.
On 8 April 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of the second reading speech for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Bill 1998 (House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1998, p 2734):
The Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Bill 1998 will give effect to Australia’s obligations as a party to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and will provide a legislative basis for its national implementation. The CTBT bans all nuclear weapons test explosions and all nuclear explosions for all time. It marks a watershed in international efforts to address the global threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and also brings the nuclear arms race to a definitive end.On 13 May 1998, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), done at New York on 10 September 1996 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
The CTBT has attracted the signatures of 149 states. Thirteen states have so far ratified. Two nuclear weapon states—France and the United Kingdom—deposited their instruments of ratification this week in New York. I signed the CTBT on behalf of Australia when it was opened for signature in New York on 24 September 1996. Early ratification by Australia is critical. We are one of the 44 states whose ratification is required in order for the treaty to enter into force.Australia is universally recognised as a key player in the adoption of the CTBT and we can be justifiably proud of the part we played in achieving this outcome. We were instrumental in accelerating the negotiations in the Conference on Disarmament. Following the failure to achieve final consensus in the Conference on Disarmament on a draft treaty text which was all but agreed, the government took the unprecedented and courageous step of submitting the treaty to the United Nations General Assembly for adoption. The Australian sponsored resolution attracted the co sponsorship of 127 countries and was adopted by an overwhelming majority. This was a truly great achievement by the Australian government. On presenting this bill, I would like to remind the House of Australia's longstanding and well deserved reputation as a leading international player on arms control issues. That reputation has been enhanced by this government's imaginative and successful efforts in taking the arms control agenda forward. …By signing the CTBT, Australia has aligned itself with the basic obligation not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. Part 2 of this bill makes it an offence to engage in activities prohibited under the treaty and provides appropriately severe penalties of up to life imprisonment for offences committed under clause 6 relating to the treaty prohibitions. The CTBT will establish an intrusive verification regime. The International Monitoring System, which is the principal arm of this regime, will be a worldwide network of over 300 monitoring stations and laboratories. Australia will host 21 monitoring stations and laboratories. Part 4 of the bill provides for the establishment and the operation of monitoring facilities on Australian territory, including authorisation to gain access to these facilities. Part 3 of the bill covers the arrangements which would apply should an on site inspection be called on Australian territory. Part 5 of the bill provides for the establishment of a national authority to manage treaty implementation in Australia. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum to this bill.
An effective CTBT is important to Australia's national security interests and for global security. In particular, Australia has a strong security interest in ensuring that nuclear weapons are not acquired by countries which could use them against Australia. The CTBT will act as a solid barrier to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and imposes severe constraints on the qualitative improvement of existing nuclear weapons designs. By furthering the twin goals of nuclear non proliferation and disarmament, the CTBT strengthens the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which remains the cornerstone of international nuclear security arrangements, and hence Australia's security in this field. Article VI of the NPT calls on each party to the Treaty to pursue negotiations on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to nuclear disarmament. Australia is Party to the NPT, along with another 184 countries, including the five declared nuclear weapon states (China, France, Russia, UK, USA). Australia is universally recognised as a key player in the achievement of the CTBT. Successive Australian governments have supported the early conclusion of a CTBT as being in the security interest of both nuclear and non nuclear weapon states. Australia was one of the first non nuclear weapon states to sign and ratify the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty which banned all nuclear testing in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water. From the early 1970s, Australia was active as a member of the South Pacific Forum, and in cooperation with countries like New Zealand, Mexico and Nigeria in the UNGA and the CD, in playing a prominent role in promoting negotiations on a CTBT. Australia made a high profile, substantive contribution throughout the negotiations of the CTBT text in the CD from 1994, with significant input from Australian technical experts to the development of the verification regime. Australia led international action to have the CTBT adopted when, in August 1996, India withheld the consensus necessary for the CD to transmit the product of the negotiations - the draft Treaty text - to the UNGA for endorsement. Australia took the unprecedented step of presenting the draft CTBT direct to the UNGA. The Australian drafted UNGA resolution of 10 September 1996 adopting the CTBT and opening it for signature attracted 127 co sponsors. 158 countries - including the five nuclear weapon states - voted in favour, and three against (Bhutan, India, Libya), with five abstentions (Cuba, Lebanon, Mauritius, Syria, Tanzania). The CTBT was opened for signature on 24 September 1996 in New York. The Prime Minister, Mr Howard, and Mr Downer welcomed the adoption of the CTBT and urged all nations to join Australia in signing and ratifying the CTBT as soon as possible. Australia will play an important role in the CTBT's verification regime and will host 21 new or upgraded monitoring facilities on its territory. Australian ownership of the facilities, as provided for in the CTBT, will constitute a net gain for Australia's scientific, technological and security resource base. The establishment/upgrade and operation of the monitoring facilities, to be undertaken in the first instance by the CTBT's Provisional Technical Secretariat (PTS), will provide commercial opportunities for Australian industry. The CTBT faces special challenges under Article XIV (Entry Into Force (EIF)). The list of 44 states whose ratifications are required includes the five declared nuclear weapon states, and the three so called "threshold" states (India, Pakistan and Israel). Of the 44, India, Pakistan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) have not signed. India has said it will not become party to the CTBT because the CTBT does not provide for the elimination of nuclear weapons, and because it makes India's signature mandatory for EIF - an attack on national sovereignty in India's view. Pakistan has linked its signature to that of India. The DPRK has not stated its intentions. Article XIV stipulates that if the CTBT has not entered into force three years after the date of anniversary of its opening for signature, states which have ratified may request the Depositary to convene a conference to consider and decide by consensus what measures consistent with international law may be undertaken to accelerate the ratification process in order to facilitate the CTBT's early EIF. The conference option may be exercised annually thereafter. Ratification of the CTBT will allow Australia to request, participate and take part in decision making at the Article XIV conferences. Australia has strong interests in ratifying the CTBT even with a delayed EIF. As a security and arms control measure, the CTBT has indispensable normative value. Signature of the CTBT - most importantly by the nuclear weapon states - although not binding under international law, constitutes a political and moral commitment to renounce nuclear explosions. The establishment of the Preparatory Commission by Signatory States on 19 November 1996, to prepare for EIF and establish the global verification regime, consolidates the norm embodied in the CTBT, and leaves in no doubt the intense international condemnation signatories or non signatories would attract should they contemplate a nuclear explosion. Legally, this is complemented by principles set out in Article 18 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which provides that states shall refrain from acts which would defeat the object and purpose of a treaty which they have signed, even before EIF. The alternative - an indefinite standstill on CTBT ratification and implementation pending EIF - would undermine the CTBT's credibility and normative value and be a setback for nuclear arms control and global security.On 10 July 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning Australia's ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty:
I am pleased to announce that Australia ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on 9 July (New York time). The CTBT bans all nuclear weapons test explosions and all other nuclear explosions for all time. It marks a watershed in international efforts to address the global threat posed by nuclear weapons proliferation and is an indispensable component of the international nuclear arms control regime. Australia holds a long standing and well deserved reputation as a leading international player on arms control issues. The pivotal role we played in the negotiation and adoption of the CTBT is a reflection of our commitment to the global nuclear non proliferation and disarmament regime. This regime is central to our national security. The recent nuclear tests by India and Pakistan highlight the importance of the CTBT. One of the great achievements of the CTBT is to provide a codified international benchmark against which the actions of individual members of the international community in the area of nuclear testing can be judged. Countries which defy this code of behaviour, as India and Pakistan have done, know that they can expect to feel the full weight of international opprobrium. The Government strongly condemned India's and Pakistan's actions which are in flagrant defiance of international non proliferation norms and have serious implications for global and regional security. I call again on both India and Pakistan to sign and ratify the CTBT without conditions or further delay. I signed the CTBT on behalf of Australia on 24 September 1996. 149 countries have already signed the CTBT and 15, including two nuclear weapon states - France and the United Kingdom - have ratified. Australia is one of the 44 countries whose ratifications are necessary before the CTBT enters into force. Australia is encouraging other countries, particularly those in our region, to sign and ratify the CTBT as soon as possible so that the powerful international norm against testing which the Treaty represents is made as strong as possible. Australia is also playing a leading role in helping to build the institutional fabric of the CTBT at its headquarters in Vienna. This includes developing the International Monitoring System and the establishment or upgrading of key monitoring facilities on Australian territory.
On 3 February 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following address to the Conference on Disarmament:
We should not forget that, while this forum has been unable to agree on a forward work program, an important arms control treaty is under negotiation. That is a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention. A legal norm prohibiting the development, production and stockpiling of biological weapons has been in place for some 25 years. Yet we know, not least from the exhaustive inspections carried out by UNSCOM in Iraq, that this has not prevented some countries from developing biological weapons programs. This knowledge should motivate all of us to work assiduously to establish an effective verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention. To date, progress in the negotiations has been slow. However the move last year to a rolling text was a major positive development and one that should lead to an intensification of the negotiations. I would encourage all the participants in these negotiations - many of whom are represented here - to demonstrate a commitment to putting in place a stringent verification regime that will ensure that the world is free from the threat of biological warfare. It should not prove beyond our collective capabilities - particularly as many of the issues with which we are grappling were thoroughly dealt with in the CD negotiations that produced the Chemical Weapons Convention.
On 2 March 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a press release concerning the Biological Weapons Convention:
I am pleased to announce, as part of Australia’s response to the recent crisis caused by Iraq, that the Government will pursue a series of diplomatic initiatives to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.
Australia is already at the forefront of international efforts to strengthen the international regime against biological weapons. But more can and must be done. While the Convention outlaws biological weapons, there is still no effective means of checking countries’ compliance with the Convention. The most urgent task therefore is to make the Convention a truly effective instrument.
Iraq’s development of a large scale biological weapons program — in violation of the legal norm of the Biological Weapons Convention — underscores the importance of Australia’s initiative. The international community needs a reliable mechanism to detect and act upon any breach of that Convention.
The initiative announced today is aimed at fast-tracking the negotiations on a verification system for the Biological Weapons Convention by:
calling for the convening of a high-level meeting to inject into the negotiations the necessary political commitment for urgent action;
convening a national advisory group drawing on the expertise of Australian industry, scientists and academia to work on the complex technical and procedural issues which need to be settled before an effective verification regime can operate; and
using our position as a Vice Chairman of the Biological Weapons Convention negotiations in Geneva and as coordinator of the Western Group, to work with other delegations to finalise and table a draft Treaty text for an effective Protocol and to help secure early conclusion to the negotiations.
This initiative highlights the seriousness of Australia’s commitment to make every effort to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, through effective and verifiable means.
It follows in the tradition of highly successful diplomatic efforts and intellectual input into arms control and disarmament negotiations over many years. It was an Australian initiative which helped bring the Chemical Weapons Convention to fruition and, more recently, an Australian initiative which was pivotal in bringing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to a successful conclusion.
On 8 April 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning the Biological Weapons Convention (House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1998, p 2734):
In another area of the arms control agenda, I recently announced a new initiative to strengthen the biological weapons convention. The government’s initiative is aimed at fast-tracking the negotiations on a verification system for the biological weapons convention and highlights our serious commitment to preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
On the 24 September 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer issued a media release concerning an informal ministerial meeting held to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention:
I warmly welcome the outcome of the Informal Ministerial Meeting held in New York on 23 September designed to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention
(BWC). The meeting was part of Australia’s initiative to address the scourge of biological weapons and enhance Australian and international security.
I convened the meeting but was unable to attend because of the Federal elections: the meeting was chaired in my place by the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Mr Don McKinnon.
The meeting was attended by representatives from over 50 countries — including 25 ministers — from all regions of the world and produced a declaration co-sponsored by 57 countries.
The declaration calls for the conclusion as soon as possible of the negotiations on a protocol to strengthen and enhance the BWC. Strengthening the BWC through the conclusion of a verification protocol is of fundamental importance for international security.
As it currently stands, the BWC is an imperfect instrument because compliance with the Convention cannot be verified. The key message from the Informal Ministerial Meeting is that this shortcoming must be resolved as soon as possible.
Australia has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that the strengthening of the BWC gets the urgent attention it requires. The Governments Biological Weapons initiative, announced by Prime Minister Howard in March 1998, included in particular a call for a high-level meeting to give political impetus to the negotiations to strengthen the Convention.
I am particularly pleased therefore that the declaration endorsed Australia’s proposal for a high-level meeting to be held in 1999 to lend further political support to the protocol negotiations.
The meeting saw a cross-regional group of countries come together for the first time at ministerial level to give political support to the objective of strengthening the BWC. The number and range of countries in attendance, and the strength of the Declaration issued, is testament to the determination of the international community to do all it can to reduce the potential threat to global security posed by biological weapons.
Of all the weapons of mass destruction that potentially threaten regional and global security, biological weapons are the cheapest to obtain and the easiest to conceal. Establishing a means to ensure that the worldwide ban on biological weapons is as effective as possible is thus of vital importance for international security.
The Informal Ministerial Meeting and its declaration have significantly enhanced prospects for strengthening the Convention in the near future. Australia welcomes this, and will continue to play an active role in working towards this goal.
On 3 February 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of an address to the Conference on Disarmament:
We are, finally, approaching the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention. In that time, steady and significant progress has been made in putting the Convention into effective operation. But there are no grounds for complacency, and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must continue its efforts to ensure the implementation of all Convention obligations, particularly those which constitute the verification machinery. For instance, it is imperative, for the credibility of the Convention, that States Parties submit full and complete declarations. Additionally, while the first nine months of the Convention's life have seen an impressive increase in ratifications and accessions, adherence is far from universal. I urge those countries which have not yet done so, to ratify the Convention as soon as possible.
On 3 February 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, gave an address to the Conference on Disarmament. An extract from the address follows:
Australia is committed to the achievement of a comprehensive and lasting solution to the global landmines crisis. The recent signing of the Ottawa landmines ban treaty by more than 120 countries gives us cause for hope. By signing the treaty, Australia and a significant proportion of the international community have entered into a legally binding commitment forswearing the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti personnel landmines.On April 8 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning anti personnel mines in the course of the second reading speech for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Bill 1998 (House of Representatives, Debates, 8 April 1998, p 2734):
This is an achievement of major international significance.
The Ottawa Treaty is not, however, the end of the battle.
While the campaign to achieve greater adherence to the Ottawa Treaty is important, it is clear that several of the major traditional producers and users of landmines are not in a position, at this stage at least, to sign the Treaty.
The conclusions we draw from this are simple:
those countries should not become alienated from a cause which has mobilised the energies and commitment of many governments and peoples worldwide;
the momentum of the pro-ban movement should not be dissipated with the job only part-done; and
the CD should re-affirm its relevance to the contemporary arms control agenda by engaging those outside the Ottawa Treaty on the landmines issue.
In so doing, the CD will be contributing to a lasting solution to the global landmines problem for the long-term.That the CD has a job to do here and that the world expects it to do it is clear: the overwhelming support given to the resolution in favour of further action on landmines in the CD - adopted without any negative votes at the most recent UN General Assembly - is a clear indication of the will of the international community on this point. For its part, Australia's continued interest in seeing the CD work on landmines issues is an open and honest attempt to complement the Ottawa Treaty and address remaining elements of the global landmines problem at their source. Australia's aim is to see a CD Ad Hoc Committee established as soon as possible this year with a clear mandate to negotiate one aspect of a landmines ban. After extensive consultations, we judge that agreement should be possible to negotiate a ban on transfers of landmines. A ban on transfers of APL which included major traditional producers of landmines not parties to the Ottawa Treaty would add considerably to a global solution to a global problem. It would be consistent with and complementary to the Ottawa Treaty by creating a space to allow Ottawa Treaty non signatories to make their own contribution to solving the landmines problem. By attracting the support of important victim countries and past user states, the Ottawa Treaty has achieved a great deal. As we know, however, a good proportion of the landmines currently in the ground, those being laid now and those which, notwithstanding our best efforts, will be laid in the future are the results of the actions of non state entities. It is crucial therefore that we attack both the supply and the demand sides of this conundrum - where we cannot persuade political groups to forsake use of APL, we can take measures to diminish the international supply of these weapons. This is precisely what a transfers ban would do. It is of course true that a ban on APL transfers, whether in the form of the Ottawa Treaty or embodied in a stand alone instrument, is not going to remove the problem of indigenous production of landmines, nor is it going to block completely terrorist and other groups determined to use landmines. But this is not an argument against negotiating such a ban: possession of landmines being so widespread, partial measures by those not willing to abandon them completely - such as a ban on transfers - are still worth having and worth working for as a step towards total elimination. In this, as in the case of a cut off treaty, as in all fields of arms control, we should not disdain partial measures, but seize on them, cement them in - use them as building blocks towards a better and a safer world. A global ban on landmines transfers negotiated in the CD would pass the most fundamental test of all for what the world has sent you here to do: it would save lives.
This Government's commitment to the cause of disarmament is evident in our substantial contribution to the international movement in favour of the total elimination of antipersonnel landmines as a weapon of war. In December 1997, Australia joined over 100 countries in signing the Ottawa Treaty. The next step is to get negotiations under way in the Conference on Disarmament as soon as possible as a way of complementing the Ottawa treaty and tightening the clamps on the global supply of landmines.On 26 May 1998, the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, done at Oslo on 18 September 1997 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
…With over 120 signatories, the Convention represents the beginning of a new international norm against the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti personnel mines. Australia's ratification of the Convention is consistent with the Government's commitment to an effective global ban on the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of anti personnel mines announced jointly by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence on 15 April 1996. On the same day, the Government also instituted an indefinite suspension of the operational use of anti personnel landmines by the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Australia does not produce or export anti personnel mines and the Australian Defence Force has not used landmines operationally since the Vietnam War. Australia's ratification of the Convention and implementation of its provisions will thus in large part give permanent international legal status to existing national measures with respect to anti personnel mines. In addition, however, the Convention also requires States Parties to destroy or ensure the destruction of stockpiles of anti personnel mines within a period of four years after the entry into force of the Convention, with provision for the retention of a minimum number of anti personnel mines for the development of and training in mine detection, mine clearance, or mine destruction techniques. Australia's ratification of the Convention would be consistent with the Government's policy on anti personnel mines and would maintain Australia's standing in international efforts to address the humanitarian crisis caused by these weapons. The widespread misuse of anti personnel mines and the tragic humanitarian and economic consequences of their misuse have led responsible governments to decide that anti personnel mines should be eliminated as a weapon of war. The Convention is an important step towards a global ban on landmines. Australian ratification of the Convention builds on the Government's record of activism in the global battle against anti personnel mines. It also complements the leadership role which Australia has played in global efforts to deal with the immediate threat posed by the millions of anti personnel mines currently in the ground. It is Australia's support for programs which remove or reduce the threat of anti personnel mines which gives the most immediate, practical effect to Australia's commitment to rid the world of landmines; the Government anticipates expenditure in excess of $100 million for mine clearance, mine awareness, victim assistance and related activities by the year 2005. The Convention's effectiveness will also be complemented and enhanced by bringing the major producers and exporters of anti personnel mines into the process of finding a lasting, effective solution to the landmines problem. Australia is working to this end in the Conference on Disarmament. The decision to sign the Convention last December held some difficulties for the Government. Anti personnel mines represent a significant tactical capability that has had a well established place in ADF plans for the conduct of military operations. Finding alternatives will involve a costly research and development effort. As alternative technology does not yet exist and is some years away, the ADF for this period could face an increased risk of casualties, especially if deployed overseas, and a potentially reduced capacity for coalition operations in certain circumstances. Apart from the cost of the development of a replacement capability and the cost to Defence associated with the destruction of the anti personnel mine stockpile, there are no immediate significant, quantifiable and foreseeable economic or environmental effects associated with Australia's ratification of the Convention. …In depositing Australia's instrument of ratification of the Convention, Australia will issue a national declaration setting out its understanding of the Convention's obligations as follows: "In depositing its instrument of ratification for this Convention, Australia hereby makes declarations of understanding in relation to Articles 1,2,4,5 and 7 of the said Convention. It is the understanding of Australia that, in the context of operations, exercises or other military activity authorised by the United Nations or otherwise conducted in accordance with international law, the participation by the Australian Defence Force, or individual Australian citizens or residents, in such operations, exercises or other military activity conducted in combination with the armed forces of States not party to the Convention which engage in activity prohibited under the Convention would not, by itself, be considered to be in violation of the Convention. It is the understanding of Australia that, in relation to Article 1(a), the term "use" means the actual physical emplacement of anti personnel mines and does not include receiving an indirect or incidental benefit from anti personnel mines laid by another State or person. In Article 1(c) Australia will interpret the word "assist" to mean the actual and direct physical participation in any activity prohibited by the Convention but does not include permissible indirect support such as the provision of security for the personnel of a State not party to the Convention engaging in such activities, "encourage" to mean the actual request for the commission of any activity prohibited by the Convention, and "induce" to mean the active engagement in the offering of threats or incentives to obtain the commission of any activity prohibited by the Convention. It is the understanding of Australia that in relation to Article 2(1), the definition of "anti personnel mines" does not include command detonated munitions. In relation to Articles 4, 5(1) and (2), and 7(1)(b) and (c), it is the understanding of Australia that the phrase "jurisdiction or control" is intended to mean within the sovereign territory of a State Party or over which it exercises legal responsibility by virtue of a United Nations mandate or arrangement with another State and the ownership or physical possession of antipersonnel mines, but does not include the temporary occupation of, or presence on, foreign territory where anti personnel mines have been laid by other States or persons."On 30 October 1998, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Kathy Sullivan, made the following comments regarding international conventions on landmines: Australia remains determined to achieve a comprehensive and lasting solution to the global landmines crisis. An important step forward was made in December 1997 when the Ottawa Landmines Ban Convention was opened for signature. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (the Hon Alexander Downer MP) accompanied by Sister Patricia Pak Poy (the Australian Coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines) signed the Convention on behalf of Australia. By signing the Ottawa Treaty, Australia - along with the 120 other countries which signed - entered into a legally binding commitment foreswearing the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti personnel landmines. This is an achievement of major international significance. I am pleased to be able to inform you that the process of ratifying the Convention - including the passage of legislation (interrupted by the Federal Election) - is well advanced, and our aim remains for Australia to be an original state party to the Convention by the time it enters into force on 1 March 1999. However, I would note that we must also be realistic about the current coverage of the Ottawa Convention. The long list of countries which have signed the Convention does not include key countries in the global landmines equation that is; some of the major producers and users of landmines. It is for this reason that Australia has continued to play a leading role in pushing for complementary negotiations in the United Nations affiliated Conference on Disarmament to achieve a ban on transfers, namely, all forms of trading and transportation of anti personnel mines not only across but also within national borders. Such a ban, if adopted by those major traditional producers and traders in landmines who have not signed the Ottawa Convention, would represent a very important step forward in the global battle against landmines. Australia has ratified the Revised Landmines Protocol (Protocol II) to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. We continue to encourage all states which have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and the Revised Protocol, and we are active in promoting adherence to the Revised Protocol in our region. On 12 November 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of the second reading speech for the Anti Personnel Mines Convention Bill 1998 (House of Representatives, Debates, 12 November 1998, p 244):
The Anti Personnel Mines Convention Bill 1998 will give effect to Australia's obligations as a party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Ottawa Convention) and will provide a legislative basis for the convention's national implementation. I take great personal pleasure in introducing a bill which represents an important step towards a goal this government is committed to: that is, a future world without landmines. The scourge of landmines-the senseless, random taking and blighting of innocent lives-is a peculiarly vicious, late twentieth century form of terror which all responsible peoples and governments must strive to end-everywhere and forever. The appalling dimensions of the humanitarian and economic crisis being faced by so many countries, including in Australia's region, require this. It was for this reason-because we understood that bold steps were required to address the global landmines problem-that this government as one of its first acts on assuming office announced its support for a global ban on landmines and-pending the achievement of this-declared an indefinite national moratorium on the use of landmines by the Australian Defence Force-notwithstanding the fact that the ADF has had no association with the indiscriminate or irresponsible use of landmines. This was a significant break with the caveated policies of the past and underlined our absolute determination to end the human suffering caused by a weapon incapable of distinguishing soldier from civilian. Since that time, Australia has played a leading role in international efforts to find a comprehensive and lasting solution to the global landmines crisis. Indeed, building international support for an effective, global landmines ban has been-and remains-one of the government's key arms control objectives. It was therefore with considerable pleasure and great pride that I signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (the Anti Personnel Mines Convention) on behalf of Australia when it was opened for signature in Ottawa on 3 December last year. In so doing, Australia joined over 120 other countries-well over half the community of nations-foreswearing the use, production and transfer of anti personnel landmines and undertook to destroy its stockpile of anti personnel mines, consistent with the provisions of the convention. Signing the Ottawa Convention was the quickest, most absolute way for a government to commit itself to this objective, and it was right that Australia, with its strong humanitarian record, took this stand in support of a global landmines ban. For us, the bottom line was that because landmines are so commonplace, so deadly, and have been so widely and insidiously misused over recent decades, the only sane, humane response is to eliminate them. I am proud of that decision. Of course, the global battle against landmines is far from over and now is certainly not the time for complacency. The international community must now build on the norm established by the Ottawa Convention. We owe it to the victims of landmines past, present and future to continue working through all possible avenues to ensure that major traditional producers and exporters of landmines which remain outside the Ottawa Convention are brought into the process of finding a lasting, effective solution to the landmines problem. The next step will be to get negotiations under way as soon as possible in the Conference on Disarmament on an agreement to ban transfers of landmines as a way of complementing the Ottawa Treaty and tightening the clamps on the global supply of landmines. Australia is leading the way on this front and we will continue to work hard on this long after the issue has left the media headlines. Neither will we lose sight of the ongoing urgent need to do something concrete and compassionate about the millions of landmines which are already in the ground and which continue to claim innocent victims on a daily basis. We will continue to lead the way in assisting countries such as Cambodia to rid themselves of the continuing deadly legacy of landmines, drawing not only on our financial resources but also on the experience and courage of our deminers and the talent and innovative thought which our scientists and our engineers have applied to the technological challenge which these silent killers continue to pose.
On 4 March 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning regional security in the course of a speech to the ASEAN Regional Forum Intersessional Group on Confidence Building Measures:
In August last year, the Australian Government released Australia's first ever Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper. It charted the way ahead for Australia's foreign and trade policy over the next ten to fifteen years. And, in December last year, the Government released a companion document - Australia's Strategic Policy. It carried forward the White Paper's analysis of Australia's place in the regional and global environment to the level of Australia's strategic objectives, capability requirements and force structure priorities. These two key documents found that the strategic situation in the Asia-Pacific has become considerably more complex, particularly with the shift of the global strategic landscape away from the Cold War's bipolar balance. They concluded that the rapid economic growth of recent decades was changing strategic relativities among regional countries, and that the uneven distribution of this growth among regional countries might exacerbate political, economic and cultural differences in ways which could create new sources of instability. Several constraints were identified that could prevent the unprecedented rates of growth achieved in recent decades being sustained - for example, factors that might complicate the management of economic policy such as worsening current account deficits combined with high debt levels and weak and protected domestic financial sectors. Nonetheless, the White Paper concluded that it was more likely than not that economic growth in most of the industrialising countries of East Asia will remain at high levels over the next fifteen years - an assessment endorsed by the strategic review. Both documents made it clear that the changing relationships among the major powers - US, China, Japan and, in the longer term, India and Russia - will largely determine the nature of the Asia-Pacific's strategic environment over the next decade and a half. In that context, Australia believes that the United States' continuing engagement in the region is an important factor for regional stability. Australia sees its alliance with the United States as making a contribution to regional security. Australia also believes that China's economic growth, with its attendant confidence and enhanced influence, will be the most important strategic development of the next fifteen years. How China manages its economic growth and pursues its international objectives, and how other nations, particularly the United States and Japan, respond to China will be crucial issues over this period. For its part, Australia is committed to working with China both bilaterally and in regional institutions as it engages more fully with its partners in the region. Particularly welcome recent developments are the current strong commitments by both the United States and Japan to cooperating with China to ensure stability in the region - as evidenced in the positive results of last year's visits by President Jiang Zemin to the United States and Prime Minister Hashimoto to China. We were also pleased to see successful Presidential summit meetings held last year between Japan and Russia, Japan and China, and Russia and China. Consistent with the practical policy strategies recommended by the White Paper and our strategic review, Australia has been extending the number of countries with which it has bilateral dialogues on regional security issues. In 1996, we commenced political military talks with Japan and the Republic of Korea. Last year we agreed to commence four new important bilateral regional security dialogues with the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and China; in China's case, adding to our existing disarmament talks; and in Thailand's case, adding to our established senior officials talks. Our dialogue with Indonesia on regional security and arms control issues has now been running for four years, and we have regular contact with Malaysia and Singapore on security issues through our participation in Five Power Defence Arrangements. In addition, following the Prime Minister's successful visit to China earlier in 1997, we commenced a regular dialogue between our defence agencies. With the addition of our new dialogues, Australia now has bilateral security linkages, in one form or another, with most of the countries of the East Asia Pacific region - adding further depth and substance to Australia's regional engagement. Major developments in the region since the release of the White Paper and the strategic review - economic difficulties in East Asia and their wider political and social effects - serve to underline the importance of adopting practical regional approaches to regional issues. The overall regional prognosis is for a slowdown in economic growth over the next 2 3 years with sustained growth resuming thereafter. The outlook in particular countries depends on the speed with which governments implement economic reforms. Nonetheless, it is clear that significant adjustment stresses in East Asia are going to continue over the short to medium term. These stresses will have an impact on political and social developments across the region, with potential flow on effects in the short term at least for stability and security, depending on events in particular countries. The region's economic crisis will test the solidarity of our regional institutions, but I believe they will be able to withstand the pressure, and emerge even stronger as a result of the experience. The economic crisis may affect the pace of modernisation of defence capabilities in the region. This may give the ARF more time to ripen and mature, so that when economic growth and the pace of defence modernisation pick up again, the habits of transparency and sensitivity to the security needs and perceptions of others will have a positive influence on these processes. This means it is all the more necessary to work together to understand and manage these questions. It places even more importance on building an extensive web of relationships and mutual respect among the countries of the Asia-Pacific, as the common regional interest in stability and security emerges more starkly than ever, and governments seek a return to prosperity with renewed urgency. Australia is doing its part by lending a helping hand to our regional neighbours in this time of trouble - through our involvement in the three IMF packages, and through practical aid and assistance to individual countries to help alleviate the negative impacts of the crisis. I believe that governments and regional institutions across the Asia-Pacific are dealing courageously with the challenges that come with accelerated economic reform and structural change. I want to emphasise that Australia remains strongly committed to the region, and we are confident about the region's long term future.
On 4 March 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of a speech delivered to the ASEAN Regional Forum Intersessional Group on Confidence Building Measures:
Within the ARF process, the ISG on CBMs is a group that is showing considerable potential to achieve practical and cooperative outcomes and initiatives. I appreciate you are working on providing an overview for Ministers of how ARF countries are faring in the implementation of confidence building measures agreed to over the past three or four years. This will show that we have already achieved a great deal:ARF countries across the region are developing a range of regional, sub regional and bilateral exchanges on regional security perceptions. Australia has been particularly active in this area - but more on that later; high level defence contacts have also been expanding rapidly, as have defence training and defence exchanges; ARF participation in the United Nations Conventional Arms Register is high and many ARF countries circulate their returns to each other; participation in the key global non proliferation and disarmament regimes is strong; the number of ARF countries publishing Defence White Papers has steadily increased, as has the number of countries submitting an annual defence policy statement to the ARF; a meeting of heads of National Defence Colleges has been convened; and and there has been cooperation in the area of disaster relief.…I understand that in Brunei last November - and again here today - you have identified several new CBMs for the ARF to pursue. Clearly there is still much work for the ISG to do in the area of confidence building and I look forward to seeing these proposals come to fruition. Some of the new ideas include encouraging visits to defence establishments - and in this context I am pleased that you will be visiting HMAS Melbourne on Friday - cooperation in fields such as military medicine and military law and training for diplomatic and defence officials in regional security issues. While continuing to advance its CBMs agenda, the ARF also needs to develop a better capacity to contribute to the avoidance and management of regional differences and disputes. One way forward is for the ARF to agree on generic mechanisms which the parties involved might want to utilise to help them manage differences or issues between them. I am particularly interested, for example, in the possibility of developing a "Good Offices" role for the ARF Chair, one of a number of preventive diplomacy issues I understand were discussed today. Of course, this is an area where there will always be differences of view on how far and how fast the ARF should move. It means we must move at a pace comfortable for everyone while, at the same time, taking a genuinely innovative and practical approach in defining those areas where real progress is possible. I very much hope you will be successful in doing exactly that over the course of this meeting.
On 16 April 1998, the following comments were made in the course of a statement delivered on behalf of the Australian Delegation to the Fifty-fourth Session of the Commission on Human Rights:
In Papua New Guinea important progress has been achieved since June 1997 towards a peaceful resolution to the Bougainville conflict. Since October 1997 parties to the conflict have observed a truce which has brought much needed peace and stability to the province. We call on all parties to maintain the momentum of the peace process and reach a durable negotiated settlement. Australia stands ready to continue its commitment to assist in the peace process.
On 3 March 1998, the Agreement between Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu concerning the Neutral Truce Monitoring Group for Bougainville, done at Port Moresby on 5 December 1997 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
On 10 October 1997 parties to the Bougainville conflict signed a truce agreement at Burnham Military Camp, New Zealand (the Burnham Truce). The parties agreed to immediate positive measures to cease armed conflict, for peace and reconciliation and for a return of normalcy and restoration of services on Bougainville. The Burnham Truce called for a neutral regional group to monitor the terms of this truce. PNG and other signatories to the Burnham Truce requested that States in the South Pacific region contribute to a Neutral Truce Monitoring Group for Bougainville. Australia advised PNG that Australia would contribute civilian and military personnel and logistics support to the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG). The Agreement was required to provide a legal framework for the activities of the TMG and the participation of personnel in the TMG. It was necessary to finalise the Agreement and for it to enter into force as soon as possible, in order to provide a legal basis for the activities of members of the TMG. Since early December 1997, Australia has contributed both civilian and Australian Defence Force personnel to the TMG on Bougainville. The mandate of the TMG (set out in Article 5) is to monitor and report on the compliance of the parties to the Burnham Truce, to promote and instil confidence in the peace process, and to provide the people of Bougainville with information on the truce and peace process. The Agreement was an important step forward in the Bougainville peace process. Australia has been actively involved in this peace process and has been helping to facilitate a negotiated settlement to the Bougainville conflict. Australia considered that the Agreement was not only in the interests of the people of Bougainville and the PNG Government, but served our own national interests as the treaty had the potential (and this has, to date, proved to be correct) to contribute to bringing stability and order to Bougainville.
On 30 June 1998, the Protocol done at Port Moresby on 29 April 1998 concerning the Peace Monitoring Group made pursuant to the Agreement between Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu concerning the neutral Truce Monitoring Group for Bougainville of 5 December 1997 (the Head Agreement) was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
The Head Agreement … was due to expire upon the withdrawal of the TMG (Article 29.3 of the Head Agreement). The factions involved in the Bougainville conflict met again at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand from 15 23 January 1998. The Lincoln Agreement on Peace, Security and Development on Bougainville was signed by all factional representatives at this meeting. The Agreement provided for an extension of the truce until 30 April 1998, until a 'permanent and irrevocable' ceasefire on Bougainville took effect from 30 April. The PNG Government was to make arrangements for the deployment of the successor to the TMG by no later than 30 April 1998. The States determined at the conclusion of the meeting that they would extend the operation of the TMG until 30 April 1998 (Article 29.3 of the Head Agreement provides that unless otherwise determined by the Parties, the TMG shall be withdrawn by 31 January 1998, with the Head Agreement expiring upon the withdrawal of the TMG). Australia confirmed its commitment to extend its participation in the TMG until 30 April 1998 through an exchange of letters between the Prime Ministers of Australia and the PNG. A Technical Meeting between parties to the Lincoln Agreement was held in Canberra from 9 14 March 1998. A draft ceasefire implementation agreement was produced at this meeting, which considered the implementation of the ceasefire and the need for a neutral peace monitoring group to come into being upon the signing of the ceasefire on 30 April. On 3 April 1998, PNG Prime Minister Skate invited the States participating in the TMG to constitute a new Peace Monitoring Group (PMG), to monitor the ceasefire on the ground. The Parties to the Head Agreement decided new treaty action (the Protocol) was necessary in order to ensure the legal basis and protections afforded by the Head Agreement to the TMG were extended to the PMG. The Protocol The purpose of the Protocol is to amend the Head Agreement by updating its terminology to take into account the progression from truce to ceasefire, and the replacement of the TMG by the PMG with effect from 1 May 1998. It is the intention of the Parties that the Protocol amend the Head Agreement, and extend the operation of the Head Agreement beyond the withdrawal of the TMG. Article 2(d) of the Protocol states that 'the Head Agreement, read together with this Protocol, shall apply to the ceasefire.' Therefore, the provisions of the Head Agreement remain in force, as amended by the Protocol. (The Head Agreement should be referred to as the Agreement, as amended by the Protocol.) Following the signature of the ceasefire implementation agreement at Arawa on 30 April 1998, the Peace Monitoring Group commenced its operations. This included the transition of leadership for the monitoring operations from New Zealand to Australia.
On 30 June 1998, the Exchange of Notes, done at Canberra on 28 May 1998, constituting an Implementing Arrangement, between the Government of Australia and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) concerning Plutonium Transfers, under the Agreement with EURATOM concerning Transfers of Nuclear Material from Australia to Euratom, and accompanying side Letter No. 2, of 21 September 1981, and the Implementing Arrangement concerning Plutonium Transfers of 8 September 1993 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
Conclusion of the 1998 Implementing Arrangement will make the operation of Australia's nuclear safeguards agreement with EURATOM more efficient. It will broaden Australia's advance generic consent for the return from the European Union to Japan of Australian obligated plutonium (AOPu) to cover AOPu which does not also carry a United States' safeguards obligation. The European Union is a major provider of nuclear fuel cycle services for Australia's bilateral nuclear cooperation partners including Japan. Japan is a major market for Australian uranium and its nuclear power needs are likely to grow. To maximise its power generating capacity, Japan's domestic nuclear energy program includes the transfer of spent nuclear fuel assemblies to the European Union for reprocessing and the return to Japan of the extracted plutonium for re use in nuclear power reactors. Australia's bilateral nuclear cooperation (safeguards) agreements provide the necessary framework to facilitate the export of Australian uranium by controlling its use so that Australia's security interests in the non proliferation of nuclear weapons are strictly protected. Like all of Australia's bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements, the 1981 Agreement with EURATOM concerning Transfers of Nuclear Material from Australia to EURATOM (the Head Agreement) contains a provision that Australian obligated nuclear material subject to the Head Agreement will not be retransferred to a third country without the prior written consent of Australia. In an accompanying letter dated 21 September 1981 to the Head Agreement, Australia gave generic prior consent (subject to certain conditions) to EURATOM for the retransfer of nuclear material at the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle; that is, before insertion in a nuclear reactor. Retransfers of the more proliferation sensitive nuclear material (material enriched beyond 20 per cent in the isotopes uranium 233 and uranium 235 and plutonium) from the European Union to third countries could, however, take place only in accordance with conditions to be agreed upon in writing between the Parties to the Head Agreement. Before September 1993, the shipment of AOPu from Europe to Japan was subject to Australian consent exercised on a case by case basis. In September 1993, at EURATOM's request, Australia agreed in a treaty level Implementing Arrangement Concerning Plutonium Transfers to exercise this consent in advance on a generic basis subject to certain conditions, including that the transportation of AOPu would be subject to appropriately strict physical protection (ie security) standards. To ensure this condition was met, the Implementing Arrangement specified that AOPu could be retransferred under generic consent only if the material also carried a parallel United States' safeguards obligation, thereby ensuring that the physical protection standards required by the United States would apply. Such AOPu also carries a United States' obligation because it is derived from nuclear material having undergone processing at some stage of the nuclear fuel cycle in the United States (typically enrichment). However, the 1993 Implementing Arrangement did not cover the small proportion (about 10 per cent) of AOPu held by or on account of Japan in the European Union which does not also carry a United States' safeguards obligation. The 1998 Implementing Arrangement will extend advance generic consent for retransfers of this category of AOPu. Nuclear material subject to the 1998 Implementing Arrangement will continue to be accounted for by the Australian Safeguards Office. The expansion of prior generic consent rights under the Head Agreement is regarded as desirable by both EURATOM and Japan, and is consistent with the practice of their other major uranium suppliers, Canada and the United States, with which EURATOM has negotiated similar agreements.
On 30 June 1998, the Exchange of Notes, done at Canberra on 4 June 1998, constituting an Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United States of America to further extend in force the Agreement relating to the Establishment of a Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap of 9 December 1966, as amended was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
The 1998 Agreement is an important indication of the continuing commitment of both the Australian and United States Governments to cooperation at the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap. The Pine Gap Facility is an intelligence collection facility, which serves to support our mutual security interests, and contributes to global security. The systems supported by Pine Gap will evolve to meet the demands of the post Cold War era, and it is expected that Pine Gap will remain a central element in our cooperation with the United States well into the next century. All activities at the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility are managed to ensure that they are consistent with Australian interests. The activities take place with the full knowledge and concurrence of the Australian Government, and Australia benefits fully from them. Australians are fully involved in the management and operation of the Joint Defence Facility.
On 25 June 1998, the Minister for Defence, Mr Ian McLachlan, wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, concerning the proposed Status of Forces Agreement between Australian and New Zealand. An extract from Mr McLachlan’s letter follows:
Dear Minister …Our defence relationship with New Zealand is one of our oldest and remains one of our most significant. The presence of large numbers of New Zealand defence personnel in Australia and Australian defence personnel in New Zealand reflects this. However, we have never concluded a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) of general application with New Zealand. The proposed SOFA will be a significant symbol of the continuing defence relationship between the countries and will facilitate this relationship by establishing standard conditions for the presence of visiting forces in the territory of the other nation. Australia has a SOFA to apply to US forces in Australia, a reciprocal SOFA with Papua New Guinea, and a SOFA to apply to Singaporean forces in Australia to complement the Five Power Defence Arrangements agreement on 1971 which provides SOFA type coverage for Australian forces in Singapore. In addition, a reciprocal SOFA with Malaysia has recently been signed. A SOFA can be seen as a sign of a significant and mature defence relationship. However, as a practical matter, it facilitates a range of defence activities by establishing standard conditions for the presence of visiting forces on issues including jurisdiction, claims, immigration requirements and customs duties. The provisions of the proposed SOFA with New Zealand are broadly consistent with those of the Australia US, Australia Papua New Guinea, Australia Singapore and Australia Malaysia SOFA's… Yours sincerely Ian McLachlan
On 11 November 1998, the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Malaysia Concerning the Status of Forces, done at Kuala Lumpur on 3 February 1997 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
A Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is an internationally recognised means of handling the issues arising out of the presence of one country's visiting forces in the territory of another country. Australia has a SOFA concerning United States forces in Australia, a reciprocal SOFA with Papua New Guinea and a SOFA concerning Singaporean forces in Australia to complement the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) Agreement which provides SOFA type provisions for Australian forces in Singapore. As members of the FPDA, Australia and Malaysia have had an FPDA Agreement in force since 1971. However, in recent years that Agreement has not adequately provided coverage for the bilateral defence activities beyond those of the FPDA, particularly in the area of personnel exchanges. The proposed SOFA will address this discrepancy as it will apply to Australian forces engaged in all defence related activities other than FPDA activities in Malaysia and to Malaysian forces engaged in all such activities in Australia. The 1971 FPDA Agreement will continue to apply to Australian forces engaged in FPDA activities in Malaysia. The proposed Agreement will facilitate a range of bilateral defence activities by establishing standard conditions for the presence of Malaysian and Australian visiting forces on issues including jurisdiction, claims, immigration requirements and customs duties. The Agreement is consistent with Australian policy on the development of Australia's substantial and diverse Defence relationship with Malaysia and its provisions are consistent with those of other SOFAs to which Australia is a party.
On 7 May 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments concerning the International Criminal Court in an address to the Pacific Meeting for Government Representatives and International Experts. Extracts of the address follow:
Australia’s support for this seminar — and its active involvement in the UN negotiations — reflects the Government’s strong backing for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. And it underlines my strong personal conviction that the creation of a truly effective Court will be a landmark development for the international community. Part One: Towards an International Criminal Court — a window of opportunityOn 15 June 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, gave the following speech concerning the establishment of an International Criminal Court to the Diplomatic Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court:
I know that many of you present here today have worked long hours in recent years to maintain the momentum of the UN negotiations on the establishment of a permanent ICC. The conclusion of these negotiations will be the culmination of two significant developments which have taken place this decade.
…Clearly, crimes such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity — including “ethnic cleansing” and systematic torture and rape — must be placed under a rigorous international spotlight. The gravity of these crimes is such that they are the concern of the world as a whole, and not just the country immediately affected.
That is why the international community must seize the historic opportunity presented by the Diplomatic Conference to be held in Rome in a few weeks time. We must ensure that a truly effective, credible and widely acceptable Criminal Court is established…Part Two: Key issues in the negotiations — maintaining a genuine spirit of cooperation
…However, I will say at the general level that it is vital that states and other interested parties approach these issues with good faith and a realistic assessment as to which mechanisms can be expected to work within the prevailing international environment.… deep consideration will have to be given to how best to fashion a workable relationship between the Court and the Security Council, which for the foreseeable future will continue to be the principal organ of multilateral security. The relationship between the Court and the Security Council raises significant questions. These include the referral of issues to the Court and the special geopolitical significance of Security Council decisions to either refer or prevent the consideration of matters by the Court. What should be the situation in relation to cases with which the Council is "dealing"? Clear understanding and agreement on the precise nature of the ICC Security Council relationship is vital. …I believe that the Statute must encompass - as core crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. While there is broad agreement on the definition of "genocide", I know that much more negotiation is required before the definitions of "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes" are fully agreed.
We have an opportunity to establish, through the creation of an International Criminal Court, a practical, permanent framework to deal with the most serious crimes of concern to the international community. …By establishing a permanent mechanism to try such crimes we help create a dynamic which carries with it its own momentum for ongoing investigation and accountability. …If we are to achieve this task fundamental issues must be resolved. First, we must strike a balance between the Court's jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of national criminal justice systems. Australia strongly supports the view that national jurisdiction should take precedence over the jurisdiction of the Court where that national jurisdiction is able and willing to deal effectively with alleged crimes. Primary responsibility for investigation and prosecution should remain with the State. However, the Court must also be able to determine whether a national jurisdiction can deal effectively with alleged crimes by way of investigation and prosecution. Sham investigations or proceedings at the national level cannot remain unchallenged. Second, we must agree on mechanisms which will trigger the Court's jurisdiction. Australia has long supported initiation of the Court's jurisdiction through complaint by a State which is a party to the Court's Statute or by the Security Council under its powers concerning the maintenance of international peace and security. As part of Australia's flexible approach to these negotiations, we are also now prepared to support a power for the Prosecutor to directly initiate investigations. However, it is Australia's view that the right of the Prosecutor to act must have appropriate safeguards to avoid politically motivated complaints. Third, we must achieve a workable relationship between the Court and the Security Council, which recognises the Council's primacy in matters relating to international peace and security. Finally, agreement must be reached on the specific crimes which should fall within the Court's jurisdiction. Clearly, the Court's Statute must, we believe, encompass genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. However, while there is broad agreement on the definition of "genocide" we have still to resolve the definitions of "crimes against humanity" and "war crimes". We believe that crimes of ethnic cleansing and systematic rape and torture are of such gravity that they must be included in the ambit of the Court's jurisdiction.On 18 July 1998, the Attorney General, Mr Daryl Williams, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a joint media release concerning the adoption of a Statute to establish an International Criminal Court:
The Australian Government welcomes the adoption by the Diplomatic Conference in Rome today of a Statute to establish an International Criminal Court. The creation of an International Criminal Court to deal with the most serious crimes of international concern has been a long standing goal of this government and Australia was one of 120 countries that voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Statute. …Australia played an active and constructive role throughout the negotiating process. In particular we chaired a like minded group of over 60 countries all of whom were strongly committed to the establishment of an effective Court which could be widely supported. In supporting the establishment of the Court, Australia has shown its commitment to future generations that we are serious about the rights of victims - and the responsibility of the international community - to see justice done and to see potential perpetrators of international crimes deterred in the future.On 26 August 1998, the Attorney General, Mr Daryl Williams, issued a news release concerning the establishment of an International Criminal Court. Extracts of the release follow:
The Statute was recently adopted at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference held in Rome and will come into force after it has been ratified by 60 States. The Statute's adoption is an historic step forward in efforts to bring to justice those persons who commit the gravest crimes known to the international community. …Establishing the Court has been a major multilateral and human rights objective of this Government, which I have strongly supported. …This Government's commitment was reflected in the leading and constructive role played by Australia in the negotiations on the Court. Australia was a member of the like minded group of countries which strongly supported the establishment of an effective Court and chaired this group during the Diplomatic Conference. Our delegates worked hard to resolve the many difficult issues under discussion at the conference and made a significant contribution to its successful outcome.On 9 December 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, gave the following response to a question without notice from Mr Kevin Andrews. An extract from the response follows (House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1998, p 1729): …
The establishment of an international criminal court has been one of the government's key human rights objectives. We have played a very active part in the establishment of that court. In particular … it was an Australian official who chaired the so called like minded group during the diplomatic conference in Rome earlier this year, who did an outstanding job in helping to bring together some diverse points of view and in the end made it possible for there to be the establishment of an international criminal court. …We would regard the establishment of the International Criminal Court as one of the great achievements of this year both for Australia and for other countries.
On 3 March 1998, the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Public Officials in International Business Transactions, done at Paris on 17 December 1997, was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:
Widespread bribery of officials distorts international trade and investment by raising transaction costs, reducing efficiency and creating a level of uncertainty for business, as the size of bribes rather than the merits of the product or service offered come to determine purchasing decisions. Bribery of public officials will ultimately disadvantage both suppliers and customers and at the same time undermines the integrity and, in some cases, the stability of governments. This is a serious international issue and the criminalisation of bribery of foreign public officials is an important step in addressing it. Some business groups within Australia may view criminalisation of bribery of foreign public officials as disadvantageous to offshore activity because some of their competitors will not be subject to similar measures. Clearly, if Australia were to take unilateral action to criminalise such bribery it could cause some harm to Australian firms without achieving any compensating advantages. However, the Government believes that Australian firms operating overseas are not significantly involved in corrupt practices. Hence Australian firms should ultimately benefit from the reduction in the incidence of bribery of foreign officials in relation to international business transactions which should result from action taken by OECD members and other countries which become Parties to the Convention. Moreover, the completion of negotiations on the Convention in 1997 is further evidence of growing pressure in the OECD, in particular from the United States (which has already enacted legislation of this type and is concerned that its industries should not suffer commercial disadvantage) for all members to criminalise bribery of foreign officials. The Convention provides a framework within which Australia and other OECD members can introduce criminal sanctions for bribery of foreign public officials and minimise the risk of any individual member country suffering commercial disadvantage relative to others. Participation in the Convention is not limited to OECD members, so it also provides a vehicle by which non OECD countries can be drawn onto a ''level playing field'' in this respect.On 2 July 1998, in the Senate Senator Bill Heffernan made the following comments concerning the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in the course of presenting the Fifteenth Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (Senate, Debates, 2 July 1998, p 4678): The OECD has 29 members and five other nations are also interested in this Convention. This is not a large group and, for example, it does not include any developing nations or South East Asian nations. The Committee agrees with those witnesses who stressed the importance of a multi lateral approach to the global problem of corruption.
It has recommended that Australia undertake through diplomatic channels the cooperation of other OECD members to work towards increasing the number of adherents to the Convention. Adherence to the Convention and passage of complementary domestic legislation should also be raised by Australia with members of the South Pacific Forum and the Association of South East Asian nations. The Committee has recommended that Australia should sign and ratify the Convention as soon as practicable. We also consider that the draft enabling legislation, the Criminal Code Amendment (Bribery of Foreign Public Officials) Bill 1998, as amended by our recommendations, be introduced into the Parliament as soon as practicable. The Committee is of the view that the legislation will be both more effective and enforceable if its recommendations are adopted. The scope and objectives of the Bill are limited to dealing with 'grand corruption'. Many witnesses addressed a wide range of issues in their submissions and verbal evidence. Because of the narrow scope and objectives of the Bill, it was not always possible to consider some of these matters, but the contribution made by all those who forwarded sub missions and gave evidence has been very much appreciated.
On 23 June 1998, a media release issued by the Minister for Justice, Senator Amanda Vanstone, contained the following comments concerning extradition generally:
“The Extradition Act includes safeguards to protect the rights of anyone facing an extradition request, without requiring a prima facie case to be established.
“Australia does not establish an extradition relationship with another jurisdiction unless it is satisfied about the soundness of the legal system in that foreign country.
“In addition, any extradition treaty Australia proposes entering is subjected to new procedures introduced by the Coalition Government to ensure greater public scrutiny of treaties, conventions, and other international agreements which include tabling in Parliament.
“It is important to remember that extradition proceedings have no function in establishing guilt or innocence. They are administrative proceedings to determine whether a person is liable under our law to be surrendered to another country to face trial. The question of guilt or innocence is a matter for the courts of the country which is requesting extradition”.
On 23 June 1998, the Minister for Justice, Senator Amanda Vanstone, issued a media release concerning the extradition of suspected war criminals from Australia. Extracts of the media release follow:
Minister for Justice, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today announced the Government would legislate to remove impediments to the extradition of suspected WWII war criminals from Australia.
“This move sends out a strong message internationally that Australia is not, and will not be, a haven for suspected World War II war criminals,” Senator Vanstone said.
“At present, the War Crimes Act requires that where an extradition request relates to an alleged war crime [World War II], an extraditee may be surrendered only where a prima facie case is shown to exist. For European countries with a civil law system of justice, where the concept of a prima facie case is a foreign concept, this provision makes it difficult and often impossible for a person to be extradited.
“This is a requirement peculiar to the War Crimes Act which does not apply to the extradition of suspected criminals under the Extradition Act.
…Senator Vanstone said previous concerns that a person might not receive a fair trial if extradited to a Soviet bloc country or to Yugoslavia are no longer relevant due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites and the break up of Yugoslavia.
A number of former Soviet bloc countries are now members of the Council of Europe and meet acceptable human rights standards, including their criminal justice systems.
On 24 June 1998, in the Senate, Senator Ian Campbell made the following comments concerning the extradition process for suspected war criminals in the course of the second reading of the War Crimes Amendment Bill 1998 (Senate. Debates, 24 June 1998, p 3892):
This bill repeals section 22 of the War Crimes Act 1945. The act was amended in 1989 prior to the fall of the “iron curtain” to enable trial in Australia with respect of conduct engaged in during World War II in Europe. Although the usual practice would have been to extradite persons accused of such crimes to the country where the crimes occurred, at the time it was considered politically unacceptable to extradite persons to countries behind the so called ‘iron curtain’.
The ‘iron curtain’ has fallen and many of the republics, including Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are now independent states and have been accepted as members of the Council of Europe. Australia has, in the past, been prepared to enter into extradition arrangements with any country that is a member of the Council.
The Government is actively pursuing the possibility of establishing modern extradition arrangements with many of these newly independent States. However, even if a modern extradition relationship was in place, it would still be impossible for those countries to comply with an extradition request while section 22 of the War Crimes Act remains in force.
Section 22 of the act provides that where a person’s extradition is sought for conduct covered by the act no surrender for extradition is possible unless there is a prima facie case. Thus, notwithstanding a modern extradition relationship with these countries, if the offence for which extradition is sought is a ‘war crime’ then the requesting state must provide a prima facie case. Because of the differences between civil code and common law countries the practical effect is that a civil code jurisdiction could never successfully seek the extradition of a person suspected of a war crime.
The concept of a prima facie case in determining sufficiency of evidence is one to which most common law countries are accustomed. However, those countries which operate under a civil code system (eg., Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) do not use this test in criminal proceedings, and experience has shown that use of this standard in extradition arrangements with civil code countries is almost impossible in practice. The practical issue is that the laws of evidence in common law systems are such as to make it impossible for a civil code jurisdiction to supply evidence in an admissible form. In essence, because of the fundamental differences between common law and civil code jurisdictions, particularly evidentiary requirements, the practical effect is that it is currently impossible for a civil code jurisdiction to successfully seek the extradition of a suspected war criminal from Australia.
The repeal of Section 22 will remove the fundamental barrier to Australia’s cooperation with the international community in relation to suspected war criminals.
This is not to say that extradition of a suspected war criminal would be automatic. Any request for the extradition of a suspected war criminal would be subject to the general extradition arrangement with the requesting country. Such arrangement must include all the usual safeguards spelt out in the Extradition Act 1988. All that the amendment will do is to remove an additional onerous requirement that relates only to the extradition of war criminals This Government sees no reason in principle why this practical impediment to the extradition of war criminals should be retained.
On 3 March 1998, the Treaty on Extradition between Australia and the Republic of Paraguay, done at Buenos Aires on 30 December 1997 was tabled in both Houses of Parliament. Extracts from the accompanying National Interest Analysis follow:Extradition treaties are a mechanism for the surrender of fugitive criminals from one country to another. Whilst extradition treaties are not always (depending on the law and practice of the particular country) the only means by which a country may request or grant the surrender of fugitive criminals, they are a reliable and effective means of doing so because such treaties create an obligation at international law to extradite and are designed to accommodate the extradition procedures of both countries. Extradition treaties benefit Australia by providing a reliable and effective means of securing the return to Australia of persons overseas wanted for criminal prosecution in Australia, both at Commonwealth and State and Territory level. Extradition treaties also benefit Australia by making Australia a less attractive haven for overseas criminals wishing to come to Australia to evade justice in their own countries. Extradition treaties also give effect to safeguards contained in Australia's legislation (the Extradition Act); for example, the safeguard against extradition from Australia in violation of international human rights principles. There is no major disadvantage in extradition treaties. The negotiation and conclusion of these treaties can, however, be a lengthy process. Extradition relations between Australia and Paraguay are currently governed by the Treaty between Great Britain and Paraguay for the Extradition of Criminals, done at Asuncion on 12 September 1908. This inherited Treaty differs in several important respects from the modern style of extradition treaty now favoured by Australia. In particular, it provides for a specific list of extraditable offences, as opposed to the current practice of treating any act as extraditable if it constitutes an offence in both countries and is subject to a maximum penalty of at least a specified level (usually one or two years' imprisonment) in both countries, and it permits extradition only where evidence sufficient to justify the fugitive's committal for trial is provided by the requesting party. Accordingly, it was decided to put in place a modern extradition treaty between the two countries.
Extradition relations between Australia and Poland are currently governed by the Treaty between Great Britain and the Republic of Poland for the Mutual Extradition of Fugitive Criminals, done at Warsaw on 11 January 1932. This inherited Treaty differs in several important respects from the modern style of extradition treaty now favoured by Australia. In particular, it provides for a specific list of extraditable offences, as opposed to the current practice of treating any act as extraditable if it constitutes an offence in both countries and is subject to a maximum penalty of at least a specified level (usually one or two years' imprisonment) in both countries. It also permits extradition only where evidence sufficient to justify the fugitive's committal for trial is provided by the requesting party. Accordingly, it was decided to put in place a modern extradition treaty between the two countries.
On 11 March 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Justice, Senator Amanda Vanstone, gave the following response to a question without notice from Senator Malcolm Colston concerning the International Transfer of Prisoners (House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1998, p 811):
Senator Colston—My question is directed to Senator Vanstone, the Minister for Justice. I refer the minister to the legislation passed in this parliament in relation to the international transfer of prisoners. Could the minister advise the chamber what the status is of the scheme which is being established under this legislation? As there is at least one Australian woman who has been in a Thai prison for well over 10 years, can the minister also advise when it is likely that a bilateral treaty between Australia and Thailand on international transfer of prisoners will be in place?
Senator Vanstone—…The government is anxious to have the international transfer of prisoners scheme operating as soon as is possible. Following the passage of the Commonwealth International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 last year the next step is the enactment of complementary legislation by the participating states and territories. Tasmania, Queensland and New South Wales have now enacted such legislation and I am advised that legislation has been introduced into the South Australian parliament.
We are also taking preparatory steps to enable Australia to become a party to international agreements for prisoner transfers as soon as is possible. Our first priority is to join the Council of Europe Convention and the Commonwealth scheme. The conclusion of a bilateral transfer agreement with Thailand is also a high priority. But, Senator, I cannot put a date on it. I have no indication of the time span we might need to conclude such agreements. I can assure you that the government remains committed to maintaining cooperation amongst all jurisdictions in participation in the national scheme and, as I say, to working with our first priority, which is the Council of Europe Convention and the Commonwealth scheme. But a high priority is a bilateral transfer agreement with Thailand.
On 1 April 1998, the Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams, in response to a question on notice from Ms Janice Crosio provided the House of Representatives with the following information concerning Australians engaging in child sex activity overseas (House of Representatives, Debates, 1 April 1998, p 2331):
The Commonwealth Government remains concerned about Australians who engage in paedophile activity overseas and is working closely with other countries to discourage such activity. This includes encouraging countries to strengthen their laws and to give priority to the protection of children.
Australia has provided direct assistance to both Thailand and the Philippines in training of police officials to investigate sexual offences against children. Australia also recently entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Philippines to co-operate in the exchange of information relating to child sex activity.
On 18 December 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, issued a media release concerning the Australian-Fiji Memorandum of Understanding for Joint Action to Combat Child Sexual Abuse and Other Serious Crimes. An extract from the media release follows:
…the Australia-Fiji Memorandum of Understanding for Joint Action to Combat Child Sexual Abuse and Other Serious Crimes (the Anti-Paedophilia MOU) … will further strengthen co-operation between Australian and Fiji police to combat child sexual abuse and other serious crimes in both countries. It provides for timely cooperation between the relevant authorities on enquires or investigations initiated by either side, and exchanges of intelligence. Joint co-operation in the fight against child sex crime will discourage those who look towards the Pacific island countries as a destination in which to conduct paedophile activities. It complements Fiji’s recent enactment of legislation on mutual assistance in criminal matters.
On 11 July 1998, in the Senate Senator Amanda Vanstone gave the following response to a question on notice from Senator Bob Brown concerning Child Abduction Conventions (Senate, Debates, 11 July 1998, p 5790):
The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
…Commonwealth, State and Territory Central Authorities have been designated for Australia pursuant to Article 6 of The Hague Abduction Convention and Regulations 5 and 8 of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations. The duties, powers and functions of the Central Authorities are set out in the Convention and in the Regulations. One of the functions of a Central Authority is to receive from parents in other Convention countries applications for the return of children.
…Regulation 13 of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations requires the Commonwealth Central Authority to satisfy itself that an application is in accordance with the requirements of the Convention before the Central Authority acts to obtain an order from the Family Court for the return of the child. One of the requirements of the Convention is that the overseas applicant pay the expenses to be incurred in implementing the return of the child (Article 26 of the Convention). Thus where the Family Court is likely to order return of the child in the custody of the abducting parent, the Commonwealth Central Authority requires the overseas applicant to satisfy it that arrangements have been made in relation to the payment of airfares for both the child and the abducting parent. Where the abducting parent is impecunious, this will usually mean that the overseas applicant must put in place satisfactory arrangements to meet the cost of the airfares. This requirement dates from 1994 when an overseas applicant refused to pay an airfare for a child taken into care pending return and the relevant Australian Central Authority was left to meet the cost.
…Applications received from applicants in the United Kingdom are dealt with as outlined in answer to question (2) above. Australia has a legal aid scheme of assistance (the Overseas Custody Child Removal Scheme) which pays airfares for impecunious applicants in Australia who seek the return of children from other countries. On a number of occasions the Commonwealth Central Authority has made representations to the English Lord Chancellor’s Department about England’s failure to adopt such a scheme to assist impecunious English applicants with the payment of airfares. Attempts by the English Lord Chancellor’s Department and English solicitors to transfer these costs to Australian taxpayers are unacceptable because the Convention places the liability on the overseas applicant. Other Convention countries do not require Australian applicants to make arrangements to pay airfares because Australia’s legal aid scheme of assistance (the Overseas Custody Child Removal Scheme) pays airfares for impecunious applicants in Australia who seek the return of children from other countries.
…The Commonwealth Central Authority’s handling of Hague Convention applications is consistent with the Convention and the Regulations.
On 9 June 1998, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Alexander Downer, made the following comments in the course of a speech to the UN Special Session on Drugs:
Elimination of illicit drugs, of course, remains our first and ultimate goal. But the reality is that an unknown quantity of illicit drugs will continue to reach those who are prepared to risk their health and often their lives using drugs. A comprehensive demand reduction strategy is necessary to address the health and social consequences of drug use for individuals, their families and for the rest of the community.
Australia is therefore very pleased to endorse the Declaration on Demand Reduction. We also welcome the five theme papers dealing with aspects of drug supply, and the Political Declaration on the world drug problem. These instruments provide an important blueprint for action and a framework for maintaining the momentum internationally to address drug control.
The approaches embodied in these documents already find parallels in Australia’s approach to addressing the drug problem.
The Australian Prime Minister has recently announced a major new “Tough on Drugs” strategy which will allocate an additional $A215 million over four years to Australia’s efforts against illicit drugs. It provides a balanced and integrated approach to reducing the supply of, and demand for, illicit drugs and minimising the harm they cause.
On the supply side $A112 million will go to providing more effective investigative and interception capacities. These include mobile strike forces, improving information technology to detect incoming goods and to track the money laundering trail, and enhancing judicial cooperation.
On the demand side, the strategy directs $A103 million towards prevention and rehabilitation measures.
Over one third of this is targeted on prevention activities which include both school and community based education. A focus on youth, reflected also in the proposed outcomes of this Special Session, is particularly important. We are determined to discourage a new generation of drug users.
The demand initiatives also include an allocation of almost $A67 million to rehabilitation and research to reintegrate drugs users into the community and support front line health professionals.
Australia takes very seriously the difficulties Asia-Pacific societies face in trying to reduce the impact of illicit drugs and the threat they pose for development and security in the region.
I intend to put this nexus between drugs and security firmly on the agenda of upcoming discussions with regional colleagues.
I am also announcing today a 3-pronged Australian initiative to support drug control efforts in the Asia-Pacific region — this initiative is designed to enhance the security of our borders and our streets by concentrating on supply and health treatment within our own region. In short, safer borders mean safer streets.
We are committing $A5.7 million over four years to develop an Asia-Pacific regional law enforcement cooperation program, and a further $A6.1 million to extend Australia’s law enforcement liaison office network in the region. We will also contribute $A1 million over four years to the Secretariat of the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering based in Sydney to help combat this growing regional phenomenon.
As well, we will allocate a further $A1 million for crop eradication and alternative development efforts in the Mekong basin region of Southeast Asia.
As part of an overall commitment of approximately $A20 million for treatment, prevention and education of people with HIV/AIDS and those high risk groups such as intravenous drug users, we will allocate $A2 million to drug related activities in the region. This will focus, in particular, on health projects targeted at reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS. In addition, we will increase our financial support for activities to minimise the adverse effects of illicit drugs by over $A1 million to $A6.7 million:
these funds will be disbursed in partnership with regional governments, the UNDCP and the WHO; and
they will include support for training and education on substance abuse and strengthening customs services in the Pacific.
On 1 July 1998, in the House of Representatives, the Attorney-General, Mr Daryl Williams, made the following comments in the course of the second reading speech of the Criminal Code Amendment (Slavery and Sexual Servitude) Bill 1998 (House of Representatives, Debates, 1 July 1998, p 5849):
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Criminal Code Act 1995 to insert offences relating to slavery and sexual servitude. The importance of this bill is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that its provisions will be inserted in chapter 9 of the code, which is the chapter that deals with crimes against humanity. The Minister for Justice (Senator Vanstone) has pursued this initiative with our state and territory counterparts through the Standing Committee of Attorneys General, and I am pleased that it has the support of all Australian jurisdictions. Slavery Offences At present, the law in Australia on slavery and the slave trade is governed by four 19th century imperial Acts which employ archaic language and relate to outdated circumstances and institutions that have either changed or long since fallen into disuse.
In 1990 the Australian Law Reform Commission released report No. 48, Criminal Admiralty Jurisdiction and Prize, in which it recommended that the 19th century imperial acts be replaced with modern and concise Australian statutory offences. Modern Australian slavery offences will ensure that Australia’s international obligations are properly fulfilled and that the elements of the offences and the penalties that apply are clear. The slavery offences in the bill prohibit both engaging in the slave trade and possessing a slave.
The definitions of ‘slavery’ and ‘slave trade’ are based on the definitions of those terms in the 1926 International Convention to Suppress the Slave Trade and Slavery and its 1953 protocol, and the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery, which are the two key international agreements on slavery and the slave trade.
However, the bill definitions will be expanded in two important respects. First, in relation to the slave trade offence, the definition of that term will include ‘. . . exercising control or direction over or providing finance for the trade’. This will ensure that those who lie at the heart of the trade—the organisers, managers and financiers—will be caught by this offence. Secondly, the bill definition of slavery has been expanded to make it clear that slavery can also arise from a debt or contract. Of course, it is not sufficient for the debt or contract to be exploitative or oppressive to qualify. Rather, it must be such as to result in a condition that confers a right of ownership over the person before the definition is satisfied.
It is important to make the point that, although this bill contains separate offences to address the conduct I shortly will refer to as sexual servitude, the slavery offences may also apply if the control over the sex worker is so far reaching that it effectively amounts to a right of ownership over him or her.
The maximum term of imprisonment for the slavery offences is 20 years. In view of the heinousness of the crime involved, that penalty is more than justified. Since the new slavery offences will be replacing the old imperial Acts, the bill contains provisions for their repeal.Sexual Servitude Offences
In addition to the modern slavery offences, the bill also includes a range of model offences to deter the impact on Australia of a growing and highly lucrative international trade in people for the purposes of sexual exploitation.Essentially the trade involves recruiting persons from one country and relocating them to another to work as prostitutes in servile or slave like conditions for little, if any, reward. Young women are the primary target of this insidious trade but, tragically, children are also falling victim to it in increasing numbers. Over recent years the world has seen a disturbing increase in this appalling activity. There are few countries today that are not in some way affected by the trade and, sadly, the indications are that Australia is becoming an important destination for its victims. Australia has obligations under a wide range of international instruments to prohibit servitude and the trafficking in persons for the purposes of sexual exploitation. These include the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women 1979, the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948. …Advice to Senator Vanstone is that current Commonwealth, state and territory laws have not proved effective to discourage the growth of this activity in Australia. There are a number of reasons for this. First, sex trafficking to Australia is part of a large and increasing international trade so although existing laws may address some aspects of the domestic activity, they do not address the core of the problem-the international conduct. Secondly, the primary focus of relevant prostitution and migration offences is on the persons subjected to trafficking, such as the illegal immigrants or the sex workers, and not on the traffickers. Thirdly, although existing state and territory laws, such as assault and false imprisonment, may apply to the offenders directly involved, the organisers and recruiters are less vulnerable to prosecution because their involvement is remote from the exploitative prostitution. If we are to discourage this activity in Australia, we need offences that are specific to the problem and address both the international and domestic aspects of the trade. Most importantly, we need offences that target the traffickers who recruit, organise and profit from those engaged in prostitution in slave like conditions. … …The bill will create offences of:causing a person to enter into or remain in sexual servitude in Australia; procuring a person to enter into sexual servitude in Australia by deceiving the person about the nature or other aspects of the engagement; engaging in any trade in persons for sexual servitude in Australia; and exercising control or direction over or providing finance for conduct involving the procuring of persons and engaging in the trade in persons for sexual servitude.The maximum term of imprisonment for these offences is seven years. However, the bill restricts the application of these offences to conduct which occurs entirely or partly outside Australia and the sexual services are to some extent provided or to be provided in Australia. The corresponding state and territory offences will operate where the conduct occurs wholly within Australia. The 'causing' offence in proposed subclause 30.4(2) is intended to catch those who are both directly and indirectly involved in bringing about a person's entry into, or continued participation in, sexual servitude. It is an important provision in targeting the organisers of the trade. Although the concept of causation in the criminal law is complex, it is a notion which is familiar to the courts. The connection must be sufficiently strong to justify attributing criminal responsibility to the conduct (Royall v. the Queen  HCA 27; (1991) 172 CLR 378). The procuring offence in proposed paragraph 30.4(3)(a) will only apply if the defendant deceives the recruit about the nature or other aspects of the engagement. It is intended to catch defendants who, for example, tell a recruit that she or he will be employed as a waiter when in fact she or he is employed as a prostitute in servile conditions. It will also apply in cases where the recruit is deceived about the debt repayment arrangements and then finds herself or himself in a condition of sexual servitude. The next two offences in proposed paragraphs 30.4(3)(b) and (c) are perhaps the most important in the armoury because they are directed at the principals involved in the trade-the organisers, managers and financiers. These offences are similar to the 'slave trade' offence in that they prohibit engaging in the trade in persons for sexual servitude and exercising control or direction over or providing finance for procuring persons and engaging in the trade in persons for sexual servitude. The central element of these offences is the element of 'sexual servitude'. That term is defined as the condition of a person who provides sexual services and who, because of the use of force or threats is not free (a) to cease providing sexual services within a reasonable time or on reasonable terms; (b) to decline to provide sexual services to a particular person or persons; or (c) to leave the place or area where the person provides sexual services. There are a few points I would like to make about this definition. First, sexual servitude can only apply where the services are provided in a commercial context. However, it is not limited to prostitution but can apply to sex work generally, such as pornography. Secondly, sexual servitude can only arise if one of the three matters I have mentioned has been brought about by the use of force or threats. Further, whether a person is not free in respect of those matters will be determined on the facts of each case and in the context of the mischief the legislation is directed against. The fact that a person may suffer a penalty under the terms of a typical employment contract or is threatened with the loss of her or his job, would not of itself amount to being 'not free'. It is only if the force or threats effectively deny the person her or his freedom whether to perform the work that sexual servitude can be made out. A 'reasonable time' and 'reasonable terms' for ceasing to provide sexual services are treated similarly. It will only be if the terms for terminating the employment are so unreasonable as to create a condition of servitude that the conduct will be caught. In borderline cases, where there is doubt about whether the terms are unreasonable in that sense, it is expected that the courts will resolve the matter in favour of the defendant. The difference between slavery and sexual servitude in the bill is essentially one of degree. To establish slavery it must be shown that the accused exercises a power of ownership over the victim. Sexual servitude falls short of ownership but the domination over the victim is such as to effectively deny her or his freedom in some fundamental respects. For the sexual servitude offences in the bill, criminal liability will only arise if the victim's freedom is denied in respect of one of the three matters listed in the definition. I would like to make some final points about the bill. Both the slavery and sexual servitude offences can be committed by non nationals as well as Australian citizens and residents. In the case of the slavery offences, they can be committed by both nationals and non nationals, whether they act wholly inside or outside Australia or partly inside and outside Australia. For sexual servitude, the offences may be committed by both nationals and non nationals who act wholly outside Australia or partly outside and partly inside Australia. The international nature of the trade in persons and the inherently evil nature of that trade satisfy me that the offences should have this application. However, to ensure that Australia's international relations are not adversely affected in cases where extraterritorial jurisdiction is invoked, the bill contains a standard provision that my written consent must be obtained before a non national can be prosecuted for a slavery or sexual servitude offence, if the relevant conduct occurs wholly or partly outside Australia. The bill also includes a double jeopardy provision which provides that a person cannot be prosecuted for a slavery or sexual servitude offence in respect of conduct for which he or she has already been convicted or acquitted in another country for offences against the law of that country. Finally, since the offences in the bill are all indictable, the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1987 will apply. That act allows a court to order the confiscation and forfeiture of property used in, or in connection with, the commission of a relevant offence as well as any profits derived therefrom. As I have said, this bill is part of a package of Commonwealth, state and territory legislation directed at both the international and domestic aspects of the trade, with the main focus on those who recruit, organise and profit from this insidious trade. By enacting this legislation, we will be sending a firm message to the organisers and recruiters that Australia must not be a destination for their trade. We will also give encouragement to the rest of the world to do the same. Australia can be justly proud if it shows leadership to other countries affected by this inhumane trade.