Senate debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Committees

Treaties Committee; Report

5:19 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | Hansard source

On behalf of the Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the 122nd report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on treaties tabled on 23 August 2011, 13 and 20 September 2011 and 13 October 2011.

Ordered that the report be printed.

by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I am pleased to present this report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, report no. 122, which contains the committee's views on a series of treaties tabled in the parliament on 23 August, 13 and 20 September and 13 October 2011. This contains a range of agreements, as I indicated, and one of the more important agreements covered in this report is the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, of which the committee has approved.

This treaty will establish an international framework for criminalising certain conduct relating to nuclear material and other radioactive substances or devices. The convention lists a series of crimes specifically related to nuclear terrorism, including performing an act of terrorism with nuclear materials, planning or threatening such acts or acting in support of such acts. The convention encourages international cooperation to prevent such crimes, which I am sure all members of the Senate would agree come with enormous potential consequences, and encourages further international cooperation to ensure such crimes are investigated and prosecuted and ensure the extradition of persons who commit such crimes. Although Australian legislation largely covers the treaty's requirements, the treaty's provisions will strengthen our already existing legislation.

As all members of this place and indeed all Australians recognise, the issue of international terrorism has had a high profile over the last decade since the tragic terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September, 2001 and following attacks, particularly those in Bali, targeting many Australians. The idea that terrorists could get access to either nuclear weapons or nuclear material is of grave concern to the international community and, of course, to all Australians, hence Australia's strong support for all international efforts to ensure that this outcome does not occur and the welcoming of this treaty as a step to hopefully strengthening our resolve and actions in that regard.

On a related issue, the committee also examined and approved the agreement between the government of Australia and the European Atomic Energy Community, otherwise known as Euratom, for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The treaty governs cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and is consistent with Australia's other bilateral agreements. It is also Australia's first such agreement to include specific provisions on nuclear safety.

As I indicated, the treaty with Euratom for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy is consistent with our other bilateral agreements. It is part of the very high benchmark that Australia sets—one of the highest in the world—for the export of uranium for peaceful purposes with the countries to which we export. It is a benchmark that one would expect to be applied equally in any agreement that might be struck with India.

I cannot help but note the difficulty the government has got itself into over the export of uranium to India. The Labor Party has long been tied up in knots when it comes to uranium mining and the export of uranium. I well remember the early debates in my home state about whether uranium should be mined, whether Olympic Dam should be established and whether uranium should be mined from a site such as Olympic Dam. I remember that former Premier Mike Rann when he was but a backbencher strongly opposed the establishment of the Olympic Dam mine.

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