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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13269


Mr TAYLOR (Hume) (15:14): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties I present the committee's report 156: Treaties tabled on 8 September 2015 and I seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with that report.

Leave granted.

Mr TAYLOR: Today I present the Joint Standing Committee of Treaties's report 156: Treaties tabled on 8 September 2015. The report covers three proposed treaties:

an air services agreement with Laos;

a mutual legal assistance agreement with Brazil; and

amendments to the Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.

Air service agreements are bilateral treaties that allow commercial air travel between two countries.

The proposed agreement with Laos details the number of flights, and the number of passengers and the quantum of freight that can be transported between Australia and Laos using commercial air services.

The agreement permits airlines from each country to set up operations in the other country, including selling tickets, reaching code sharing arrangements with other airlines, offering package deals combining international air travel and domestic travel, and having fair commercial access to airports and related facilities.

The agreement also emphasises the importance of air safety and security in relation to commercial air travel between Australia and Laos. All aircraft and staff involved in commercial air travel between the two countries must be certified to the relevant international standard.    In addition, the authorities of each country have the right to inspect aircraft and facilities operated by an airline from the other country for both safety and security reasons.

Each country has the right to suspend without notice the services of an airline of the other country if there is a safety or security problem.

At the moment, there are no direct commercial flights between Australia and Laos. However, the committee hopes that this agreement will encourage stronger commercial ties between the two countries.

Mutual legal assistance agreements establish formal mechanisms for cooperation between countries in the pursuit of criminal matters. Australia has 29 such agreements at present.

The agreement with Brazil will enable Australia and Brazil to cooperate in tackling serious and organised crime, such as drug trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, people smuggling, cybercrime and terrorism.

Specifically, these agreements establish a framework for requesting and considering a request for legal assistance in relation to a criminal matter. The assistance rendered can include:

taking evidence and statements;

providing documentary evidence, including government and court records;

locating persons and objects;

examining locations and sites;

search and seizure;

delivery of evidence or property;

arresting suspects;

serving documents; and

locating and forfeiting the proceeds of crime.

A number of checks and balances are included in the agreement.

In particular:

a request can only be accepted where the matter under investigation is considered to be a crime in both jurisdictions.

mutual consent is necessary for legal assistance, so Australia can choose not to cooperate if we wish.

In addition, a request can be denied if the requested party believes it to be motivated by political, racial, sexual or other prejudice, or if the request relates to a crime that is punished by the death penalty.

In relation to the death penalty, government witnesses advised that Brazil has not conducted an execution since 1855.

The final treaty considered in the report I am tabling today contains amendments to the Convention on the Safety of Life at Sea, which is generally known by the acronym SOLAS.

SOLAS contains basic minimum requirements for the safe construction, equipping and operation of ships at sea.

The proposed amendments to SOLAS include:

additional steps to verify the weight of containers before they are loaded onto ships, including provisions for testing by Port State Authorities;

clarification of requirements relating to the fire safety equipment and machinery spaces on passenger ships; and

a new requirement for cargo ships to carry specialised atmospheric testing equipment on international voyages.

I can advise that the committee supports all the proposed treaty actions. The committee has recommended binding treaty action in relation to the air services agreement with Laos and the mutual legal assistance agreement with Brazil.

Amendments to SOLAS are deemed accepted by parties on a set date, so no recommendation is required.

On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.