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Wednesday, 26 June 2002
Page: 4497

Mrs DRAPER (7:35 PM) —The 1998 Rome statute for the establishment of an International Criminal Court is a document of good intentions. I join with all other members in supporting the intent to bring to justice those who commit the worst possible crimes, of genocide and the mass slaughter of innocent lives. I remain, however, unconvinced that the court will achieve its aim and I am somewhat fearful that it may have repercussions that will be to the detriment of this nation and the free world in general. Nevertheless, thanks to the frank and forthright debate within the government, and the endeavours of the Attorney-General, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and our Prime Minister, the conditions imposed on our acceptance of the statute have gone some way to allaying those fears.

I note that the honourable member for Mackellar has described it as a `Clayton's ratification', because not only are we declaring the primacy of Australian law and the Australian legal system as a reservation attached to our ratification of the statute; we have incorporated these conditions in the Australian legislation implementing our obligations under the statute. This means that there can be no prosecution of an Australian citizen in the International Criminal Court without the consent of the Australian Attorney-General, and that the offences of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes under the International Criminal Court statute will be dealt with in the same way that they are implemented in Australian law.

The establishment of an International Criminal Court has long been sought by those who see it as an answer to the barbarism we have witnessed in the 20th century. The assumption behind the good intentions is that all nations will act the same way to the establishment of internationally agreed treaties and laws, and that all nations enter into those agreements with the full intention of implementing them. But, as Neville Chamberlain discovered in 1938, dictators see such high-minded diplomacy merely as a means of furthering their own aims.

Perhaps the International Criminal Court would work if all the nations of the world were free market liberal democracies such as our own. But to ignore the fact that democracy is still enjoyed by only a minority of the people of the world is to blind oneself to the reality. Nation states are political entities. You can no more remove the politics from the affairs of a nation than you can force them to behave as if their own culture, history and traditions were of no importance to them. Nations will generally act in their own interests and do whatever they can to further those interests.

I believe the International Criminal Court may not be isolated from these pressures. In fact, I fear that it will be used as a political tool by those nations who do not share our respect for the rule of law, justice, freedom and democracy. History teaches us that they will act in this way. In some of the arguments for the statute there is an element of moral and cultural relativism. It has become fashionable in some quarters to disavow any value judgments, particularly when it comes to assessing the way nations are governed. In the minds of the cultural relativists, our system of democracy and the rule of law cannot be held to be superior to any other. But our cherished freedoms and liberties have been bought at too high a price for us to allow such claims to go unchallenged.

It may be politically incorrect to say so, but I do believe that Australia's system of government, our respect for the rights and responsibilities of individuals, our freedoms of speech, of worship and of association and the protection of private property and support for a market based economy makes our system superior to that of many other nations whose citizens are not able to enjoy the benefits of such liberties. The danger lies in the appointment of judges to the International Criminal Court from those nations that do not have the same respect for the rule of law and individual liberty that Australia does.

The argument has been put that a permanent court is preferable to ad hoc establishment of international courts dealing with specific incidents. I am not convinced of this. The setting up of the courts following World War II and, more recently, after the conflict in the Balkans has worked well. The former dictator of Yugoslavia is presently facing justice before an international court. Are proponents of a permanent court really suggesting that he would have been brought to justice sooner if the Rome statute were already in place? Does anyone really believe that the leaders of rogue nations are going to be quaking in their boots because an international court is established? If so, I think they are sadly deluding themselves. These are my concerns and fears. They have been somewhat allayed by the conditions imposed by the government, and I note the Prime Minister's statement that Australia retains— (Time expired)

The SPEAKER —Order! I point out to the member for Makin—and the same thing occurred last night—that standing order 71 says:

No Member may allude to any debate or proceedings of the same session unless such allusion be relevant to the matter under discussion.

I did not interrupt the member for Makin but, in fact, the ICC legislation has proceeded through the House and I would not want to create a precedent.