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Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Page: 2916


Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (17:49): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties I present the committee's report entitled Report 123: Treaties tabled on 13 October, 2, 22 and 24 November 2011.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Mr KELVIN THOMSON: by leave—Today I present the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' Report 123, which contains the committee's views on a series of treaties which were tabled on 13 October 2011 and 2, 22 and 24 November 2011. One of the more important treaties covered in this report was the agreement to extend the existing agreement between the government of Australia and the government of the United States of America concerning the conduct of scientific balloon flights for civil research purposes until 2022. The agreement provides NASA with the use of facilities and services for balloon launchings and recoveries in Australian territory, tracking and transmission of information from each balloon, and the recording and sharing of information from these flights.

Australia has derived significant scientific and economic benefits from activities conducted under the 2006 agreement, especially through encouraging collaboration between Australian and NASA scientists. The Australian scientific community supports continued participation in NASA's balloon program. Australian scientists have also flown their own experiments or have been collaborators with other scientists. Extending the agreement will enable Australian scientists to continue this research and will further ensure that Australia remains entitled to receive data from these experiments.

In April 2010, a NASA balloon became involved in an accident at launch, and although no-one was injured or killed this appears to have been essentially the result of good fortune. The committee was very interested to hear what measures had been put in place to ensure such an incident was not repeated and from the evidence presented during the inquiry it appears that appropriate corrective procedures have been introduced. Notwithstanding the events of April 2010, the agreement facilitating scientific balloon launches by NASA in Australia is of positive benefit to Australia. The economic, scientific and political benefits certainly justify continuing this relationship. The treaties committee has also approved a series of other treaties, including:

two agreements amending the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships;

an agreement between Australia and the European Space Agency on space vehicle tracking;

four tax information exchange agreements; and, finally,

a social security agreement between Australia and the Republic of Latvia.

This social security agreement provides for improved access to Australian and Latvian retirement benefits and greater portability of these benefits between the two countries. Improved access to benefits is an underlying principle of bilateral social security agreements where the responsibility for providing benefits is shared. Under this agreement, residence in one party's territory will not affect a person's entitlement to benefits under the legislation of the other party. People who move between Australia and Latvia will be able to do so in the knowledge that their rights to benefits are recognised in both countries.

The committee concludes that all the treaties covered in Report 123 should be supported with binding action. On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.