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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2210

Senator COLSTON (10.01 a.m.) —I present the 98th report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances on scrutiny by the committee of amendments of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations.

  Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator COLSTON —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the report.

The Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances is particularly pleased to present this report, which describes action by the committee to remedy serious breaches of the personal rights of Australian children, their parents and guardians. These breaches related to recent amendments of the Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations. Those regulations implement the child abduction convention, which provides important safeguards for the rights of children, including the prompt return of children wrongfully removed to or retained in a country which is a party to the convention, and reciprocal rights of custody and access to children under the laws of those countries.

  Australia has been a party to the convention since 1 January 1987, after regulations established a legal framework and administrative arrangements. Later, regulations prescribed the then Yugoslavia as a convention country with effect from 1 December 1991. Then, earlier this year, following developments in that troubled area, the regulations removed the existing reference to Yugoslavia as a country in respect of which the convention had entered into force for Australia and substituted references to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The result was that considerable areas of the former Yugoslavia were no longer covered by the convention. These areas included the present Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro, from which the regulations effectively removed the protection of the convention.

  This was a matter of considerable concern to the committee, which contacted the Attorney-General, the Hon. Michael Lavarch MP, and asked for a briefing by departmental officers. Following the briefing, further correspondence, considerable Australian diplomatic activity in the Balkans and undertakings by the Attorney-General, the committee is now satisfied that the important safeguards of the convention will continue to apply to the whole of the former Yugoslavia. The committee is grateful for the prompt and helpful cooperation of the Attorney-General.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.