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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3462


Senator WORTLEY (10:15 AM) —On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present report No. 91 of the committee, Treaties tabled on 12 March 2008. I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report and to incorporate my tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.


Senator WORTLEY —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The statement read as follows—

Report 91 contains the Committee’s findings on six treaty actions tabled on 12 March 2008. Mr President, the Committee found all six treaties reviewed to be in Australia’s national interest.

The Treaty on Extradition between Australia and the State of the United Arab Emirates is based on Australia’s model extradition treaty and will provide for more effective extradition arrangements between Australia and the UAE.

Mr President, the Committee raises a number of concerns in its report about the general operation of Australia’s current treaty model for extradition. Australia’s responsibility for persons extradited should not end at the conclusion of the extradition process, but should extend to monitoring the detention of extradited persons, the judicial proceedings they are subject to, their sentencing and their imprisonment. The Committee considers a formal system should be established by the Government to monitor the status of extradited persons. Further, the Committee has recommended annual reporting to Parliament on both the number and nature of extradition requests and also particulars relating to each extradited person. In its 91st report, the Treaties Committee has recommended to the Australian Government a number of measures to better protect human rights concerning extradition arrangements, police-to-police cooperation and film production in China.

The Treaty between Australia and the State of the United Arab Emirates on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters provides a framework for Australia and the UAE to provide and receive timely assistance in obtaining information and evidence for the investigation or prosecution of a crime. While the Committee recognises the importance of international cooperation in combating crime and supports ratification of this treaty, its inquiry did raise issues in relation to police-to-police cooperation, which the Committee recognises differs from mutual assistance arrangements. The Committee has recommended that there be a review by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security of Australian policy and procedures concerning police-to-police cooperation and intelligence sharing arrangements. The Committee recommends that information should not be exchanged with another country if doing so would expose an Australian citizen to the death penalty.

The Convention between Australia and Japan for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention on Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income will bring taxation arrangements between Australia and Japan into line with Australia’s recent tax treaties by providing reduced rates of withholding taxes on dividends, interest and royalties and improved integrity measures. The treaty is expected to reduce barriers to bilateral trade and investment and enhance investment in Australia from the Japanese sector. It will also provide benefits to Australian businesses looking to expand into Japan.

Mr President, the Film Co-Production Agreements with China and Singapore will open new markets for Australian films in the increasingly important Asian region for the global film and television industry and foster cultural and technical exchanges. An important aspect of these agreements is that each country must treat co-productions as local content. Producers will receive benefits that would normally be reserved for local productions, such as tax incentives, financing arrangements and more liberal broadcasting rights. The Committee further recommended that where the subject matter of a treaty has a bearing on freedom of expressions issues, the Government broaden its consultation to include relevant human rights organisations, and that it take up any opportunities to make representations to the Chinese Government to lift its 20 foreign film quota significantly higher, with a view to eventually abolishing the quota.

The Fourth Extension to the Regional Cooperative Agreement for research, development and training related to nuclear science and technology will continue Australia’s long standing participation in this Agreement. The Regional Cooperative Agreement provides an important mechanism for Australia to fulfil its technical cooperation obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It allows Australia to participate in mutually beneficial collaborative projects with 16 regional countries and to maintain and extend a national capacity in cutting-edge nuclear technologies.

The Committee supports all six agreements and has recommended that binding treaty action be taken. The Committee’s recommendations, if acted upon, will go some distance towards the protection and advancement of human rights in Australia’s treaty-making processes.

Mr President, I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.