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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 13556


Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Privacy and Freedom of Information, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice) (10:57): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The bill implements the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

The convention recognises that acts relating to nuclear material and other radiological material and devices can pose a serious threat to international peace and security.

The convention is an important tool in the international fight against terrorism and the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction.

It fills a gap in existing international regimes by recognising the potential for nuclear weapons, facilities and radioactive material to be used to carry out acts of terrorism.

The convention establishes frameworks for criminalising certain conduct relating to nuclear material and other radiological material and devices and for international cooperation in the prevention, investigation, prosecution and extradition of persons who commit those offences.

Some of the obligations under the convention are already satisfied.

For example, existing provisions in the Criminal Code Act 1995 and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Act 1987 implement some of the Nuclear Terrorism Convention's provisions.

While some aspects of the conduct prohibited by the convention are consistent with measures Australia has already taken, some amendments to Commonwealth legislation are necessary to fully implement the convention.

The bill creates new offences for specific conduct that is prohibited by the convention.

This includes:

possessing radioactive material or a device

using or damaging a radioactive material or device or nuclear facility

demanding the use of radioactive material or device or nuclear facility

threatening or attempting to use or damage a device, radioactive material or nuclear facility, and

using radioactive material, or a device, or using or damaging a nuclear facility.

The offences will not be limited to conduct by Australians and in Australia, but will apply in a broad range of situations where the convention requires states parties to assert jurisdiction.

For example, the offences will cover situations where the offender is a foreigner if the offence is committed on board an Australian ship or aircraft or against an Australian citizen.

The bill also contains minor technical amendments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation (Safeguards) Act 1987 updating various provisions to take account of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 and amending the definition of Australian aircraft by replacing the reference to the Air Navigation Regulations (which is no longer correct) with a reference to the Civil Aviation Act 1988. Australia is committed to ratifying all international counterterrorism instruments as an integral part of strengthening its legal framework to fight terrorism.

Ratifying this convention will send a strong message to the international community and demonstrate Australia's continued commitment to addressing the threat of terrorism.

It will represent an important contribution by Australia to the second Nuclear Security Summit, which will take place in the Republic of Korea in March 2012.

In addition, it will strengthen Australia's efforts to encourage other countries in our region to ratify the 16 international counterterrorism instruments.

It is in this context that the government today commends to the chamber the Nuclear Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill 2011.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.