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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 7065


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (17:33): I rise today to speak to the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Amendment Bill 2013. This bill will amend the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963 to enable privileges and immunities to be conferred on the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Criminal Court.

With regard to the International Committee of the Red Cross, this legislation will allow for the arrangement between the government of Australia and the International Committee of the Red Cross on a regional headquarters in Australia to take effect. As described by the ICRC in its submission to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, the amendments made by this bill will confer legal personality on the ICRC in Australia's domestic legal order and will provide privileges and immunities to the organisation and its delegates as are needed for the ICRC to fulfil its mandate in full conformity with its fundamental principles and working methods and otherwise facilitate its work in Australia and the Pacific region. This agreement was signed in 2005 under the former Howard government.

The International Committee of the Red Cross plays a really important role in providing humanitarian assistance to people affected by armed conflict. In Syria, the ICRC is working to provide water, food and basic medical products to millions of people. Between January and March this year, the ICRC, in partnership with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, delivered food to 617,000 people and water by truck to 100,000 people. In Afghanistan, the ICRC is assisting civilians affected by conflict, supporting hospital care and working to improve water and sanitation standards. In the Pacific region, the ICRC promotes human rights law and responds to armed conflict and natural disasters.

In regard to the ICC, this bill will provide the legislative basis for implementing the 2002 Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court. In 2002, the Howard government ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court following an 18-month inquiry by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Public hearings were held in the ACT, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. More than 250 submissions were received. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and federal member for Curtin stated in her role as chair of the Treaties Committee at that time, there was more to be gained from establishing a permanent International Criminal Court, capable of dealing with the worst crimes against humanity, than continuing to rely on ad hoc tribunals. The committee believed that it was:

… in Australia's national interest to be a member of the first meeting of the states' parties in September 2002 and therefore recommend that the government take action to ratify the statute and introduce implementing legislation into the parliament as soon as possible.

The committee made 11 recommendations to address the concerns that were raised to improve Australia's ability to work cooperatively with the International Criminal Court. As our records show, the coalition has had a proud history of supporting both the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Criminal Court.

Given the potential implications that are associated with extending immunities and privileges to organisations, the coalition referred this bill to the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee for further consideration. The committee has reported back and recommended that the bill be passed. The coalition has no objection to this bill.