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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 9

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (12:30): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee's report incorporating a dissenting report entitled Report 167: nuclear cooperation-Ukraine; extradition-China.

Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).

Mr ROBERT: by leave—Today, I rise to make a statement concerning the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' report 167, which contains the committee's review of Australia's nuclear cooperation agreement with Ukraine; and the extradition treaty with China. The report was tabled out of session in December.

To maintain the supply of electricity to its citizens, the Ukrainian government uses nuclear power and must source nuclear materials from countries other than its traditional supplier, Russia, in the current circumstances.

However, prior to the export of any nuclear materials to another country, Australia has a policy of requiring a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement that contains a standard set of provisions. These provisions are intended to prevent Australian nuclear material being used for nuclear weapons or other military uses.

This agreement incorporates these standard provisions as well as additional considerations and clauses designed to minimise any safety concerns. Notably, these additional measures provide for Australia to conduct a review of physical protection measures and place a limit on the number of locations where Australian materials may be used or stored.

Four main concerns were raised by the public during the committee's inquiry: limitations on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the risks posed by recent instability in Ukraine's border with Russia, general safety concerns regarding nuclear material and the ability to repatriate material if there were to be a breach of obligations.

The committee appreciates these concerns, as I think all Australians do, and believes that Australian nuclear material should never be placed in a situation where there is a risk that regulatory control of the material will be lost.

Consequently, the committee supports the agreement on the proviso and the recommendation that Australia has a suitable contingency plan for the removal of our nuclear material if the material is at risk of any loss of regulatory control.

Report 167 also deals with Australia's bilateral extradition treaty with China, and this the 40th extradition treaty that has been negotiated by Australia through numerous parliament and numerous governments of both persuasions.

Bilateral extradition treaties provide for the extradition of individuals who are charged with an offence and living in Australia so they can stand trial in the jurisdiction in which the purported crime was committed. The committee has consistently supported these treaties over its 20 years of life and the role they play in combating domestic and transnational crime.

As with previous extradition agreements there are a number of human rights safeguards built into this agreement that reflect the long history of transparency, access to representation and an aversion to harsh and unjust punishment in the Australian legal system.

For example, in relation to crimes punishable by the death penalty, an individual cannot be extradited from Australia unless Australia receives an explicit assurance that that individual will not be subjected to that punishment.

Further, Australia can refuse extradition of a suspect on the grounds that a fair trial may be prejudiced by a whole range of areas, including their race, gender, religion or political beliefs.

Despite these safeguards, which are extensive, not just in the extradition but in the body of extradition law itself, this agreement did attract some public concern about the human rights afforded to suspects in China; about a lack of transparency in the Chinese legal system; allegations of the ill-treatment and, indeed, some allegations torture of prisoners; and the continuing imposition of the death penalty.

The committee shared some of these concerns. Consequently, in the report we recommend that when making a decision to extradite an individual to China, the relevant minister take into account the current state of China's criminal justice system as well as the human rights risks to the individual concerned. Only the minister, in this case the justice minister, is able to make a sensible decision about these concerns at the time.

The committee also recommends that Australia obtain an undertaking from China prior to the surrender of a suspect in these areas.

Finally, I wish to make some remarks about extradition treaties in general. The committee acknowledges the work that has been done by the Attorney-General's Department to address previous recommendations by the committee over the preceding years concerning the welfare of persons extradited from Australia.

Nevertheless, the committee believes that a more systematic approach needs to be taken to ensure that individuals are not subject to any human rights violations. Accordingly, the committee makes two additional recommendations to the government to improve Australia's extradition arrangements across the board: firstly, that the department collect and, if possible, report details of an individual's status, including whether a trial had taken place, if the person had been found guilty or not, and what sentence had been imposed.

This minimum monitoring would ensure that extradited Australians are accounted for and provide an additional level of protection from execution, ill-treatment or torture or other forms of abuse.

Secondly, the committee recommends that to ensure the human rights and welfare of a foreign national to their country of citizenship, the Australian government should be informed of:

the details of the trial;

whether a consular official is able to attend;

the outcome of any prosecution; and

on request, the location and general health of the person while in custody as a result of a conviction.

On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.