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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 10


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (12:37): by leave—As the deputy chair, I also wish to speak on this report, Report 167 of the treaties committee. This committee, competently chaired by the member for Fadden, examines, as he says, the nuclear cooperation with Ukraine and examines the long proposed extradition treaty with China.

Australia is fortunate to have the largest known reserves of uranium in the world, with almost one-third of the internationally known reserves. We have something other countries want. We only supply, at the moment, 10 per cent of global production.

Being blessed with a natural resource does not mean we should turn a blind eye to the consequences of selling it. Australia's government must never think, and does not think, that its responsibilities end with uranium leaving its borders.

Labor supports this nuclear cooperation treaty with the new democracy in Kiev. Ukraine is reliant on nuclear power, as the member for Fadden pointed out. Until recently, it was dependent on Russia to supply it with uranium to serve its energy needs. Now it is trying to free itself from Mr Putin's grip. Australia has the ability to support the energy needs of an independent fellow democracy, which, to its everlasting credit, now very sorely abused, forsook nuclear weapons at the time of re-establishing its sovereignty—it was a condition, actually, of its sovereignty.

Australia requires nuclear cooperation before it sells uranium to another country. This deal with Ukraine is no different in that regard. This means that the nuclear materials cannot be used for weapons or other military purposes. Crucially, therefore, this agreement strengthens our position as a reliable supplier of energy resources while meeting our international obligations.

We cannot turn a blind eye—as the Leader of One Nation and, incredibly, the member for Dawson suggested—to the ongoing insurgency from pro-Russian separatists in that area who are taking blood and treasure from Russia to continue to threaten the stability of that entire region. Australia, they should remember, lost 38 of our own residents when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was blown out of the sky on 17 July 2014.

Labor supports this treaty. However, the report does not ignore the pro-Russian insurgency. We recommend an assessment of risks. We recommend a comprehensive contingency plan for the removal of nuclear materials where necessary. The committee's report supports the ratification of the treaty with Ukraine, subject to the Australian government making that assessment and maintaining a suitable contingency plan for the removal of that uranium.

Now let me turn to the Chinese extradition treaty. These treaties require a balance between stopping domestic and international crime on the one hand and protecting human rights on the other. Labor views this treaty as failing to achieve that balance. Our concerns about the fairness of the Chinese judicial system and people's right to a fair trial are not sufficiently answered by this report.

When Australia surrenders an individual to another country, we are placing great faith in the adequacy of that country's judicial system. At the present time, I think it is naive to place such faith in the Chinese criminal justice system. And, where Australia's faith is misplaced, that has consequences for the person and for Australia itself.

For the person being extradited it can mean not receiving a fair trial. It can mean being subjected to forms of cruel punishment such as torture. It can be a matter of life and death. This treaty, indeed, fails to adequately protect these basic human rights, in our view.

For Australia itself, it is worth remembering that Australia's duties to a person do not stop when they leave our shores. In Labor's view, Australia has a moral obligation to protect the human rights of extradited persons. It has a duty to the people who are being extradited. It has a duty to ensure that people receive a fair trial where they are. It has a duty to ensure that people are not subjected to torture. And it has a duty to ensure that people are not subjected to capital punishment.

The government has made no secret that it is keen to ratify this treaty, which has been lying on the books for almost 10 years since the dying days of the Howard government. In a diplomatic understatement in the report it says:

There is a body of evidence suggesting that China's criminal justice system 'does not act in accordance with procedural fairness and rule of law standards in criminal proceedings'.

Although things are getting better in China, in all areas—and we praise that country for its great progress—last year the acquittal rate in Chinese courts dropped by 34 per cent. As the political editor of the Herald Sun, James Campbell, noted: China's criminal conviction rate fell from 99.92 in 2015. He notes the numbers are astonishing. That year China's courts found 1,232,000 people guilty and acquitted just 1,039. If our government is to take seriously the issues of criminal fairness in the Chinese judicial system, those numbers would have ended any talk about sending people to be extradited to China. The only thing worse, he argues, than an agreement to hand over intelligence to a country with a 99.92 conviction rate is a secret agreement to hand over intelligence to a country with a 99.92 conviction rate.

This government must ensure the rights of people being extradited. What we must not have is this government allowing the country we propose to extradite to to provide a wish list of prisoners it would like to round up. For it to work, China must be willing to provide proof of the crimes of the people who are proposed to be extradited. This treaty does not require the provision of evidence to an Australian court in support of an extradition request. Put simply, evidence presented by the Chinese authorities, according to the report, would be taken at face value. The government must ensure that people receive a fair trial. Protection of this basic human right is missing from the treaty.

The government also has a duty to ensure people are not subjected to torture, as I said. They do not have such extradition treaties in the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand and Canada, all of whom have refused to enter into extradition treaties with China, for that reason.

China has refused to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, one of the cornerstones of international human rights law. Australia may have entered extradition treaties with others who have failed to ratify this; however, this treaty with China lacks the important safeguards which are otherwise present. In particular, this treaty with China omits a common safeguard, which is the ability to refuse an extradition request where it would be unjust or oppressive. The Attorney-General's Department has been unable to provide an explanation as to why this is, the result being that Australia's whole ability to refuse an extradition request on the basis that the person may be denied a fair trial is placed in doubt.

In conclusion, Deputy Speaker Mitchell, concerns about the human rights of extradited persons are nothing new with these sorts of treaties. This is no criticism, especially of China; however, in my view, such concerns take on new importance in an extradition treaty with that country—particularly when Beijing is pursuing what it calls an 'international fox hunt' against business people who may be dual citizens. We in this House must not shy away from our responsibility that Australia's extradition system remains consistent with our legal, moral and ethical obligations without prejudice to China.

It is probably a good idea that all extradition treaties be re-examined in this light. The threat of extradition being used on dual citizens who visit China for business or personal reasons may be of great concern to people who have perceived political views or advocacies on human rights that differ from the Beijing government's. I commend the Ukrainian part of the report, but I signal that Labor oppose the Chinese extradition aspects not only because of concerns about China but also because of our consistent concerns about the ethics of human rights in that country.