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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2058

Senator MARGETTS (7.25 p.m.) —Last week was refugee week and I would like to take this opportunity to talk about one of the problems that accelerate the movement of refugees around the globe. The global affliction of landmines and other war technology has acted to exacerbate the world's refugee problem. Landmines in particular have acted as a barrier for people returning to their homelands. The presence of landmines also delivers a constant threat to civilians in the areas where they are placed. This creates an anxious and unstable existence for people who cannot be resettled or enjoy personal freedoms. They cannot farm their land and grow their own food. In short, they cannot rebuild their lives. We currently have 20 million refugees in the world, which this year alone has increased by 800,000 due to the crises in Bosnia, Rwanda and Yemen. And when the fighting stops, the killing goes on thanks to the presence of landmines that maim and kill men, women and children every day.

  There is no doubting how horrendous, cruel and indiscriminate landmines are. Many of them cost between US$1 and US$3 to manufacture. Many are non-detectable because they are made solely of plastic and are disguised as childs toys, balls, plates, apples and saucepans. There is no recording or marking of mine placements and they are scattered widely and indiscriminately. They are also not self-neutralising and may last decades after a war is over.

  The presence of landmines is no small problem. Twelve countries with experience in current conflicts possess landmines which are manufactured by 43 countries. These 12 are Afghanistan with nine to 10 million mines, Angola with nine million mines, Iraq with five to 10 million mines, Kuwait with five million mines, Cambodia with four to seven million mines, Western Sahara with one to two million mines, Mozambique with one to two million mines and Somalia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Croatia with one million mines each. Two others, Libya and Poland, still have landmines left over from World War II. This is just a small illustration of the problem because world wide there are 85 to 100 million landmines in 62 countries.

  Every month, 162 civilians die from landmines. I have mentioned that the presence of mines means agricultural land is lost to communities. In Angola, eight to nine million people cannot be repatriated on their lost agricultural land and many people have starved. The presence of the mines also acts as a deterrent for people not only to reconstruct their land, but also to move back into their home countries. In Afghanistan, for example, where 350,000 people have died from landmine blasts, the presence of landmines has created 3.5 million Afghan refugees. At the present rate of mine clearing, it is estimated that it will take a further 4,300 years to clear remaining mines so that people can resume normal lives.

  Which are the countries that support and benefit from this genocide? There are 95 manufacturers in 43 countries manufacturing landmines. Countries involved include the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Korea, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden and Switzerland. It is pleasing to note that Nelson Mandela has recently stopped the sale of landmines from South Africa.

  Mines may be cheap and nasty to manufacture but each mine costs around $1,000 to remove in a dangerous and painstaking process. General John Sanderson, who was with UNTAC in Cambodia in 1992-93 involved in de-mining operations, has said that there has been a distinct trend in military strategy since World War II from using weapons on military personnel to directly targeting and involving civilians. Landmines, he states, is one of those tools in targeting civilians.

  There are two types of landmines; anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. In this speech tonight I will be discussing anti-personnel mines. These include blast and fragmentation anti-personnel mines. Blast mines are for maiming and fragmentation mines are self-explanatory. The thinking behind this is that maiming someone places a greater burden and cost on society for a longer time than killing someone outright. These costs include medical costs, loss of land and the high costs of mine clearance.

  How do we begin to solve some of these atrocious problems? We need to use international laws, conventions and treaties to control the manufacture, sale, trade and transfer of landmines. One major problem in this regard is the position of the United States, which is against the banning of all landmines because it believes it is not in the interests of its `national security'. It would prefer a partial ban only. It specifies that those landmines that are non-self destructing, non-detectable and that have anti-handling devices should be banned. This position, however, would aid only de-mining operations and would in no way reduce civilian casualties during situations of conflict and before de-mining operations begin. I have already commented on the enormous time delay in mine clearance operations. Nevertheless, as the situation is so serious, a partial ban as a first step towards ridding the world of these vile weapons is perhaps worthwhile.

  Not only do we need an eventual total ban on landmines, however, rather than a partial ban; but we also need stricter rules now on the reporting and marking of landmines to aid quick detection. The current situation is that countries need to report where they place landmines only when it is a pre-planned exercise. We also need to take action in the world community to stigmatise the use of landmines for military objectives. Finally, the international community needs to cooperate to enforce the banning of the stockpiling, manufacture, transfer and trade of landmines.

  We also need to enforce the existing 1980 Convention on the Use of Inhumane Weapons. Rather than agreeing to the principle of not using landmines, we must make countries implement this principle and make them accountable. International participants need training in the international law, ratification and enforcement through domestic law, the implementation of criminal convictions and fact finding missions by regional allies to encourage reporting of progress on phasing out landmines.

  There are only gains for civilians in banning landmines in order for them to regain some semblance of normality after the trauma of war. We need to work together locally, na-

nationally and internationally to be able to achieve a lasting peace for the civilian victims and potential victims of these appalling destructive weapons.

The PRESIDENT —Order! There being no further speakers, the Senate stands adjourned.

Senate adjourned at 7.33 p.m.