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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 10102


Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (16:54): I present the 131st report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, on treaties tabled in 21 August, 11 and 18 September 2012, and I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' Report 131 contains the committee's views on a series of treaties which were tabled on 21 August, 11 and 18 September 2012. Probably the most significant of the treaties examined by the committee in this report is the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).

ReCAAP represents a regional response to the incidents of piracy in the Malacca and Singapore straits. The treaty became binding on the initial signatories in 2006 and currently has 18 signatories. Piracy in these waters is a significant concern for Australian businesses that export and import by ship. The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Stephen Smith, recently estimated that approximately $130 billion worth of Australian trade passes through these straits each year.

There are a number of ways in which ReCAAP assists authorities local to the Malacca and Singapore straits to combat piracy and armed robbery. ReCAAP provides the legal basis for the previously mentioned ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre, which:

ensures the expeditious transfer of information on incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships to ReCAAP signatories;

collects, collates and analyses information transmitted by the signatories concerning piracy and armed robbery against ships;

provides alerts, wherever possible, of imminent threats of piracy or armed robbery against ships; and

prepares statistics and reports on the basis of information received.

ReCAAP also compels signatories to share whatever information they have about piracy and armed robbery at sea, and compels signatories to assist in either preventing or detecting, arresting or seizing persons, vessels or aircraft involved in piracy or armed robbery at sea.

Australia will benefit from the increased access to information on emerging regional threats related to piracy and armed robbery at sea. We will also become a more visible participant in the task of combatting piracy and armed robbery. Australia will also benefit from access to a regional maritime security network comprising national authorities that are responsible for managing the threat of piracy and armed robbery in our immediate region.

Report 131 also contains the committee's views on three other significant treaty actions: the Treaty between Australia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on Extradition, the Partial Revision of the 2008 Radio Regulations, and the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Kingdom of Spain for the Mutual Protection of Classified Information of Defence Interest.

The first of these treaties provides for bilateral extradition arrangements between Australia and Vietnam. Australia does not currently have bilateral arrangements with Vietnam to facilitate extradition, which means that we can only consider extradition requests from Vietnam under multilateral conventions to which we are both parties, such as the UN Convention Against Corruption or the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

The treaty will make it significantly easier for Australia to cooperate with Vietnam to request or grant extradition for offences punishable under the laws of both countries. Importantly, the obligation to extradite is qualified by a number of internationally accepted grounds for refusal. A person may not be extradited in relation to a crime punishable by the death penalty, unless a guarantee is given that such penalty will not be applied. The parties to the agreement must refuse an extradition request where there are grounds for believing that the extradited person would be subject to torture, or that the request has been made for the purpose of punishing a person on the basis of their race, ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, nationality, political opinion or other status.

The treaty is consistent with other Australian bilateral extradition treaties and adds to Australia's existing network of 38 other bilateral extradition treaties. On this basis, the committee supports the Treaty between Australia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on Extradition.

In addition, and in line with the views expressed by the committee on previously examined extradition treaties, the committee has recommended that new and revised extradition agreements should explicitly provide a requirement that the requesting country provide annual information concerning the trial status and health of extradited persons and the conditions of the detention facilities in which they are held.

The Partial Revision of the 2008 Radio Regulations updates the international arrangements for the management of the radiofrequency spectrum to ensure sufficient spectrum is allocated for, amongst other things: digital maritime communications technologies; unmanned aircraft systems; oceanographic radar to measure coastal sea surface conditions; and Earth observation systems that provide critical data relating to weather and climate forecasts. The treaty also improves the international coordination of satellite networks. The committee supports this treaty.

The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Kingdom of Spain for the Mutual Protection of Classified Information of Defence Interest sets out security procedures and practices for the exchange and protection of classified information between Australia and Spain and for visits to either party that requires access to such information or restricted areas or facilities where classified information is held. The committee also supports this treaty. On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.