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Tuesday, 9 June 1970

Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle) - The Bill before the House is the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Bill 1970, the principal objective of which is to ratify an agreement that was entered into under the Tokyo Convention of 1963. This Bill deals with offences on aircraft and very briefly I will set out its provisions. It requires contracting States to provide for their criminal law to apply aboard their aircraft - that is, a flag law - on international flights, and it specifies that contracting states may exercise jurisdiction over offences committed on board aircraft. It defines the powers and responsibilities of the aircraft commander who finds that a person has committed or is about to commit a serious offence against the flag law of the aircraft or an act likely to endanger the safety of other persons on the aircraft. It also defines the powers and duties of contracting states in relation to offenders on board aircraft, including taking them into custody, making preliminary inquiries and deportation. Contracting states are required in cases of illegal seizure of aircraft to take all appropriate steps to restore control of the aircraft to its lawful commander. It is important to bear in mind that the Tokyo Convention does not apply to aircraft used in military, customs or police service or to aircraft that are on the ground. The Tokyo Convention definition of an aircraft on the ground relates to the period after the aircraft has landed and prior to when the motors are started for the aircraft to leave the terminal area.

The object of the Convention is to restore aircraft and cargo to the rightful owners and to facilitate the resumption oft heir interrupted flight. Any offence committed on the aircraft is not necessarily a crime against international law but it is determined by the internal law of the contracting states. Honourable members are entitled to ask just how the Tokyo Convention of 1963 came about. It was organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, better known as ICAO, which is a part of the United Nations Organisation. It has 116 member nations. That will give honourable members some idea of what ICAO is and the import of this Convention. It is obvious that nations today are greatly concerned with the amount of hijacking that is taking place. I will deal with this aspect later on.

One thing which concerns me very greatly is the fact that the recommendations of the Convention become operative as from 4th December 1969, although the conference was held in 1963. It has taken this Government all this time to make up its mind whether to ratify the agreement and whether there is any advantage in being a party to it. All honourable members are entitled to have some explanation for this delay. I am greatly concerned that the various nations have taken so long to ratify this agreement. WhenI sought information about this matter the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Hughes) supplied me with a table setting out the names of the countries which have ratified the agreement and certain other information. With the concurrence of honourable members I will incorporate that table in Hansard.


This table discloses that as at this date only 43 countries have signed the agreement and only 22 have ratified it. To me this is a disappointing state of affairs when one realises that there are some 116 member countries of ICAO who were represented at the conference. Yet with all the hijacking that is taking place in the world today only 22 countries have seen fit to ratify the agreement. This Government is one which until this time has not seen fit to make any recommendation on this matter or to bring down legislation in this Parliament. We have heard at different times the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) state very proudly that Australia ranks third in the world in the use of domestic aviation facilities, ninth in the world in international air traffic and sixth in total aircraft movements. In Australia, where civil aviation is so important, it has taken this Government some 7 years to make up its mind whether to ratify the agreement. Australia should have been one of the first countries to indicate where it stood and legislation should have been brought before this Parliament a long time ago.

Many countries have been lax in their efforts to sign the agreement. In fact the country most affected by hijacking, the United States of America, has been more lax than any other country. From the information which I have at my disposal it was not until 5th September 1969 that the United States saw fit to ratify the agreement. Since that conference was held in Tokyo a number of attempts have been made to gel other countries to sign and ratify the agreement. In fact at the International Civil Aviation Organisation Convention in Buenos Aires in September 1968 the USA raised the matter of unlawful hijacking of civil aircraft and as a result the Legal Committee of ICAO at its February meeting in 1969 asked all nations affiliated with ICAO first to ratify the Tokyo Convention and, if necessary, implement any additional legislation which the sub-committee of ICAO subsequently recommended. The recommendation which that Committee put forward was:

Any person who on board an aircraft in flight

(a)   unlawfully, by force or threat thereof, interferes with, seizes or otherwise wrongfully exercises control of that aircraft in order to change its itinerary, or

(b)   attempts to perform such an act, or

(c)   is an accomplice to a person who performs or attempts to perform such an act, shall be guilty of a penal offence.

The conference also made the following recommendation dealing with the extradition of hijackers:

1.   The offence shall be deemed to be included as an extradition offence in any extradition treaty existing or to be concluded between the various Contracting States.

2.   The Contracting States which do not make extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty or reciprocity shall recognise the offence as a case of extradition as between themselves.

3.   The offence shall be treated, lor the purpose of extradition, as if it had been committed not only in the place in which it occurred, but also in the territory of the Slate of registration of the aircraft.

This committee, which met in May 1969, set up from among its members a special committee of 1 1 members including, as I understand it, a representative of Australia, to deal with future acts of unlawful interference with civil aviation. The committee deals only with the aeronautical aspects of cases of hijacking and it has met frequently to consider the format of a questionnaire to be sent to the states concerned with aircraft incidents. The Committee is also examining the general problem of hijacking with a view to recommending action to discourage and prevent unlawful interference with aircraft, based on discussions the committee has had with other interested international bodies. I might at this stage ask the Attorney-General to indicate in his reply what progress has been made by this Committee. I personally have not been able to obtain positive information as to what actual results the committee has had and what countries have elected to bring in additional legislation, if necessary, to discourage and prevent, whenever possible, the hijacking of aircraft. As I said earlier I would like later to deal with this matter further.

As recently as last Friday a report appeared in the Press of an incident which occurred in the US in which some fellow who had a hate on with the Taxation Department in that country had felt that he had been badly treated over some paltry sum of about $430 went to the extent of hijacking an aircraft. If he had been successful he could have brought about the destruction of that aircraft and the loss of the lives of the people on board. It is obvious that that individual was mentally deranged in some way or another and was suffering from an intense persecution complex. This is the kind of problem which faces those countries which are trying to do something about the problem of hijacking. As I said, I would appreciate n if the Minister could give to honourable members some indication of what has happened about the recommendations made by the Legal Committee of ICAO.

In December 1969 Australia joined with 27 other sponsors in the United Nations in proposing draft legislation for adoption by the Sixth Committee which is the Legal Committee of the UN. We also joined with other states in publicly deploring violent interference with international civil aviation which endangers the lives of persons in no way involved with political conflicts in some areas of the world. At the TwentyFourth General Assembly of the United Nations the question of hijacking was again taken up in the Sixth Committee, and it might be of interest to honourable members if I were to read the resolution ultimately adopted by that Committee on 1 2th December 1969. The item is General Assembly Resolution 2551 and it states:

The General Assembly,

Deeply concerned over acts of unlawful interference wilh international civil aviation, Considering it necessary to recommend effective measures against hijacking in all its forms or any other unlawful seizure or exercise of control of aircraft,

Mindful thai such acts may endanger the life and health of passengers and crew in disregard of commonly accepted humanitarian considerations,

Aware that international civil aviation can only function properly in conditions guaranteeing the safety of its operations and the due exercise of the freedom of air travel,

1.   Calls upon States to take every appropriate measure to ensure that the respective national legislations provide an adequate framework for effective legal measures against all kinds of acts of unlawful interference with, seizure of, or other wrongful exercise of control by force of treat thereof over, civil aircraft in flight;

2.   Urges States in particular to ensure that persons on board who perpetrate such acts are prosecuted;

3.   Urges full support for the efforts of the International Civil Aviation Organisation directed towards the speedy preparation and implementation of a convention for appropriate measures, inter alia, with respect to making the unlawful seizure of civil aircraft a punishable offence and to the prosecution of persons who commit that offence:

4.   Invites States to ratify or accede to the Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft, signed in Tokyo on September 14. 1963, in conformity with the Convention.

The Tokyo Convention had been ratified only a matter of 8 days prior to that. It was ratified or became law on 4th December 1969 and this resolution was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations only some 8 days later, lt is clear that members of the General

Assembly were fairly unanimous in adopting the Convention. Once again that indicates the concern of people throughout the world about the extent of hijacking.

The United States further disclosed its concern because on 16th December it convened a conference in Washington. Thirteen countries were invited to attend that conference to discuss what could be done about hijacking. Once again Australia was one of the countries to be invited. The conference unanimously agreed that hijacking seriously threatened the safely of international civil aviation; that solutions should be sought by all available means; and that a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach with maximum international cooperation was essential. It was also agreed that all states which had not already ratified the Tokyo Convention should be urged to do so as soon as possible. In the meantime, pending the enactment of national legislation it was decided that other countries should implement the provisions of Article 11 of the Tokyo Convention dealing with hijacking as though they had ratified the Convention. So that honourable members will know what is contained in Article 11 of the Convention I will read it. It states:

Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft

1.   When a person on board has unlawfully committed by force or threat thereof an act of interference, seizure, or other wrongful exercise of control of an aircraft in flight or when such an act is about to be committed, Contracting States shall take all appropriate measures to restore control of the aircraft to ils lawful commander or to preserve his 'control of the aircraft

2.   In the cases contemplated in the preceding paragraph, the Contracting State in which the aircraft lands shall permit its passengers and crew to continue their journey as soon as practicable, and shall return the aircraft and its cargo to the persons lawfully entitled to possession.

It is obvious to honourable members from all of these resolutions which have been carried - at the Tokyo Convention in 1963, then in subsequent meetings in Buenos Aires of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the reference to ICAO's legal committee, the resolution of the United Nations, then the United States convening a conference of countries interested in this matter - that hijacking is causing great concern today in civil aviation circles.

Fortunately we in Australia have been lucky. 1 think we have only had 1 offence that could be classified as hijacking. On 14th May this year some fellow boarded one of Ansett's aircraft and demanded to be taken to Brisbane. I would say that that was possibly the nearest offence to hijacking that has taken place in Australia.

Mr Chipp - He must have been insane.

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