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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 571

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (10:18 AM) —On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee’s report entitled Report 114: Treaties referred on 16 November 2010 (part 1).

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mr KELVIN THOMSON —The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties report No. 114 contains 21 international instruments tabled in the 42nd Parliament but not reported on before last year’s election. Under the committee’s resolution of appointment, Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd referred these treaties for consideration again in the new parliament late last year. This report represents the first part of the committee’s consideration of the 40 treaties referred.

Of the treaties considered in this report, three are important to Australia’s international security. Australia’s Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement with the United States updates the framework for reciprocal provision of defence logistic support supplies and services formerly agreed to in 1998. As members may be aware, mutual logistic support agreements do not cover sharing of major weapons systems or munitions. Rather, they support peaceful deployments. Such agreements largely follow a set model, addressing such matters as reciprocal pricing principles. However, for this new agreement Australian negotiators have achieved additional provisions. To protect Australia’s interests in the event of injury or damage to personnel or material support, new liability and claims provisions are inserted. The previous Acquisition and Cross-servicing Agreement with the United States has been critical to joint deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East and in the Pacific. The updated agreement will carry forward this framework for defence cooperation into the future.

I turn now to Australia’s agreement with the Republic of Korea on the protection of classified military information, which also advances an important strategic arrangement. This agreement reflects the regional security interests of both Australia and the Republic of Korea. It does not create any new obligations for Australia, but formalises an established and beneficial information-sharing arrangement between our two nations for defence cooperation purposes.

Thirdly, Australia’s agreement with the United States for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy updates an important bilateral treaty with both strategic and commercial underpinnings. The United States currently imports more than half Australia’s exported uranium. Some of this—around 36 per cent—fuels the US power sector; the remainder is processed for utilities in other countries. This agreement will continue this trade for an initial period of 30 years, subject to review every five years. For its validation, the United States must meet stringent safeguards and security provisions to ensure that the exported uranium is used only for peaceful purposes. The Australian government has indicated it will continue to advocate for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and its adoption by the United States.

Report 114 also reviews taxation arrangements between Australia and 19 other jurisdictions to bring them into alignment with OECD standards. Two are double-taxation agreements with Chile and Malaysia respectively. The convention with Chile for the avoidance of double taxation is intended as a comprehensive measure to reform withholding tax arrangements while also reducing the potential for tax evasion. Australia signed a similar agreement with Malaysia on 24 February last year. The third protocol to that agreement amends it to enable greater exchange of taxation information. The common object of the remaining 15 taxation agreements is the elimination of harmful tax practices in low-tax jurisdictions.

Partner countries with significant currency flows include Vanuatu, the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, Monaco, St Lucia and Samoa. The committee believes ratifications of all these treaties will be beneficial to Australia and to the agreement parties. Accordingly, the committee has recommended that binding treaty action be taken in relation to all instruments considered in this report, and I commend the report to the House.