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Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Page: 8755

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (16:51): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee's Report 127, incorporating a dissenting report and treaties tabled on 20 March and 8 May 2012.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.

Mr KELVIN THOMSON: by leave—One of the more important treaties covered in this report is the exchange of notes constituting an agreement between Australia and the United States of America to amend and extend the Agreement on Cooperation in Defense Logistics Support.

The exchange of notes will extend the Agreement on Cooperation in Defense Logistics Support for a period of 11 years, and ensure that Australia's bilateral defence logistics cooperation with the US remains on a sound footing. The agreement's continued operation is important to the Australia-US military relationship because it enables the reciprocal provision of military support. It also provides for the establishment of maintenance programs which enhance industry capability and contribute to Australia's military preparedness and interoperability with US forces.

Australia's relationship with the United States is our most important defence relationship. The ANZUS alliance—now in effect for over 60 years—is the cornerstone of that relationship and subsequent agreements such as the one being reviewed here help facilitate that defence relationship. Given the increased cooperation between the US and Australian defence forces over the past decade, this exchange of notes is both logical and practical. It will help facilitate ongoing operations in Afghanistan as well as the deployment of US marines to the Northern Territory.

The committee does, however, note that the agreement is currently 'infrequently used' and could perhaps better serve Australia's interests if some of its provisions were more fully utilised. One example is greater Australian access to US equipment and industry. From the evidence the committee received, it appears that the agreement's potential has not been explored as thoroughly as it could be.

The committee also approved an extension to the 1987 Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology.

This regional cooperative agreement is a useful mechanism in providing a regional framework for initiating cooperative projects and coordinated research between International Atomic Energy Agreement member states in the Asia-Pacific. Its continued operation over a 40-year period provides tangible evidence of its usefulness.

Although the regional cooperative agreement's role in the non-proliferation architecture is limited, it does perform a role in promoting the non-proliferation objectives. Furthermore, as part of a broader regulatory architecture for nuclear activities it also plays a role in implementing improved standards following events such as those that occurred at Fukushima.

Nonetheless, the committee notes that there may have been an opportunity missed to upgrade the agreement rather than simply 'rolling it over'. As a major supplier of nuclear fuel, Australia could have taken the opportunity to strengthen the safety and non-proliferation aspects of the agreement following the Fukushima disaster. In the past, the agreement has been renewed every five years. On the next iteration, some of the non-proliferation and safety issues could be reviewed by the agreement's parties.

The committee concludes that all the treaties covered in Report 127 should be supported with binding action. On behalf of the committee, I commend the report to the House.