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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 197


Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 November 2008:

Does the Royal Australian Navy have any protocols in regard to intervention to protect vessels threatened by other vessels in Australia’s Antarctic waters; if so, in what circumstances will the Navy intervene and does this include where an anti-whaling protest ship is threatened by a foreign vessel.


Senator Faulkner (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

Australia has a duty under the United Nations Convention of Law of the Sea to respond to acts of piracy on the high seas. In support of the International Maritime Organisation, the Australian Government has international obligations in relation to engendering an environment which facilitates ‘safe, secure and efficient shipping’ in the world’s oceans.

Border Protection Command (BPC) is the Australian Security Forces Authority. The BPC must be notified of any acts of violence against ships within the Australian Search and Rescue Region—Australia’s area of responsibility for enforcing our obligations in support of the International Maritime Organisation.

Australia claims sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory and is a party to the Antarctic Treaty which forms a legal framework for activities in the Antarctic. Any activities conducted must be consistent with Australia’s obligations under the Antarctic treaty, which includes a prohibition on measures of a military nature.

There is no permanent naval presence in the Southern Ocean.

International and domestic law requirements shape the Navy’s ability to take action to protect vessel threatened by other vessels. The Navy has operating procedures and Rules of Engagement which must be complied with when responding to threats against other vessels.