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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 2886

Senator PARRY (TasmaniaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate and Deputy Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) (15:52): On behalf of Senator McGauran, the deputy chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the 117th report of that committee, entitled Treaties tabled on 9 and 10 February, and 1 March 2011. I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

I seek leave to incorporate a tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The statement read as follows—

I present today the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Report 117, which addresses treaties tabled in Parliament on 9 and 10 February, and 1 March 2011.

Mr President, this report considers three significant bilateral agreements, and two instruments amending treaties to which Australia is already party.

Of particular interest to Australia’s Slovak community will be the new social security agreement to provide pension portability between our two nations.

The agreement with the Slovak Republic follows a model successfully implemented with some 24 other countries. Such agreements aim to increase retirement incomes for migrants who have spent part of their working lives in either country, and deliver greater choice of residency for all benefit recipients.

Under this agreement, over half of the Slovak Republic aged pensioners in Australia will qualify for entitlements accrued in their homeland for the first time. Australia in turn will have a net social security benefit, as pensions paid here will be offset against Slovak provided funds.

The Agreement also provides that superannuation and pension requirements are due in only one nation at a time. This cuts costs for employers and opens employment and business opportunities in both nations.

Mr President, another treaty in this report represents, in my opinion, a landmark negotiation for law enforcement and co-operation in our region.

The prisoner transfer treaty between Australia and the People’s Republic of China provides a framework of rights and protections for Australian and Chinese nationals seeking to transfer from correctional institutions in the other nation.

Given past human rights concerns, it is important to note that no prisoner will be compelled to transfer. The treaty requires that all parties involved consent to the transfer, and that prisoner are fully informed in writing of all the legal implications.A mandatory requirement under transfer agreements is that the Receiving Party enforces the full term of the original sentence.

Department representatives advised, however, that there is flexibility. The served term may be adjusted through the use of non parole periods, for example.

This provides an important opportunity to reduce sentences of excessive length by Australian standards.

Mr President, the Committee understands that this treaty with PRC has been a long term priority for Government; yet it is two years since China formally advised it had domestic arrangements in place for its ratification.

The Committee urges ratification and implementation of this treaty, to avoid any further hardship for Australians held in China and their families.

The other bilateral agreement dealt with in this report introduces new co production opportunities for film, television and digital media in Australia and South Africa.

Agreements like these should excite Australians, as they do the Committee, given the potential for rich cultural exchange and boosted production activity between two vital media industries.

Finally, I draw attention to the proposed amendments to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia, and to the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The Treaty of Amity is an important vehicle for Australia’s engagement with ASEAN. The Third Protocol amending the Treaty opens accession to regional organisations like the European Union.

The Committee welcomes this forward-looking gesture, which demonstrates ASEAN’s willingness to engage beyond the region.

The amendments to the Singapore Free Trade Agreement were minor in nature, but the Committee notes in consideration that even minor changes can have major implications. AmendĀ­ments to annotations, for example, dealt with telecommunication regulation in an increasingly competitive international market.

Mr President, to conclude: the treaty actions in Report 117 are not controversial, but neither are they inconsequential to Australia’s national interests. They all have the Committee’s unqualified support.

I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.