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Thursday, 8 December 1960

Mr OSBORNE (Evans) (Minister for Air) . - in reply - I am glad that the Opposition supports the bill. The bill has in fact a very limited scope. Its purpose is to extend the provisions of the existing act to the Territories and to enable regulations to be made to confer juridical personality on international organizations of which Australia is a member. There are at present only three international organizations operating in Australia. They are the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration and the World Health Organization.

There are two good reasons for the passage of the bill. It is desirable to facilitate the activities in Australia of international organizations of which Australia is a member by enabling them to own property, to have rights and to protect their rights. Also, perhaps more importantly still, the constitutions of a number of international bodies to which Australia belongs should be protected by the parties to the conventions under which those international bodies are constituted conferring juridical personality on those bodies. We are unable to comply with that obligation until this bill is passed in order to amend the principal act.

The remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) about diplomatic immunity are relevant to this bill, if at all, to only a very small degree. This measure and the act will not in any way affect diplomatic personnel. The only relevance of arguments about diplomatic immunity arises from the fact that in international practice it is usual to treat the personnel of international organizations in a manner akin to that in which diplomatic personnel are treated. Very few people will be affected by this bril. I understand that the total staffs of the international organizations at present represented in Australia do not exceed ten in number. About half of those are locally engaged, and locally engaged personnel have no diplomatic immunities of any sort. Moreover, there are important differences between the treatment of diplomatic personnel proper and the treatment of the staffs of international organizations with respect to immunity from legal suit and diplomatic privilege. The immunity of officials of the United Nations is confined to their official acts. Furthermore, under the United Nations convention on privileges and immunities, that organization is obliged to waive diplomatic immunity where such immunity would impede the course of justice and where it can be waived without prejudice to the interests of the United Nations. I point out again that personnel engaged locally by these international organizations have no immunity at all.

Mr Whitlam - May I ask: First, would motor cars owned by these organizations have diplomatic number plates? Secondly, would one of these organizations be regarded as the employer of any of the locally engaged people?

Mr OSBORNE - I cannot answer those questions specifically.

Mr Calwell - Mr. Speaker- .Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).-

The Minister closed the debate when he spoke in reply.

Mr Calwell - But he did not propose the motion for the second reading of the bill. The Prime Minister did.

Mr Osborne - I did. However, I shall meet the convenience of the Leader of the Opposition in any way I can if he would perhaps like to speak at the committee stage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

The bill.

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