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Monday, 10 April 2000
Page: 15537


Mr ADAMS (1:02 PM) —Three treaties have been tabled, and the Joint Committee on Treaties recommends that binding treaty action be taken on all three proposals. The three treaties are: the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, which the chair, the member for Wentworth, just alluded to; the withdrawal of Australia's reservation regarding women's employment in combat related duties to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW; and the International Convention on the Simplification and Harmonisation of Customs Procedures.

Regarding the first treaty, the committee was told of the increasing number of attacks against UN and associated personnel deployed in UN operations. The examples included murder, kidnapping and attacks on premises in which UN personnel lived or worked. People who work with or in association with the UN deserve as much protection as the organisation and the international community can provide. Australia's support to the International Force East Timor is a notable example of our continued commitment to UN objectives. We also saw some of the terrible attacks on the UN headquarters there and on UN staff and support staff. The convention will help ensure that those who commit crimes against such personnel are brought to justice. This will help to deter acts of violence against UN personnel.

In withdrawing the reservation to women in combat duties we will fall into line with Australian law and policy, which already prevent discrimination against women in combat related duties. The original reservation to women in combat and combat related duties was lodged at the time of the ratification—28 July 1983—because the ADF policy and domestic law excluded women from combat and combat related duties. However, since 1992 ADF policy has allowed women to perform combat related duties, which includes positions such as pilots, aircrew, field intelligence officers and marine engineers. But it is worth pointing out that women are still excluded from carrying out combat duties requiring a person to commit, or participate directly in the commission of, an act of violence against an adversary in time of war. So the support is a partial withdrawal of the reservation in line with Australia's treaty obligations under CEDAW but taking into account current domestic law and policy.

The third treaty has to do with simplifying customs procedures. This one seeks to replace the original 1973 customs convention. The 1999 protocol restructures the convention by setting out consistent and transparent procedures, including reference to modern management techniques such as risk management, audit based controls and the use of information technology. It will also reduce the complexity of rules and establish predictable and efficient customs procedures. This will be to the benefit of Australian and overseas based companies seeking to engage in international trade, by reducing costs and delays. The 61 contracting parties to the 1973 convention are expected to accept the 1999 protocol. The document also reported that six of Australia's 10 major trading partners are members of the 1973 convention and can be expected to sign the 1999 protocol. Of the remaining four countries, Hong Kong and the Special Administrative Region of China are keen to accept the 1999 protocol; and Singapore and Indonesia, both members of the World Customs Organisation, are actively considering acceptance as well. This does not do anything to affect Australia's surveillance, quarantine, or drugs or weaponry laws or practices in any way. (Time expired)