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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16384

Mr ADAMS (12:46 PM) —The report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which has just been presented deals with: a double taxation agreement between Australia and Romania, an agreement between Australia and Denmark on social security, an agreement between Australia and the Slovak Republic on trade and economic relations, an agreement for cooperation between Australia and the United States of America concerning technology for the separation of isotopes of uranium by laser excitation, a Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations and an agreement between Australia and New Zealand on child and spousal maintenance. I endorse that binding treaty action should be taken in relation to all six of the proposed treaties. These are very similar to those that we have endorsed previously, and there is certainly no disagreement with the recommendations. The only one that could be read as being of a controversial nature is the one with the US concerning the safety and monitoring of low enriched uranium for use in the electricity generation industry. However, the content of the treaty itself ensures that Australia has some reasonable control over the processes.

I would like to digress slightly and talk about the word `treaty' for a minute. In common usage, it means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an `agreement' or `contract', usually `between two or more states, relating to peace, truce, alliance, commerce, or other international relation'. But it can also relate to agreements or arrangements between governments to give aid to citizens of each other's country. It is part of our role of governance to make sure these treaties are scrutinised, updated and enacted when necessary, and we do it all the time. What I cannot understand is why our Prime Minister is so opposed to the word when it deals with the original owners of this country. He is prepared to acknowledge that the Aboriginal people were here long before European settlement and that our ancestors and their offspring have a lot to answer for in their treatment of the original people. A treaty seems to me to be the most commendable stance to recognise the other part of our nation as equals. A treaty is in essence a recognition of the equality of both parties who come together in an agreement. It would help the reconciliation process become reality with a specific `instrument' to be held as an agreement between the two parties.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Lyons is aware of the obligation he has to confine his remarks to the report, and I invite him to do so.

Mr ADAMS —Thank you, Mr Speaker. Of course, `treaty' has been used in other parts of the world—just to finish on that point—including the United States and New Zealand, so that there has been a specific instrument for people to use to work towards common goals. The word `treaty' can be very useful, even internally, in sorting out where we go.

The agreement with New Zealand is designed to put an end to problems that have arisen over many years between the two jurisdictions about agreements and the enforcement of maintenance decisions. It takes up the points of certain courts in this country, which have made decisions but have never been able to be totally binding concerning New Zealand. This treaty allows those things to take place so that cross-border maintenance agreements can occur. The treaty also provides a basis for the government to actively seek to establish similar arrangements with other countries, including those in South-East Asia. The world is much smaller these days. People in our own citizenry travel, and we have people coming into our country. These issues become a reality and need to be dealt with in this way so that we continue to maintain what we have established in the past. I commend the treaty actions to the parliament.