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Monday, 4 June 2001
Page: 27115

Mr WILKIE (1:10 PM) —I rise to speak in support of report 39 from the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. As has already been stated, the report relates to the consideration by the parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties of 13 proposed treaty actions. While these treaty actions are fairly routine in nature, they represent an ongoing and important function of the treaties committee. The committee allows scrutiny of proposed treaties by the parliament and provides members of the public with the opportunity to have input into the merits and possible consequences of proposed treaties.

It is important to take this opportunity to place on the public record the strongest repudiation of those who believe the treaties that Australia ratifies in some way compromise this nation's sovereignty. Last week, in the Western Australian Legislative Council, the newly elected member for the Mining and Pastoral Region, the Hon. John Fischer MLC, used his maiden speech to be critical of Australia entering into international treaties. But treaties do not compromise this nation's sovereignty. They reinforce Australia as a responsible international citizen, one which takes its role seriously by recognising the importance of entering into international agreements. Contrary to what Mr Fischer said, the report now before the parliament is the result of public hearings and various inquiries, resulting in all of these treaty actions being subject to detailed scrutiny.

Returning to the specific treaty actions contained in the report, a number of the 13 treaty actions demonstrate the tangible benefits to be gained by Australia from entering into international treaties. For example, the mutual recognition agreement with Singapore will simplify compliance requirements on Australian exporters seeking to sell their products in that market, in certain industry sectors. Western Australian companies will particularly benefit from this measure. Two-way trade between Australia and Singapore totalled $A9.2 billion in 1999-2000. Western Australia accounted for nearly $A3 billion of this trade, including nearly $A2 billion worth of exports. The existing trade relationship can only strengthen due to this agreement.

The committee has proposed that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade conduct a formal evaluation of the benefits of such agreements for Australian exporters and consumers, at some time in the future. The parliament could then use this when considering the establishment of further mutual recognition agreements or the extension of the existing agreements. Such a measure is worthy of the support of the parliament.

The amendment to the constitution of the International Labour Organisation was considered by the committee to be a simple, sensible and no-cost treaty action. The treaty will enable the annual International Labour Conference to abrogate international labour conventions that have lost their purpose or no longer make a useful contribution to attaining the objectives of the ILO. This is a process that is not presently available, as out-of-date conventions can only lie dormant or be denounced to avoid their application. It is a worthwhile and practical measure.

In relation to the Treaty on Fisheries between the Governments of Certain Pacific Island States and the United States of America, the committee has had an ongoing interest in fisheries and environmental treaties, and our reports have supported treaty actions that provide sensible and effective measures to ensure management of fisheries. This agreement allows the US fleet long-line access to the treaty area, to which other nations with less environmentally responsible fishing records already have access, and allows two small Pacific island nations, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, an opportunity to enhance the capacity of their domestic fishing operations. While the treaty expands the opportunities for long-line fishing in the central and western Pacific Ocean, we consider that it should do so in a reasonable and measured fashion.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Order! The time allotted for statements on this report has expired. Does the member for Wentworth wish to move a motion in connection with the report to enable it to be debated on a future occasion?