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Thursday, 13 May 1993
Page: 559

Senator COLSTON —My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Justice, relates to Australians who are serving sentences in foreign prisons. Can the Minister advise whether there are any arrangements with other countries to allow prisoners to return to Australia and serve their sentences here? If not, is the Government investigating this possibility? If so, can any progress be expected in the near future?

Senator BOLKUS —At present, there are no arrangements with any other country to allow for the scheme that Senator Colston has asked about, whereby prisoners who are serving sentences in foreign prisons can return to Australia to serve their sentences here. However, we are pursuing this concept in the forum of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. In July 1992 the committee agreed in principle that we should work towards a regime of the nature that Senator Colston has referred to. However, before we can participate in such a scheme, a range of legislative and administrative steps need to be taken at both State and Federal level. To this end, the Committee of Attorneys-General has set up a working group in order to devise the necessary legislative and administrative framework.

  That group held its first meeting in December 1992. In order to facilitate discussions, the Commonwealth prepared a discussion paper proposing that, as a first step, Australia should seek to be a party to one of the existing international schemes—the Council of Europe convention on the international transfer of sentenced persons. It may then be necessary to look at how we can enter into other bilateral arrangements with other countries.

  The Commonwealth's position is premised on the need for the full participation of all States and Territories. It is also noted in this process that there is no such agreement between all the jurisdictions. In terms of the next step, it is now up to the States and Territories to state their positions on the scheme so that the issue can be addressed at the next attorneys meeting in June 1993.

Senator Gareth Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.