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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 257

Mr WHITLAM (Werriwa) (Leader of the Opposition) - There are 8 Bills covered by this motion. Nevertheless, it can be disposed of very quickly. I do not propose to speak as fully on this occasion as I did in December 1960 and in August 1963 on the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Bills, or as my colleague the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) spoke in March 1967 on the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Bill.

The Bills modernise and codify the law of consular relations as they affect this country. The Australian Labor Party supports these Bills as it supports any legislation which facilitates international intercourse on orderly lines. There are 2 points only that I want to take up at this time. The first is the inordinate time, it seems to me, which it takes the Australian Government and Parliament to legislate in order to effectuate international conventions such as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations which is a schedule to the first of these Bills. There was a Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. It was open for signature on 18th April 1961; it was signed for Australia on 30th March 1962; it entered into force on 13th Decem- ber 1964; this House debated it on 16th March 1967; and the instrument of ratification was deposited by Australia on 26th January 1968.

It took 6 years and 9 months to bring this Convention to finality as far as Australia was concerned. Here we are concerned with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It was open for signature , on 24th April 1963; it was signed for Australia on 31st March 1964; it entered into force on 19th March 1967; we are debating it today. Already 9 years and 4 months have elapsed. Clearly it will take some 3 years longer for Australia to bring this Convention to finality than it took for Australia to bring the earlier one to finality. Looking at the Bill to which the Convention is annexed I cannot understand why it has taken so much longer for us to implement this Convention than the earlier convention. I cannot understand, as I said at the time, why it took us so long to implement the earlier one. Australia has, I believe, the skills, and it should have the incentives to implement international engagements more promptly than that.

The other matter I want to mention concerns the bad name Australia is getting internationally for the risks which consuls run in this country. I will now distil answers which present and former Ministers have given me in reply to questions on notice. There have been bombings of the Yugoslav Consulate-General in Sydney in January 1967, November 1968 and June 1969, and of the Yugoslav Consulate-General in Melbourne in October 1970. The cost of repairing and protecting the premises of diplomatic missions and consular posts has risen. In 1970-71 the Commonwealth had to pay $4,100 to replace damaged furniture and fittings in the Yugoslav ConsulateGeneral in Melbourne, and in 1971-72 $25,000 to repair the Yugoslav ConsulateGeneral in Melbourne.

In 1970-71 in Melbourne the Commonwealth Police expended $9,860 on protecting the Yugoslav Consul-General. The cost of guarding consular premises by the Victoria police rose from $2,610 in 1967 to $16,359 in the financial year up to 2nd May 1971. In 1970-71 it cost $3,289 for the New South Wales police to protect diplomatic and consular premises. I fear that the cost of repairing the premises and protecting the representatives has risen since then. No doubt this will appear from the answer which the Minister will give me to question No. 5517 which I put for him on the notice paper on 11th April. If we are to enjoy international respect we will have to be much more scrupulous and diligent in preserving law and order as they concern the premises and persons of diplomats and consuls in this country.

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