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Tuesday, 4 May 1971

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 provides for the establishment of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, which was founded in 1947 and is a specialised agency of the United Nations. The permanent governing body of ICAO is the Council, which has contributed in a very important way to the development and adoption of international standards and recommended practices incorporated as annexes to the Chicago Convention which assist considerably in making air travel a safe and reliable mode of transport. The Council was originally composed of 21 contracting states elected by the Assembly of the Organisation, at which all contracting states are entitled to be present. The size of the Council was increased from 21 to 27 in 1962. Australia has been an elected member of the Council since ICAO came into being. At the 17th (Extraordinary) Session of the Assembly held at New York on the 11th and 12th March 1971, ICAO unanimously adopted a protocol amending Article 50 (a) of the Chicago Convention to increase the number of members of the Council from 27 to 30. The amendment requires ratification by 80 states out of the total membership of 120 before it comes into force. The primary purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to ratify this Protocol.

The Air Navigation Act 1920-1960 sets out in schedules the Chicago Convention which was ratified by Australia in 1947 and 2 protocols amending the Convention in minor respects. This Act was amended in 1961 and 1963 to approve the ratification of other minor amendments to the Chicago Convention, including that increasing the size of the Council from 21 to 27 members; these amendments being set out in further schedules to the principal Act. The present Bill continues the practice by inserting the new protocol as the seventh schedule to the principal Act.

The Australian delegation to the Extraordinary Session of the Assembly supported the increase in the membership of the Council for 3 major reasons. Firstly, it was the wish of the majority of member states for an increase of 3 members. Secondly, an increase of 3 could not be considered unreasonable in the light of the fact that the total membership of ICAO has grown from 84 members in 1961 to 120 members in March 1971. Thirdly, proportionate increases have been made over the years in the size of the executive bodies of other specialised agencies of the United Nations. The Australian Government welcomes the participation of an increased number of states in the work of the Council. The increase being limited to 3 new members should improve the functioning of the Council without impairing its efficiency. Membership of the ICAO Council has been of considerable value to Australia's civil aviation interests and I feel that, as a country which has an important status in world aviation. Australia has been able to make a worthwhile contribution to the Organisation by maintaining Council membership. The addition of 3 members is expected to add little, if any, to the administrative costs of the Organisation. The costs of provision of secretarial services should bc absorbed in the normal provision of these services and there could be offsets as ICAO will be paid rentals by the new members for the use by their delegations of offices in the ICAO headquarters building.

The Bill also seeks to repeal section 6 of the Air Navigation Act 1920-1966, which was inserted in 1960 to confer legal capacity on ICAO in Australia and to confer on it the privileges and immunities necessary for the independent exercise of its powers and performance of its functions in Australian territory. The International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1963 was passed to specify the privileges and immunities in Australia of international organisations, including such specialised agencies of the United Nations as ICAO. The privileges and immunities of ICAO are set out in detail in the International Organisations (Privileges and Immunities of Specialised Agencies) Regulations 1962 which were continued in force by that Act. Accordingly, section 6 of the Air Navigation Act no longer serves any useful purpose and the opportunity is being taken to include a clause in the Bill repealing this section. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Senator O'Byrne) adjourned.

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