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Monday, 7 March 2005
Page: 76

Senator STEPHENS (5:14 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the 63rd report of the committee, entitled Treaties tabled on 7 December 2004, and seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

Leave granted.

Senator STEPHENS —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

Report 63, Treaties tabled on 7 December 2004, contains the findings of the inquiry conducted by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties into nine treaty actions tabled in the parliament on 7 December 2004 relating to the matters identified in the title of the report. Report 63 includes a treaty with France concerning maritime areas in the Southern Ocean, the Australia-Thailand free trade agreement, an air services agreement with the United Arab Emirates, an agreement concerning police and assistance to Nauru, an agreement on mutual acceptance of oenological practices, amendments to the constitution of the Asia-Pacific telecommunity, an optional protocol concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict, a WIPO copyright treaty and a WIPO performances and phonograms treaty.

The treaty with France concerning maritime areas in the Southern Ocean will create a framework to enhance cooperative surveillance of fishing vessels and encourage scientific research on marine living resources in the area of cooperation in the Southern Ocean. Both Australia and France have an interest in cooperating in this area. Illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean, particularly of the patagonian toothfish, has increased in the last decade.

The committee also supports the Australia-Thailand Free Trade Agreement, which will liberalise and facilitate trade and investment between Australia and Thailand. The agreement includes provisions concerning the protection of intellectual property, customs procedures, electronic commerce, competition policy and government procurement. The committee notes that the Australia-Thailand Free Trade Agreement entered into force on 1 January 2005 and that its provisions are already in effect.

The air services agreement with the United Arab Emirates provides a legal framework for the designated airlines from Australia and the United Arab Emirates to operate scheduled routes between the two countries. This will facilitate trade and tourism through freight and passenger transportation. Emirates, Gulf Air and the Australian carriers have been operating under aviation agreements of less than treaty status since December 1995, and the air services agreement provides much broader coverage.

Among the proposed treaty actions tabled on 7 December was the agreement concerning police and other assistance to Nauru. This agreement enables Australia to deploy police and other personnel to Nauru to work in partnership with the government of Nauru to address core issues in the areas of governance, law and order, justice and financial management. DFAT, in evidence to the committee, stated:

Nauru’s governance problems are so serious that Nauru could have been said to be on the verge of state failure.

This agreement is similar to agreements with the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

The committee also supports the agreement on mutual acceptance of oenological practices, which facilitates trade in wine among the state parties to the agreement. The parties to this agreement are the New World wine countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and the United States of America. This agreement is expected to benefit the Australian wine industry by giving greater security of access for Australian exporters to overseas wine markets. Different winemaking practices cannot be used as a barrier to trade under this agreement.

The treaty action concerning amendments to the constitution of the Asia-Pacific telecommunity will assist the Asia-Pacific telecommunity to become a stronger, more effective and influential regional telecommunications body.

The committee also supports the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The recruitment and use of children in armed conflict continues to be a problem for the international community. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that 300,000 children are involved in 30 conflicts worldwide. The optional protocol is intended to establish minimum safeguards to prevent the involvement of children in armed conflict. Australia is in compliance with the optional protocol as the minimum voluntary age of recruitment is 17. However, the committee did make some recommendations—for example, that the defence instruction be available on the web site, that recruitment be genuinely voluntary and fully informed and that parents give informed consent in the light of a submission by HREOC to the committee.

Lastly, the World Intellectual Property Organisation—the WIPO—copyright treaty and the World Intellectual Property Organisation performances and phonograms treaty both serve to expand the rights of copyright owners in works, film and sound recordings and of performers in the online environment. These treaties improve international copyright standards to meet the challenges posed by digital technology. In conclusion, it is the view of the committee that it is in the interests of Australia for all of the treaties considered in report 63 to be ratified and the committee has made its recommendations accordingly. I commend the report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.