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Tuesday, 22 August 1972
Page: 260

Senator WHEELDON (Western Australia) - Mr Acting President, there are 8 Bills at present before the Senate and they are to be dealt with jointly. The substantive Bill is the Consular Privileges and Immunities Bill 1972 which follows from the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to which the Government of this country is party. The Australian Labor Party supports the provisions of these Bills. It supports them primarily because they are Bills which flow from an international agreement entered into by Australia and most of the other countries of the world. It is encouraging to think that if only on matters such as this there are some occasions when the nations of the world may get together and arrive at decisions which are binding upon all those countries which are party to the Convention. There are one or two comments I would like to make, however.

The first is that the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which appears as a schedule to the Consular Privileges and Immunities Bill, has been open for signature since 24th April 1963. In fact, it has taken in excess of 9 years since the opening of this Convention for signature for the presentation of these Bills to the Parliament. One can say only that this does seem to be an inordinately long time to elapse in which to deal with a matter which is of considerable importance to the consular representatives of this country overseas and to the representatives within Australia of those countries with which we have consular relations. The explanation has been given that the long delay took place because Australia is a federation and there has to be some joint action with the several States. But I must confess that my mind boggles at the thought that 9 years delay could occur in obtaining the concurrence of the States to this proposition. I cannot imagine any matters which the States would have been strenuously resisting. It is most important for us that our consular representatives overseas should be given the protection for which this Convention makes provision. It is likewise important that the consular representatives of other countries in Australia should be given this protection. Recently we have heard quite a deal about law and order. Only recently a Bill was before this Parliament to provide for special protection for certain buildings in this country, including embassies. In view of that legislation it does seem strange that it has taken as long as 9 years for a Bill providing for the ratification of this Convention to come before the Parliament. As has been pointed out elsewhere by the parliamentary Leader of the Australian Labor Party, one wonders to what extent the Australian Government is observing the spirit of the various conventions regarding the rights of consular representatives of other countries, particularly when one looks at some of the assaults which are being made on the consulates of the Yugoslav Republic in this country. One can say only that it does appear that, despite the talk of law and order and despite the Convention - however belatedly it is adopted by this country - very little of the spirit of some of these conventions has been observed by the Government in the most negligent approach which it has adopted to the , protection of Yugoslav consular representatives in this country.

However, having said that, I repeat that the Australian Labor Party supports the provision contained in this and the other Bills. It supports the adoption of such conventions as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. We are in favour of the passage of the 8 Bills presently before the Senate.

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