15 July 2011

Australia: Open letter on proposed legislation

Sydney Morning Herald announces high profile support for the Fix the Bill campaign from former military commanderOn 6 July 2011, an open letter was sent to Australia's Defense Minister, Foriegn Affairs Minister and Attorney General regarding the proposed legislation in Australia that would implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions and enable Australia to ratify and become a State Party to the Convention. The letter was signed by 48 people including the former chief of the Australian defence force and former members of the Australian cabinet.***Open letter to the Defence Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney General6 July 2011Dear Minister Smith, Minister Rudd and Attorney General McClellandIn 2008 you, Minister Smith, signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions for Australia. This important international treaty bans cluster bombs, an indiscriminate class of weapon known to cause significant and long-lasting civilian harm, particularly to children. We wholeheartedly endorse the treaty’s aims and congratulate the government on having signed it.In order to ratify the treaty, Australia must pass legislation to implement the treaty’s obligations in our domestic law. However, the proposed legislation, shortly to be debated in the Senate, contains serious flaws which undermine the whole purpose of the treaty.The treaty contains a clause which allows state parties to continue cooperating in military alliance with countries not party to the treaty. This clause protects troops of state parties if they are inadvertently involved in cluster bomb use during these joint operations. This is necessary and sensible, particularly for Australia, given that our major ally the USA has no intention of joining the ban on cluster bombs.The problem with the government’s proposed legislation is that it goes much further than is necessary to maintain our military alliances. The legislation allows Australian troops to directly and actively assist in the use of cluster bombs. It also explicitly allows non-state parties to stockpile cluster bombs on Australian soil and permits them to transit cluster bombs through Australian ports and airspace. No other ratifying country has provided such a blanket exemption.These exemptions are unnecessary at best and add little or nothing to our national security. At worst, they run directly counter to the treaty’s intent by setting a precedent which explicitly facilitates the ongoing use of cluster bombs.In a submission to the government, the International Committee of the Red Cross said the abovementioned problems with the proposed legislation "would have the unfortunate consequences of effectively permitting activities that could undermine the objectives of the Convention and contribute to the continued use of cluster munitions rather than further their elimination." We agree.The goal of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is clear. It aims to eradicate cluster bombs and put an end to the suffering they cause for all time. We therefore seek your support in ensuring that Parliament amends the draft legislation to reflect and fulfil that aim.Yours sincerelyGreg BarnsBarrister, and National President, Australian Lawyers AlliancePaul Barratt AOFormer Secretary, Department of Defence, and former Deputy Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeFr Frank Brennan SJ AOProfessor of Law, Public Policy Institute, Australian Catholic UniversityJulian Burnside AO QCBarristerProfessor Hilary CharlesworthARC Laureate Fellow and Director, Centre for International Governance and Justice, ANULaura CheesemanDirector, Cluster Munition CoalitionSr Denise Coghlan RSM AMHead of the Jesuit Refugee Service, CambodiaTim Costello AOChief Executive Officer, World Vision AustraliaMary CrockProfessor of Public Law, The University of SydneyBonnie DochertyHarvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and Senior Researcher, Human Rights WatchThe Hon John Dowd AO QCPresident, ActionAid AustraliaAlistair GeeExecutive Director, Act for Peace, NCCADr Norman GillespieChief Executive Officer, UNICEF AustraliaGeneral Peter GrationFormer Chief of Defence ForceJack de GrootChief Executive Officer, Caritas AustraliaBrigadier Adrian d’Hagé, AM, MCAuthorMichele Harris OAMAndrew HewettExecutive Director, Oxfam AustraliaDr Andrew JacubowiczProfessor of Sociology, University of Technology SydneyJohn JeffriesNational Director, CBM AustraliaStephen Keim SCBarrister-at-Law, and President, Australian Lawyers for Human RightsProfessor John LangmoreSchool of Social and Political Sciences, University of MelbourneArchie LawChief Executive Officer, ActionAid AustraliaCarmen LawrenceWinthrop Professor, University of Western AustraliaPhilip LynchExecutive Director, Human Rights Law Centre (Australia)Dr Francis Macnab, AMExecutive Minister, St Michael’s Uniting Church, MelbourneClaire MallinsonNational Director, Amnesty International AustraliaProfessor William Maley, AM FASSAProfessor Jane McAdamDirector of Research, Faculty of Law, University of NSWProfessor Emeritus Ron McCallum AOSenior Australian of the Year 2011Dr Jeff McMullen AMWriter, Foreign Correspondent, Filmmaker and CEO (Honorary) Ian Thorpe’s Fountain for YouthGraeme MundineExecutive Officer, Aboriginal Catholic MinistryThe Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QCFormer Chief Justice of the Family Court; former Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence ForceMarc PurcellExecutive Director, Australian Council for International DevelopmentProfessor Stuart Rees AMDirector, Sydney Peace FoundationProfessor Neal RobinsonDeputy Director, Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies, Australian National UniversityThe Hon Susan Ryan AOChair, Australian Human Rights GroupAssociate Professor Ben SaulFaculty of Law, University of SydneyProfessor Gerry SimpsonDirector, Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law, University of Melbourne, and Visiting Professor, London School of EconomicsNigel SpenceChief Executive Officer, ChildFund AustraliaDr Timothy StephensDirector, Sydney Centre for International LawLorel ThomasNational Coordinator, Australian Network to Ban Landmines and Cluster MunitionsIsabel Thomas DobsonModerator, Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and TasmaniaChristine WaltonExecutive Officer, Australian Disability and Development Consortium (ADDC)Professor Emeritus John WarhurstSchool of Politics and International Relations, Australian National UniversityDr Bill WilliamsPresident, Medical Association for Prevention of WarJody Williams1997 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, and Campaign Ambassador, International Campaign to Ban LandminesMatthew ZagorSenior Lecturer, ANU Law School and board member, Australian Lawyers for Human RightsOpen letter to the Defence Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney General To read more about the Cluster Munition Coalition's recommendations on the draft bill visit: http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/the-problem/countries/?id=3046