21 August 2012

Australia passes controversial legislation to enforce cluster bomb ban

Australia set to become State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions(London, 21 August 2012) The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) is disappointed that the Australian government has passed flawed legislation to enforce the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and has not taken on-board any of the proposed changes that would have strengthened the bill.Despite two years of work by CMC Australia with support from the global campaign including the submission of numerous recommendations to review and amend the legislation that received support from several Australian Senators, the Australian Senate passed the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 by 29 votes to 10 on Tuesday 21 August 2012."We are hugely disappointed to see that key parts of the law are not in keeping with the convention’s obligations and are contrary to their pledge to prevent further devastation from cluster bombs," said John Rodsted from CMC Australia.The law to implement this convention is weak in a number of key areas as it permits Australia to directly assist foreign militaries in the use of cluster munitions, including by planning for the use of cluster munitions and providing direct support for foreign soldiers firing the weapon. It also permits foreign forces to stockpile and transit cluster munitions on Australian territory.At the same time, the Australian government pledged to adopt policies that would bar those very activities. In November 2011, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor, Australia issued a joint ministerial statement by the Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General stating that that it "will not approve the stockpiling of cluster munitions in Australia by foreign governments" and says the "commitment not to authorize stockpiling by foreign governments will be confirmed in a public statement at the time of Australia’s ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions".Australian Greens spokesperson assisting on Defence, Senator Scott Ludlam, who strongly argued to amend the bill said: "The Government advised me in the Senate last night that storing and transporting cluster munitions for other countries is not their policy. If it’s not their policy, why is it allowed by the legislation? Why not close the loophole?""We will keep watching to ensure that the government now adopts and implements a strong operational policy that better upholds the established global norm against using these terrible weapons, as well as its binding obligations under the Convention," said Laura Cheeseman, director of the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC).Australia’s legal system requires that it pass domestic implementation legislation before it can ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which it signed on 3 December 2008. Australia now needs to deposit its instrument of ratification in order to become a state party to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM).