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Cluster Munitions

April 2, 2013

Australia has become a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions with legislation commencing yesterday (April 1, 2013) making it an offence in Australia to develop, keep or transfer land mines or cluster munitions.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Act 2012 ensured Australian law was consistent with international obligations under the Convention, including the ban on cluster munitions and delivery of a framework for victim assistance and stockpile destruction.

“Australia has taken a leading role in the banning and clearance of land mines and other cluster munitions,” Senator Carr said.

“Their acquisition and transfer are now unlawful in Australia.

“And we’re committed to clearing them where they exist overseas, with $100 million over five years for our Mine Action Strategy including clearing mines and unexploded ordinance in Laos, Cambodia and Palau.

“Cluster munitions have claimed 10,000 civilian lives worldwide, including 4,000 children.

“I’m proud Australia has become a party to this Convention and has introduced new laws to prevent Australian involvement in this deadly international trade.”

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said he was pleased to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions on behalf of Australia in December 2008.

“Australia actively participated in the development of the Convention, and was one of the first countries to sign when it opened for signature on 3 December 2008,” Minister Smith said.

“The Convention balances humanitarian and security concerns to protect both civilians and military personnel.”

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said the legislation accompanying the Convention made it an offence punishable by up to ten years jail for a person to use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions.

“The Convention is a remarkable achievement. The international community rightly recognises that serious action to address the tragic humanitarian impact of cluster munitions is long overdue,” said Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC.

“The Gillard Government has also passed legislation to ban the use of cluster munitions in Australia and by Australians.”

The Convention and Act allows for certain activities that protect Australia’s national and international security, such as interoperability and acquiring and retaining munitions for training in clearance and destruction techniques.

The Convention and Act will apply to Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel during military operations, including when serving alongside the defence forces of states not party to the Convention, and will be reflected in ADF doctrine, procedures, rules and directives.

Australia does not possess an operational stockpile of cluster munitions, and does not support the stockpiling of such munitions in Australia by other countries.

  1. April 2, 2013 3:40 pm


    With due respect, I wish that what you have said here is as factually correct as you depict it. The Australian government did take submissions that were supposed to help shape this as an Australian law as the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010. I was one of those who made a submission (No 2). However, as we fortuitously learned from Wikileaks, Washington intervened and found that most of the material in the submissions from Australian citizens and organisations were given little attention, deed there was little acknowledgement of the work of Canadian expert, Earl Turcotte, particularly in respect of Article 21.

    I refer readers to this article in The Guardian, dated 1 December 2010, which showed the British government bowing to similar pressure from Washington:

    ‘WikiLeaks cables: Secret deal let Americans sidestep cluster bomb ban’ – “Officials
    concealed from parliament how US is allowed to bring weapons on to British soil in defiance
    of treaty”.

    The Australian Ratification process was also being undermined, as Philip Dorling detailed in his article in the Fairfax press:

    Labor foiled bomb treaty
    May 2, 2011
    We must do more to help rid the world of these foul weapons

    Paul Barratt also wrote in The Age:

    We must do more to help rid the world of these foul weapons
    May 2, 2011

    Please also read NAJ Taylor’s contribution in Crikey, in which he also points out that the Australian government also failed to end investment in cluster munitions (mentioned in several submissions including my own):

    The loopholes in the Labor Party’s Cluster Munitions Bill
    NOV 22, 2011 4:59PM

    So, Bob, please make sure that you have the story right, because you will be getting questions in the lead-up to the 14 September elections.

    Willy Bach

  2. Lorel Thomas permalink
    April 2, 2013 8:57 pm

    Dear Senator,
    Unfortunately there are significant and glaring errors in your statement. Australia has not, in fact, “taken a leading role in the banning and clearance of land mines and other cluster munitions,” Australia was so negative at the beginning of the process which ultimately led to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (the Oslo Process) that it was not even invited to the first meeting. Add to this the Australian government’s support of the US initiated plan to sabotage the Convention by attempting to introduce a retrograde article as part of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and we begin to see the flaws in your statement. The Australian legislation is also flawed allowing, as it does, ADF troops to actively and directly assist the US in using cluster bombs. True, Australian forces are not allowed to use cluster bombs but they are allowed to give significant assistance in their use, thus weakening our adherence to the treaty’s obligation against assistance. So our new law does not actually prevent Australian “involvement” Yes, the Convention allows for interoperablity but it is a pity that we could not have enacted legislation which allows for that but upholds the integrity of the Convention as NZ has done.
    Finally I am very confused by your conflation of the terms landmines and cluster munitions. The new legislation deals with cluster munitions only. Australia has been a State Party of the Mine Ban Treaty since 1999. We ratified on 14-Jan-99 and it came into force on 1-Jul-99. Your statement that the entry into force of the Cluster Munitions Convention will make it “an offence in Australia to develop, keep or transfer land mines or cluster munitions” again mixes landmines and cluster munitionsand seems enough to justify us in thinking that you do not know what you talking about.
    I wonder if you can convince me otherwise
    Also while it is true that we were one of the first to sign the Convention, that was simply fortuitous as the signing was done in Alphabetical order. We were one of 94 countries to do so when it opened for signature.

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