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.