The Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition (ANZCMC) is deeply disappointed with the precedent set by Australia’s weak implementing law for the Convention on Cluster Munitions adopted by the Senate on 21 August 2012. It is concerned that Canada is considering adopting similar, flawed legislation that does not sufficiently meet its commitments to the ban on cluster bombs. Australia, Canada, and other signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions must enact national implementation legislation before they can ratify the convention.

After lengthy debate, on Tuesday, 21 August, the Australian Senate approved by a vote of 29 to 10 the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010. A raft of amendments to strengthen and clarify key provisions of the law were proposed by Green Senator Scott Ludlam, but failed to achieve support from either the governing Labour Party or from the major opposition Liberal Party.

The ANZCMC has expressed its concerns over the draft legislation with Australian representatives and made a submission in January 2011 to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade requesting that key sections of the proposed implementing legislation be amended. The Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 allows Australian forces to assist in activities prohibited by the treaty during military operations with states not party to the Convention, including assisting in the use of cluster munitions. Section 72.42 of the draft law also allows states not party to transfer cluster munitions through or store them on Australian territory, activities that, in the CMC’s view, are banned under the convention’s prohibition on assistance.

In its report issued in March 2011, the Senate Committee ignored calls from more than two dozen submitters to fix the Bill and instead recommended no changes, referring the legislation back to the Senate without amendment. No action were taken on the legislation until its adoption in August 2012. Efforts by Australian campaigners to amend the legislation helped secure stronger commitments from the government to “not approve the stockpiling of cluster munitions in Australia by foreign governments” despite the law permitting this.

Meanwhile in Canada, after more than three years of delays, draft implementing legislation was introduced in the Senate in April 2012. As with the Australian legislation, Canada’s Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act (Bill S-10) has been widely criticized. Its extensive section on “Joint Military Operations” would permit Canadian Armed Forces and public officials to “direct or authorize” an act that “may involve” a state not party performing activities prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, such as cluster munition use. The Bill does not explicitly address transit or foreign stockpiling of cluster munitions and could be read to implicitly allow these activities. Camada has not responded to a request by the ANZCMC for a meeting to discuss its concerns with the legislation.

Australia now is in the unfortunate position of having one of the world’s weakest national implementing legislation for the Convention on Cluyster Munitions, setting a poor example for others, such as Canada, to follow.

For more information on Australia, see:

  • ANZCMC press release on Senate adoption, 22 August 2012
  • Sign the petition calling on Australia to Fix the Bill!
  • ANZCMC letter to Australia’s High Commissioner sent 27 May 2011 and response received 21 June 2011
  • Cluster Munition Coalition Australia website
  • Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 text and ANZCMC submission
  • ANZCMC webstory, May 2011

For more information on Canada, see:

Photo: Australian members of the Cluster Munition Coalition at the First Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientiane, Lao PDR in November 2010 (c) Mary Wareham


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