Australia’s commitment to reducing the humanitarian impact of armed conflict was strengthened today with the passage of a bill banning the use of cluster munitions.
The passage of the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 includes legislative measures necessary to give effect to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
“Cluster munitions are weapons that can have a tragic impact on communities,” Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said.
“Australia was amongst the first group of countries to sign the convention in 2008 and this Bill is another step towards ratification.
“With this legislation, it will become an offence to use, stockpile or transfer cluster munitions and also to encourage others to engage with these dangerous weapons.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Bob Carr welcomed the passage of the legislation.
“Australia will also continue to press for further global arms control, to restrict or prohibit weapons like cluster munitions that have their greatest impact on civilians in conflict zones,” Mr Carr said.
Minister for Defence Stephen Smith said the new legislation puts into law Australia’s policy to not use cluster munitions.
“The prohibitions in the Convention will apply to all Australian Defence Force Personnel, including while serving alongside Defence forces of non-signatory States,” Mr Smith said.
Australia does not have operational stockpiles of cluster munitions and the Australian Government will not approve the stockpiling of cluster munitions in Australia by foreign governments.
The legislation will strengthen Australia’s already robust legal framework regarding weapons and reflects Australia’s longstanding commitment to international efforts to reduce the humanitarian impact of armed conflict.
Once the new legislation commences, it will be an offence to:
— use, develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions; and
–assist, encourage or induce anyone to undertake these activities.
The offences will carry tough penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment for individuals or a $330,000 fine for bodies corporate.
The Government will now move as quickly as possible to lodge Australia’s instrument of ratification for the Convention.