Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Western Australia—Minister for Local Government,

Territories and Roads) (9.53 a.m.)— I indicate to the Senate that these bills are being introduced together. After debate on the motion for the second reading has been adjourned, I will be moving a motion to have the bills listed separately on the Notice Paper.

I move: 

That these bills may proceed without formalities, may be taken together and be now read a first time. In July 2003, the Government announced that as a result of bilateral discussions, we would work with the US to put in place arrangements to transfer Australian citizens convicted by a military commission to Australia for the purpose of serving any penal sentence in Australia in accordance with Australian and US law. 

The Government has developed the International Transfer of Prisoners Amendment Bill 2004 to meet this commitment. The bill is facilitative only. At this stage, no Australian has been convicted by a military commission. We know that there are two Australians currently being detained by US authorities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and that one of those men, David Hicks, was included in the 3 July 2003 list of the six detainees who President Bush has declared eligible for trial at this stage. At this time, no charges have been laid against Mr  Hicks. Although Mr Habib has not yet been listed as eligible for trial, the Government understands that US authorities are expediting consideration of his case. 

This bill provides a statutory basis for returning Mr Hicks and Mr Habib to Australia in the event that they are charged, convicted and sentenced to a period of imprisonment. It is a preparatory step to ensure that both men can, if the circumstances arise, benefit from the humanitarian nature of the international prisoner transfer scheme.

The amendments will increase the flexibility and application of the international prisoner transfer scheme as it applies in Australia, allowing the scheme to apply to a broader range of areas.

This will allow the Act to apply to a larger number of Australian citizens or persons with community links to Australia who are imprisoned in foreign countries.

The amendments will also allow for a larger number of foreign nationals imprisoned in Australia to return to their home countries, thereby providing an economic benefit to Australia.

For example, Australia has been discussing with Hong Kong and China the possibility of entering into an agreement for transfer of prisoners from Hong Kong for a number of years. However, the unusual status of Hong Kong, like Guantanamo Bay, precludes the application of the International Transfer of Prisoners Act 1997 to that area.

And, with the breakdown of colonial regimes around the world, it is increasingly likely that we will be confronted with other regions of unusual status with whom we may be interested in finalising a prisoner exchange agreement.

To facilitate the transfer of prisoners back to Australia from Guantanamo Bay and areas with an unusual status, such as Hong Kong, it is necessary to amend the Act.

The first amendment, when taken with the third and fourth amendments, address an anomaly whereby a region or area that is not a sovereign country cannot be declared a transfer country for the purposes of the ITP Act.

The second amendment will clarify the meaning of the terms ‘court’ or ‘tribunal’ under the ITP Act to clarify a possible ambiguity, in particular whether a military commission can be considered a “court” or tribunal” for the purposes of the ITP Act.

This will enable the ITP Act to apply to a sentence of imprisonment imposed by a US military commission.

The third amendment will extend the list of areas that are deemed part of a transfer country for the purposes of the ITP Act.

This gives recognition to the fact that a transfer country may consist of a range of different regions which may not be considered a part of that country because, for example, it is not a part of the landmass that constitutes the mainland of that country. Increasing the flexibility and application of the ITP Act will provide increased community benefits. It will reduce the impact on Australian families who have family members imprisoned in areas that the Act currently does not apply to. It will also reduce the impact on Australian citizens imprisoned overseas who may suffer due to the cultural and language differences they experience in a foreign country.Returning such prisoners to Australia increases their chances of rehabilitation, not only by enabling the prisoner to take part in prison programs and services that they may not have accessible to them in a foreign country, but also by enabling prisoners to have more contact with their family.

Ref: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/dailys/ds040304.pdf

July 2005 
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The area of examination is one involving significant government political interests in which individual rights can be sacrificed. Cases such as Schapelle Corby, David Hicks, the Bali 9 and Dragan Vasiljkovic are right with us now and could be affected by there view. In each of those cases the behaviour of other governments towards our citizens, has been different than what Australia would do in the name of justice.