This report reviews two proposed major treaty actions:
Framework Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d’Armement (OCCAR)) for the Participation of Australia in OCCAR-Managed Programmes; and
Minamata Convention on Mercury.
OCCAR Managed Programmes Participation Agreement
The proposed Framework Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en Matière d’Armement (OCCAR)) for the Participation of Australia in OCCAR-Managed Programmes provides a legal framework for Australia’s formal participation in OCCAR-managed programmes, as a non-member (participating) state.
The Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR/the Organisation) was established to promote cooperation in defence procurement and sustainment. Member states are: France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Spain. The Organisation coordinates, controls and implements armament programmes assigned to it by member states and participating states. It currently operates 17 programmes and manages an annual operating budget portfolio of €4 billion.
The Committee notes Australia is an observer on three OCCAR programmes. Cognisant of the wide range of benefits that may be obtained through OCCAR-managed procurement and sustainment programmes, including access to expertise in research and development, economies of scale, risk reduction and other systemic efficiencies, Australia has been seeking to participate formally in OCCAR-managed programmes for nearly a decade.
The Committee is satisfied Australia’s participation in any OCCAR-managed programme would occur after a thorough analysis of Australia’s particular needs and interests, including building and supporting local defence capability and supply chains. It considers that binding treaty action should be taken.
Minamata Convention on Mercury
The Minamata Convention on Mercury (the Convention), named after a Japanese city where the industrial release of methyl mercury from the 1950s caused the Minamata disease epidemic, has created a global regime to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury. The Convention has been in force since 16 August 2017 and to date has been ratified by 132 countries and regional organisations.
Mercury is a chemical of global concern. It is a toxic pollutant with the capacity for long-range atmospheric transport. It bioaccumulates in ecosystems and has significant effects on human health and the environment. There is no known safe exposure level for mercury in humans. Mercury is never destroyed.
By some estimates as much as 9,000 tonnes of mercury are released around the world each year. While Australia’s mercury emissions and releases are relatively small, it is highly likely that Australians are being affected by mercury pollution from overseas. Mercury pollution is at such a scale it cannot be managed or reduced by one country alone.
The Convention is a multilateral platform for global action that commits Parties to addressing the lifecycle of mercury. The Convention encompasses measures to control the supply and trade of mercury; limit emissions and releases of mercury; and address the environmentally sound interim storage of mercury, and contaminated sites. The Convention recognises countries have different capacities and includes measures to mobilise financial resources for implementation in developing countries. There are provisions to ensure accountability, and to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the Convention.
There are a number of reasons for Australia to ratify the Convention. There is a need for global action and for Australia to be a responsible global citizen demonstrating leadership in the region. Ratification would provide certainty for, and decrease the regulatory burden on, Australian business and industry. Australia would be able to participate in regulation-making and shape future decision making under the Convention. Benefits would accrue from and for scientific research, and there would be public health improvements.
As a consequence of Australia’s existing and robust legislative and policy frameworks to protect the community from toxic chemicals, ratification would have negligible regulatory or financial impacts.
Mindful that Australia has been slow to ratify the Convention, the Committee considers the proposal to seek an exemption to allow the continued importation of High Pressure Mercury Vapour (HPMV) lamps into Australia beyond ratification to be ill-considered. The industry requirement for such an exemption has not been apparent, in submissions received and in witness testimony, and it is clear that industry is already transitioning rapidly away from the use of HPMV lamps. Furthermore, seeking such an exemption would put Australia in odd company, alongside less-developed countries with poorer environmental stewardship credentials, such as Iran, Madagascar, China and Ghana.
The Committee supports the Convention and recommends that binding treaty action be taken. The Committee recommends the Government reassess the need to seek an exemption to allow for the continued importation of HPMV lamps into Australia, considering such an exemption to be reputationally damaging and of limited practical benefit.
Minor treaty actions
The report also contains the Committee’s reviews on three minor treaty actions:
Amendment to the International Tropical Timber Agreement, 2006 (ITTA);
Amendment to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as contained in Notification 2020/068;
Amendment to Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as contained in Notification 2021/026.
The Committee supports the minor treaty actions and agreed that binding treaty action be taken in relation to the amendments to the ITTA and Appendix III of CITES as contained in Notification 2021/026. As the amendments to Appendix III of CITES as contained in Notification 2020/068 had already entered into force before being referred to the Committee, it was not necessary for the Committee to consider whether binding treaty action be taken.