This report contains the Committee’s review of two treaty actions:
Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the French Republic Concerning the Reprocessing in France of Australian Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Elements (Canberra, 23 November 2017); and
Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus), (Nuku’alofa, 14 June 2017).
The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the French Republic Concerning the Reprocessing in France of Australian Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Elements is necessary to satisfy the requirements of French domestic law before reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from the Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) research reactor can be undertaken in France. French domestic law requires that radioactive waste arising from reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel not be stored in France past an agreed date. The Agreement meets these requirements.
The Committee considered several issues of broader concern outside the remit of the Agreement including the merits of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and the long term storage of nuclear waste in Australia. The Committee acknowledges the important work being undertaken at the OPAL reactor and concludes that the ongoing operation of the reactor is essential. The Committee accepts that reprocessing the spent fuel from the OPAL reactor is the best option currently available to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and that the arrangement with France will provide certainty in the foreseeable future. The Committee therefore recommends that binding treaty action be taken.
Although the Committee is satisfied with the safety of the current arrangements for the interim storage of the returned reprocessed intermediate-level waste held at Lucas Heights, it urges the Government to expedite the establishment of the proposed National Radioactive Waste Management Facility (NRWMF) to alleviate the uncertainty over a final pathway for disposal of nuclear waste in Australia. The Committee is aware of the growing stockpile of radioactive waste across the country, not only from the ANSTO facility but from other sources. Although the need for the NRWMF may not appear pressing at the moment, there is some urgency considering the past difficulties this project has encountered and possible future delays.
The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) principally concerns free trade between Australia and New Zealand and Pacific Island countries. The Committee considers that the absence of Papua New Guinea and Fiji from PACER Plus significantly diminishes the utility of the Agreement for Australian business. However, the Committee accepts that every effort is being made to encourage both countries to join the Agreement.
The Committee acknowledges the development assistance aspects of PACER Plus but notes that this assistance is coming from the existing aid budget. This suggests that it may have been expended as aid to Pacific Island countries anyway. Therefore it is not clear how tying this expenditure to PACER Plus implementation is likely to provide a greater benefit to Pacific Island countries than it otherwise would have had.
The Committee is concerned about the impact of PACER Plus on the already limited revenues of Pacific Island Governments. The combination of the impact of reduced revenue on public health capacity and access to tariff free products that cause harm has been a significant issue in the inquiry. While the Committee supports ratification of the Agreement it also recommends that part of the development assistance allocated to implementing PACER Plus be specifically used to monitor the revenue of Pacific Island Governments, the public health, and gender equality impact of the Agreement, and where necessary, provide funds to Pacific Island countries to assist relevant development outcomes.
The Report also contains the Committee’s review of the following two minor treaty actions:
amendments to the Code of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 approved at Geneva on 9 June 2016; and
amendment to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.