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Ms Parke (10:19 am) — I move:
That this House:
(1) calls on Australian parliamentarians to endorse the Global Parliamentarian Declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty;
(a) that the poor regulation of arms:
(i) results in tens-of-thousands of lives needlessly lost every year;
(ii) undermines peace and peace building processes, human security, poverty reduction initiatives, and prospects for sustainable socioeconomic development; and
(iii) facilitates gender-based violence against women who disproportionately endure the indirect, longer-term consequences of armed conflict; and
(b) the immediate need for a legally binding international agreement on the regulation of the global trade in arms;
(3) congratulates successive Australian governments for their demonstrated commitment to an internationally binding arms trade treaty; and
(4) calls on the Australian Government to continue strong advocacy for an international arms trade treaty at the upcoming United Nations negotiations on the matter in July 2012.
It is difficult to overstate the devastating effect of illicit weapons on individuals and communities around the world. In fact, it is estimated that 1,500 people are killed each day from conflict and armed violence. Incredibly, around 12 billion bullets are produced every year—that is about two for every person on the planet.
Part of the problem is that the multibillion dollar global trade in arms is largely unregulated. As Amnesty International and Oxfam Australia have noted in a letter to all MPs and senators, the trade in arms is more poorly regulated than the trade in bananas or coffee. Weapons are often traded irresponsibly between countries, with no consideration of whether they will be used to commit human rights abuses or diverted to those who will.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, for example, weapons continue to pour into the country despite clear evidence of human rights abuses, fuelling ongoing conflict and human suffering—weapons are diverted to war lords, women are raped at gunpoint and children are recruited as soldiers. In the DRC the asking price for an AK-47 is reported to be just US$50.
Most human rights violations are not committed with tanks or other heavy artillery; they involve small arms and light weapons. In small communities, such as in the Pacific, it is easy to imagine that just one armed gunman could hold a whole village hostage.
During July, UN member states will meet to negotiate a new treaty to regulate international transfers of conventional weapons. The purpose of the treaty is not to limit or reduce legitimate arms transfers but, rather, to prevent irresponsible transfers by requiring states to undertake risk assessments of each transfer to determine if they will be used to commit violations of international humanitarian or human rights law or seriously impair poverty reduction or socio-economic development. This is the fundamental purpose of the treaty, and specific criteria achieving this must be included in the treaty text.
A robust treaty should include all types of conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons, and ammunition. Ammunition is likely to be a sticking point, particularly for the US, which argues that it is too onerous to track. However, ammunition must be included in the scope of the treaty. Some weapons, such as the AK-47, are virtually indestructible. So their use continues for decades, by one group after the next as they are traded around, because ammunition for them is readily available. The treaty should also cover all types of trade activity, including transhipments, brokering and gifting. Critically, the treaty should be legally binding and require national implementation with clear reporting provisions.
Successive Australian governments have strongly supported the establishment of a robust treaty. Australia has co-authored every United Nations resolution on an arms trade treaty since 2006 and has played an active role as Friend of the Chair. Australia has advocated widely for the arms trade treaty in the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa. I encourage the Australian government delegation, led by Foreign Minister Carr, to continue to champion a robust, comprehensive and legally binding instrument. There is no doubt that negotiating this treaty in four weeks is an ambitious task. However, considering the staggering impact irresponsible arms transfers have on humanity, there is certainly an urgent need for a positive outcome. And, where there's a will, there's a way.
The deepening crisis in Syria is indeed a poignant reminder of the critical need for an arms trade treaty. Amnesty International's latest report on Syria, Deadly Reprisals, provides further evidence that deliberate and unlawful killings are part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population, are carried out in an organised manner and as part of state policy, and therefore amount to crimes against humanity. And yet some nations, such as Russia, continue to ship weapons to Syria, despite the high risk they will be used to commit atrocities.
The international community now has a historic opportunity to negotiate a treaty that will prevent weapons getting into the wrong hands and could save hundreds of thousands of lives. I would like to pay tribute to Amnesty International and Oxfam Australia for their campaign to raise awareness and support within the community and among parliamentarians. I note the briefings conducted by Amnesty International last week in the parliament on this subject. I also note and welcome the efforts of the Parliamentarians for Global Action, or PGA, to promote the new treaty as one of its major campaigns, including asking parliamentarians to sign the Global Parliamentarian Declaration on the Arms Trade Treaty. So far, more than 1,500 parliamentarians from all over the world, including more than 50 Australian federal MPs and senators, have signed the declaration.
I thank colleagues for their support of this important arms trade treaty that will play a role in promoting regional and global security and save tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost each year.