HREOC's Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee’s inquiry into the Law and Justice Amendment Bill 2005

Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee
Department of the Senate
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

7 July 2005

Dear Madam Chair

Law and Justice Amendment Bill 2005 – HREOC Submission

Thank you for inviting HREOC to make a submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee’s (the Committee) inquiry into the Law and Justice Amendment Bill 2005 (the Bill).

HREOC wishes to confine its submission to the amendments contained in Schedule Two to the Bill.

HREOC welcomes the proposed amendments to sections 268.68 and 268.88 of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth), which implement Australia’s obligation under article 4(2) of the Optional Protocol on the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (the Optional Protocol) to “take all feasible measures” to prevent non-State armed groups recruiting or using in hostilities persons under the age of 18 years.

HREOC notes that the Optional Protocol was the subject of inquiry and report by the Joint Standing Committee Treaties’ (JSCOT).

In its report, JSCOT recommended that the Defence Instruction (G) PERS 33-4 (the Defence Instruction) be readily accessible to members of the public, for instance by making it available on the Department of Defence website (JSOCT, Report 63, [8.49]). The Defence Instruction sets out the minimum age of voluntary recruits into the ADF and the safeguards that are to be applied to the recruitment and employment of persons under 18 years by the ADF, including the safeguards to be applied in times of armed conflict. JSCOT accepted that the Defence Instruction implements Australia’s obligations under articles 3 and 6(1) of the Optional Protocol and, as Australia’s implementing mechanism, should be readily accessible (JSOCT, Report 63, [8.49]).

HREOC understands that the Department of Defence is in process of implementing JSCOT’s recommendation, though HREOC does not know when this will be complete. HREOC welcomes moves by the Department of Defence to make the Defence Instruction readily accessible.

HREOC reiterates its concern expressed to the JSCOT inquiry that the Defence Instruction be readily available to members of the public. This would ensure that potential ADF personnel who are under 18 years old, as well as their parents (and any other person) have access to information about the recruitment and employment of persons under 18 years old by the ADF, at short notice if necessary. It would also further assist Australia to comply with its obligation under article 6(2) of the Optional Protocol to promote the principles and provisions of the Optional Protocol. A copy of the submission made by HREOC to the JSCOT inquiry is attached, for your reference.

Yours sincerely
John von Doussa QC

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Website: Legal Information Last updated 16 August 2005.