Labor and the Coalition united to betray Australian obligations under international law to eradicate cluster bombs, the Australian Greens said tonight after the Government's cluster munitions bill passed the Senate.
The Greens spokesperson assisting on Defence, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said the bill "ignores the urgent pleadings of the medical and humanitarian communities and completely fails to meet our obligations under the international Convention outlawing cluster bombs".
"Sub-munitions from cluster bombs that do not explode on impact remain a threat for decades - 98% of the victims of these are civilians. These monstrous weapons have no legitimate role to play under any circumstances.
"This law allows Australian forces to store, transport, and assist in the use of cluster bombs. Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic said this law could ‘allow Australian military personnel to load and aim the gun, so long as they did not pull the trigger'. It also fails to outlaw indirect investment in companies producing cluster munitions.
"The Government advised me in the Senate last night that storing and transporting cluster munitions for other countries is not their policy. If it's not their policy, why is it allowed by the legislation? Why not close the loophole?"
Senator Ludlam tabled leaked diplomatic cables - published by WikiLeaks and used in Fairfax media reports in May 2011 - showing the Government, at the behest of the United States, lobbied to undermine the Convention to allow the very same flaws now entrenched in Australian domestic law.
"Despite the denials, leaks revealed that the Government lobbied countries to water-down the Convention on eradicating cluster munitions. That shameful misadventure failed, and as a result our country is a signatory to an unequivocal agreement aimed at eliminating cluster munitions from the face of the Earth: There is no grey area and there are no excuses - yet tonight the Government and the Opposition have shown no backbone and no honour."