The Greens spokesperson assisting on defence, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, called on the Senate to amend the "dangerously flawed" cluster munitions bill scheduled for debate in the upper house today.
"As it stands, this law completely fails to meet our obligations under the international Convention outlawing cluster bombs. It allows Australian forces to store, transport and assist in the use of cluster bombs and does not outlaw direct and indirect investment in companies producing cluster munitions. These are fundamental flaws," said Senator Ludlam.
"Four years ago the Australian Government signed the Convention agreeing that cluster munitions should be completely eradicated, yet has proposed a law with deliberate loopholes that would allow the United States military to store and transport these weapons within Australia.
"Allowing the US to stockpile cluster munitions in Australia violates Article Nine of the Convention. The Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic said this proposed law could be interpreted to ‘allow Australian military personnel to load and aim the gun, so long as they did not pull the trigger'.
"Sub-munitions from cluster bombs that do not explode on impact remain a threat for decades after deployment. 98 per cent of the people killed by these sub-munitions are civilians: farmers tilling soil, children who mistake them for toys. These weapons are indiscriminate. These weapons are designed for maximum human casualties and maximum human suffering.*
"Our country is a signatory to a convention aimed at eliminating cluster munitions from the face of the earth for all time. There is no grey area. These weapons are monstrous, their use is criminal and depraved, and they have no legitimate role to play under any circumstances, ever."
Senator Ludlam urged all parties to support the Greens amendments to the bill to close the loopholes and take a strong stand.
"The Australian Government must take a decisive stand against these weapons of mass murder. If we allow cluster bombs to be stored anywhere in our country - we will be complicit in their use, and in the mass civilian death that follows. This is not a question of Left against Right, it is a question of humanity against inhumanity: The Senate must fix this bill."
* Of the 13,306 recorded cluster munitions casualties registered with Handicap International, 98 per cent are civilians and 27 per cent are children (2011).