LAW: by Trevor St BakerNews Weekly
International Criminal Court decision to dog government
, August 10, 2002
After decades of ratifications of international treaties by the Federal Government, without any reference to Parliament, and in many cases in contravention to the constitutional division of powers between the States and the Commonwealth, the Howard Government set up a Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties.
This Committee, like the proverbial "giraffe designer", is doing little else than rubber-stamping the proposals of the Federal bureaucracy.
Most recently, the Federal Government's ratification of the International Criminal Court, at the behest of Department of Foreign Affairs' officials and the legal fraternity who can now look forward to rewarding lives of endless junkets to the Hague, and under the tutelage of an Attorney-General whose advice to Government has been clearly flawed and misguided, the Federal Government has now made Australians the subject of ill-defined notions of international law, under a totally undemocratic institution.
Hijacked in Cabinet by a misguided sense of loyalty to particular Ministers, the underlying uncertainty over the Prime Minister's continued incumbency after June next year, and in the Coalition party room by factional promises of ministries and ambassadorships, and aided by a strong left-wing bias in the ABC and the media generally in Australia, which would not provide balance to the debate in the community about the ICC, the Howard Government decided to ratify the ICC Treaty on 30 June 2002.
The ratification was strongly opposed by Australia's most eminent constitutional experts, including all attendees at the conference of the Samuel Griffith Society in June 2002, prior to ratification, but this was totally unreported.
The first act of the ICC was to argue that foreign nationals sent as United Nations peace-keepers in world trouble spots could not be protected from prosecution by the ICC.
So much for the high-sounding aims of the ICC proponents to be simply trying to prevent another genocide, such as occurred in Rwanda.
So much for the conditions the Howard Government claimed they were placing on Australia's ratification, conditions which the Attorney-General said were appropriate, but which legal and constitutional experts across the country were advising were voided by the ICC's charter.
In the third week of the ICC, now, we have the Australian Broadcasting Corporation urging Amnesty International to take the Australian Government to task, and possibly to the ICC, over its alleged detention of children against the provisions of another international treaty on children, previously ratified by the Australian Government.
The ICC is a reality now, but since we have both politicians, judges and lawyers who put self before country, a pre-requisite for any appointment by the Australian Government to the councils or benches of the ICC must be a strong advocacy for
the unacceptability of judges making laws or of ICC judges entertaining any jurisdiction over countries with respected democratic legal jurisdictions.
The ICC was not set up to hear cases relating to:
- the detention of refugees in Australia,
- Australian treatment of aborigines,
- the actions of soldiers at war or of United Nations peace-keepers sent to near-war zones, or
- capital punishment in the United States.
Australia must work to help form a coalition of common sense to keep the truly altruistic objectives of ICC proponents on track.
- Trevor St Baker is Qld State President of the Council for the National Interest