Catholics In Coalition for Justice and Peace

Cluster Munitions

Latest Update: Senate passes Cluster Munitions Bill

22/08/2012 - On  21 August, the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010 was passed in the Senate without amendment by a vote of 29 to 10. The Bill will be signed into law shortly and then Australia will deposit its instrument of ratification to the Convention on Cluster Munitions with the United Nations and become a state party.

Human Rights Watch has described the legislation as having 'gaping loopholes' that are inconsistent with the Convention - namely, provisions which could allow Australian forces to help non-signatory nations to use, transfer, and stockpile cluster munitions. 'Australia should issue clear policy statements that it will not knowingly assist with the use of cluster munitions, and will not grant permission for foreign forces to stockpile cluster munitions on, or transit cluster munitions through, Australian territory.' - HRW

Thank you to all CCJP members and supporters who contacted Senators to voice their concerns with the legislation.

Background on cluster munitions and Australian legislation

Cluster munitions are large weapons that open to release hundreds of small bombs which rain down over a wide area. Many do not explode on impact and continue killing and maiming for decades. It is estimated that 98% of recorded cluster munitions casualties are civilians, and 27% are children.

In December 2008, ninety-four countries including Australia signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Convention obliges State parties to: never, under any circumstances, use cluster munitions, directly or indirectly stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions to anyone, or assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage on any activity prohibited to a State party under the Convention. The Convention entered into force as legally binding international law on 1 August 2010. There are now 111 signatories.

In order to ratify the Convention, a nation must first enact domestic legislation to implement the Convention. To this end, the Australian Government drafted the Criminal Code Amendment (Cluster Munitions Prohibition) Bill 2010. However, the legislation contains exemptions which run contrary to the intent of the Convention - they allow our troops to assist foreign troops in using cluster bombs, and they enable cluster munitions to be stockpiled in, or transited through, Australian territory and airspace by foreign governments.

According to Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, 'The Harvard Law School's International Human Rights Clinic said the proposed Australian law could be interpreted to 'allow Australian military personnel to load and aim the gun, so long as they did not pull the trigger'.'

Useful links

Cluster Munition Coalition Australia

International Cluster Munition Coaltion

An inventory of WikiLeaks cables relating to the Australian government's attempts to 'water down treaty text in the international Cluster Munitions Convention relating to ‘military interoperability’ – that is, the ability for foreign militaries to conduct joint operations'


Expired Action Alert (issued 20/0802012) - for reference only

Please act urgently to stop Australian involvement in cluster munitions!

Late last night, the Senate began debating a Bill which, if passed, would allow Australian troops to assist foreign allies to stockpile, transit and use cluster munitions.

The parliamentary debate will resume at 12:30pm today (Tuesday August 21).

Please contact your Senators ASAP to let them know that the Bill is unacceptable because it allows Australia to support the use of cluster munitions.

Urgent phone and email action is required

Please contact these Senators as soon as possible:

1. Your own Senators - find a list on this APH page
2. Senator Nicola Roxon / Phone. +61 2 6277 7300 / Email:
3. Senator the Hon Bob Carr / Phone: +61 2 6277 7500 / Fax: +61 2 6273 4112 / Email: / Twitter: @bobjcarr
4. Senator Ann McEwen / Phone: +61 2 6277 3434 / Fax: +61 2 6277 3425 / Email:
5. Senator Jacinta Collins / Phone: +61 2 6277 3115 / Email:

Key messages:

Tell them who you are and that you are calling/writing to request that the Australian Government amend the Bill on cluster munitions.

Tell them that the current legislation is unacceptable because:

- It allows Australian troops to directly and actively assist States not party to the Convention to use cluster munitions (the clauses on interoperability - paragraph 72.41)

- It also explicitly allows States not party to the Convention to stockpile cluster munitions on Australian soil and permits them to transit cluster munitions through Australian ports and airspace (the clause on stockpiling - paragraph 72.42)

Tell them that the Senate should significantly revise these sections in order to ensure that Australia will live up to its legal and humanitarian commitments.