Greater Transparency For Treaty-Making Process

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, has announced changes to the treaty-making process, aimed to provide greater transparency and public accessibility.

The timeframe for parliamentary consultation with interest groups will be extended, and the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties will have a revised procedure for public consultations.

Downer also announced that an Australian Treaties Database with a powerful search engine capability will be formed.

Text of announcement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer.

I am pleased to announce changes to the treaty-making process that will provide greater transparency and public accessibility.

Firstly, the timeframe for parliamentary consultation with interest groups will be extended. Secondly, more official information on treaties and the treaty-making process will be made available on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s website.

Public submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) have almost doubled in the past three years and the increased workload has threatened to detract from the quality of the committee’s reports.

In response to this, treaty actions to be considered by JSCOT will now be divided into two categories: those of major political, economic or social significance which are likely to attract considerable public interest and debate. The timeframe for consultation on these will be increased from 15 sitting days to 20 sitting days.

Based on parliamentary sitting patterns, this effectively boosts the real consultation time from five to eight weeks.

The remainder of the treaty actions, representing about two-thirds of those currently under consideration, will continue to be dealt with within the current 15 sitting day period (see attachment below).

Our second initiative is the formation of an Australian Treaties Database with a powerful search engine and report-generating capacity.

The database will also summarise key treaty action dates and and will be linked to treaty texts in the Australian Treaties Library. It can be found at at www.info.dfat.gov.au/treaties.

The database will be a valuable research tool for officials, students, academics, the legal professional and the public.

These initiatives are part of the on-going process to facilitate parliamentary scrutiny of the treaty-making process and public accountability and reflect the Government’s determination to ensure continuous improvement.

TREATIES WHICH WOULD CONTINUE TO BE TABLED FOR 15 SITTING DAYS

Bilateral

  • Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPA)
  • Double Taxation
  • Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters
  • Air Services
  • Employment of Spouses of Diplomatic Representatives
  • Prisoner Transfer
  • Defence:
    • Protection of Classified Information
    • Status of Forces

Multilateral

  • Communications, including:
    • World Radio Conference
    • Intelsat
  • Post, including:
    • World Postal Union
    • Asia/Pacific Postal Union
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