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About the Australian Treaties Library

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On 2 May 1996, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Alexander Downer MP, and the Commonwealth Attorney-General, the Hon. Daryl Williams AM QC MP, announced reforms to facilitate the involvement of Parliament, the States and Territories, industry, non-government organisations, and the wider community in the making and implementation of Australian treaties. The effectiveness of the reforms, in promoting consultation and transparency in treaty-making, is currently under review.

The Government decided to: allow more opportunity for Parliamentary scrutiny before final action to undertake international legal obligations; provide National Interest Analyses with all treaty actions being tabled for Parliamentary consideration; establish a Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in the Commonwealth Parliament; establish a Commonwealth-State Treaties Council as an adjunct to the Council of Australian Governments; and make treaties more generally accessible, through construction of an Internet database - this Treaties Library.

I. Tabling of Treaties
All treaties (and related actions, including amendments to and withdrawal from treaties) are tabled in Parliament for at least fifteen sitting days in both Houses before the Government takes binding action (with special procedures for instances of exceptional urgency). In most cases, this means that treaties are tabled for consideration after signature but before the final step (e.g. ratification or confirmatory exchange of notes) to bind Australia under international law.

II. National Interest Analyses
Each treaty is tabled with a National Interest Analysis (NIA). The NIA gives reasons why Australia should become a party to the treaty. Where relevant, the NIA contains a discussion of economic, environmental, social, and cultural effects. Important elements are a description of the consultation undertaken during the treaty-making process, and a certification that arrangements for domestic implementation (e.g. legislation, regulations) are or will be in place before entry into force.

III. Joint Standing Committee on Treaties
The Joint Standing Committee was first formed on 17 June 1996. The Committee considers tabled treaties and NIAs , and other questions relating to international instruments that are referred to it by either House of Parliament or a Minister. The Committee conducts inquiries, including public hearings, and reports to Parliament, normally within the period of fifteen sitting days.

IV. Treaties Council
The Treaties Council, agreed upon by the Council of Australian Governments on 14 June 1996, consists of the Prime Minister and all the State Premiers and Chief Ministers of the Territories, and has an advisory function. It is co-ordinated by the officials-level Commonwealth-State Standing Committee on Treaties. The Council's inaugural meeting was held in November 1997.

V. Australian Treaties Library
The Australian Treaties Library disseminates treaty information to the public in a freely accessible form through the Internet. It is a fully searchable, hypertext-linked resource that includes treaty texts (Australian Treaty Series), indexes, status lists, and explanatory material. It was developed and is maintained by the Australasian Legal Information Institute with funding and material provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.

The following information is available on the site:

Disclaimer: While we have endeavoured to provide accurate copies of texts of treaties on this site, the only authoritative texts of treaties are the original documents or certified copies thereof. Where such documents are held by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade in Canberra, texts can be verified for accuracy by the Department. Email: treaties@dfat.gov.au.

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