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Country Reports
AUSTRALIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Australian Foreign Minister, the Honorable Alexander Downer, signed the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa on 3 December 1997. One year later, on 10 December 1998, the Australian Parliament passed national ratification and implementation legislation titled the “Antipersonnel Mines Convention Bill 1998." Australia was the fifty-ninth country to deposit its instrument of ratification at the United Nations in New York on 14 January 1999.

Australia’s non-governmental movement calling for a ban on antipersonnel landmines was initiated in 1991 and is one of the oldest in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. In 1995 they were told by then-Foreign Minister Gareth Evans that their call for a ban was “hopelessly utopian.”[1] In late 1995, during a national election campaign, the Labor Government declared that Australia was committed to “the elimination of all antipersonnel landmines as an ultimate goal.”

In April 1996, one of the first policy announcements of the new Coalition was a joint statement by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense pledging Australia’s support for a global ban on production, stockpiling, use and transfer of antipersonnel landmines.[2] The ministers announced a suspension of the operational use of antipersonnel landmines, with an exception “in the case of a substantial deterioration in our strategic circumstances, in which Australia’s security was under threat ....”[3]

Australia attended the October 1996 pro-ban governments meeting which launched the Ottawa Process, but after the US decision in January 1997 to attempt to negotiate a ban through the Conference on Disarmament, Australia began increasing its support for this option as opposed to the Ottawa Process. Australia’s Ambassador to the CD, John Campbell, was appointed by the body as a Special Coordinator in 1997 to examine the possibility of negotiating a comprehensive ban on AP mines in the CD, and again in 1998 to look at the possibilities of an export ban. To date, he has been unable to get a consensus on the issue.

During 1997, Australia attended all of the Ottawa Process diplomatic meetings, but without embracing the treaty. When asked about its attitude toward the Ottawa Process and the goal of a comprehensive ban treaty by December 1997, a senior adviser to the Minister for Defense wrote in mid-June that Australia favored the CD because of its “proven track record in developing significant international legal agreements such as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention,” because “it facilitates genuinely multilateral negotiation” and because “a rapidly negotiated ban treaty which does not attract the support of the major antipersonnel landmine producing, exporting and using states will do little in practical terms to relieve the humanitarian crisis.”[4]

At the Brussels Conference in late June, the ICBL was compelled to release a media statement questioning Australia’s promotion of the CD.[5] Australia left the meeting without joining ninety-seven other governments in endorsing the pro-ban treaty Brussels Declaration. At the Sydney Colloquium, “Towards Ottawa and Beyond” in July 1997, Australian government representatives disturbed campaigners by their continued insistence that an effective ban could be better negotiated through the CD.[6]

Australia came nonetheless, like the United States, as a full participant to the Oslo negotiations of the ban treaty with its CD Ambassador John Campbell as Head of Delegation. Australia’s sincerity was questioned by concerned campaigners as it threw its support behind U.S. proposals that, if accepted, would have seriously weakened the treaty including an exception for continued use of mines in Korea, a delay of nine years for entry into force, and a withdrawal in times of war clause. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister defended against the criticisms arguing, “Australia played an active and constructive role in the Oslo negotiations and succeeded in securing a number of improvements to make the final document even stronger” including in areas such as definitions and verification.[7]

In the aftermath of the treaty negotiations, Australia reassessed its position and announced on 17 November the “difficult” decision that it would sign the ban treaty in Ottawa. Earlier that week at the UN, Australia had voted in the First Committee for a UN General Assembly resolution endorsing the ban treaty. The First Committee also adopted an Australian-led resolution which invited the Conference on Disarmament to intensify its efforts on antipersonnel mines.[8]

Downer remarked: “We initially had some reservations about the Ottawa processes as distinct from the Conference on Disarmament process, because we hoped that, through a Conference on Disarmament convention, it would be possible for it to be comprehensive and that we would get everybody in it. It was clear in the end that was not going to happen, for all sorts of reasons, so the Ottawa path was the only path that could be followed.”[9]

A key 1998 government document further elaborated on Australia’s reluctance to sign: “the decision to sign the Convention last December held some difficulties for the Government. Antipersonnel mines represent a significant tactical capability that has had a well-established place in ADF [Australian Defense Force] plans for the conduct of military operations. Finding alternatives will involve a costly research and development effort. As alternative technology does not exist and is some years away, the ADF for this period could face an increased risk of casualties, especially if deployed overseas, and a potentially reduced capacity for coalition operations in certain circumstances.”[10]

Australia continues to profess its commitment to negotiating a ban on antipersonnel mine transfers in the Conference on Disarmament.[11] In February 1999, it was one of the twenty-two CD members that jointly called, once again, for the appointment of a Special Coordinator on AP mines, and the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee to negotiate a transfer ban.[12]

Australia is also a strong supporter of the Convention on Conventional Weapons and its Protocol II on landmines. Australia is a state party to the CCW and ratified amended Protocol II on 22 August 1997.

Antipersonnel Mines Convention Bill

Since May 1996, all treaties that are tabled in Australia’s Parliament are accompanied by a “National Interest Analysis” that “notes the reason why Australia should become a party to the treaty.”[13] The Analysis was tabled in both houses of the Australian parliament on 26 May 1998, while the legislation itself was not tabled until 11 November 1998. The Analysis proposed “National Declaration” language setting out Australia’s understanding of the treaty including its effects, direct financial costs, obligations imposed, domestic implementation, consultation that has occurred and whether the treaty provides for withdrawal or denunciation. The National Declaration language contained in the National Interest Analysis and described below remained unchanged and on 15 January 1999 it was deposited along with the instrument of ratification at the United Nations in New York.[14] This Declaration describes Australia’s understandings in relation to Articles 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7 of the ban treaty.

In relation to Article One (General Obligations), Australia’s National Declaration on use is that:

“in the context of operations, exercises or other military activity authorised by the United Nations or otherwise conducted in accordance with international law, the participation by the Australian Defence Force, or individual Australian citizens or residents, in such operations, exercises or other military activity conducted in combination with the armed forces of States not party to the Convention which engage in activity prohibited under the Convention would not by itself, be considered to be in violation of the Convention.”

There is serious concern about the consistency of this understanding with the treaty’s Article One provision that each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to “assist, encourage, or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited” by the treaty. The National Declaration goes on to interpret the words “use,” “assist,” “encourage,” and “induce” in a very narrow fashion, that, at the least, appears to go against the spirit of a treaty aimed at the total elimination of all possession and use of antipersonnel mines. The understandings seem clearly aimed at permitting joint operations with the United States in which U.S. forces use antipersonnel mines.

It interprets the word “use” as meaning: “... the actual physical emplacement of antipersonnel mines and does not include receiving an indirect or incidental benefit from antipersonnel mines laid by another State or person.” (emphasis added).

It interprets the word “assist” to mean: “... the actual and direct physical participation in any activity prohibited by the Convention but does not include permissible indirect support such as the provision of security for the personnel of a State not party to the Convention engaging in such activities.” (emphasis added).

It interprets the word “encourage” to mean “... the actual request for the commission of any activity prohibited by the Convention,” and “induce” to mean “the active engagement in the offering of threats or incentives to obtain the commission of any activity prohibited by the Convention.” (emphasis added).

The phrase “jurisdiction or control” is defined as meaning “within the sovereign territory of a State Party or over which it exercises legal responsibility by virtue of a United Nations mandate or arrangement with another State and the ownership or physical possession of antipersonnel mines, but does not include the temporary occupation of, or presence on, foreign territory where antipersonnel mines have been laid by other States or persons.”

When the National Interest Analysis and Antipersonnel Mines Convention Bill 1998 were tabled, parliamentary debate resolved around Part 2, clause 7(3) of the Bill which read:

“Section 7(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to anything done by way of participation in operations, exercises or other military activities conducted in combination with an armed force that:

(a) is an armed force of a country that is not a party to the Convention, and

(b) engages in an activity prohibited under the Convention.”

The Member of Parliament for Cowan, Graham Edwards, expressed concern that clause 7(3) could be used as a loophole to assist countries which are not signatories to this convention and where Australia is involved in joint military operations. He asked for an assurance “that Australian defense personnel will know exactly what their guidelines are in relation to their responsibilities under this legislation. I want to be assured that defense personnel acting in good faith will have sufficient safeguards when involved in or supporting international operations.” [15]

The following day, Downer made a statement of clarification on the government’s understanding:

“Clause 7(3) is not intended to be construed as a blanket decriminalization of the activities listed in clause 7(1). There may be circumstances in which there are military operations carried out jointly with the armed forces of a country which is not a party to the convention. In the course of those operations, the armed forces of that country might engage in an activity which would be prohibited under the convention. Clause 7(3) provides that a person to whom the act applies will not be guilty of an offence merely by reason of participation in such combined exercises. However, that subclause does not provide a defense in circumstances where such a person actually carries out one of the prohibited acts in the course of those combined operations. In the event of a charge being laid, the prosecution would be required to prove that the actions alleged constituted an offence prohibited under clause 7(1). If the accused wished to rely on the exception of clause 7(3), he or she would need to produce evidence that suggests a reasonable possibility that the exception applies. If the accused is able to do this, it is for the prosecution to prove otherwise if the person is to be convicted.”[16]

Downer added for the parliamentary record that “the Australian Defense Force doctrinal and operation manuals will be amended to comply with the prohibitions contained in the bill, including the interpretation of clause 7(1) and (3)” and noted that “Australia’s compliance with the provisions of the convention will also be subject to the transparency measures in article 7 of the convention.” Downer defended the necessity for clause 7(3) and named the non-signatory country that Australia would need to conduct joint military operations with, namely its traditional defense ally the United States.[17]

Production and Transfer

Australia states that it does not produce and has never produced antipersonnel mines. The 15 April 1996 policy announcement stated that “Australia did not produce and would not export landmines.”[18]

Thus, Australia’s stockpile of mines are all imported. According to one U.S. government source, the U.S. shipped 38,000 antipersonnel mines to Australia in 1969, including 30,000 M16A1 bounding mines and 8,000 M18A1 Claymore mines.[19] According to another U.S. government source, the U.S. exported 8,000 AP mines to Australia between 1983 and 1992, but precise types and years are not known.[20] Details on other importations from other countries of AP mines are not available.

In the past, the Australian campaign voiced concerns about production and export by Australian Defense Industries (ADI) of a “Booby Trap Switch,” the F1, a combination switch designed to be used in “booby trapping” that can be operated as a pull switch, pressure switch, pressure release, tension release and trip. The F1 is a switch, not a munition, and must be fitted with a detonator.[21]

In its National Interest Analysis, Australia raised concern over a “costly research and development effort” to find alternatives to antipersonnel landmine but the actual cost and the extent of these efforts are unknown at present.


Australia has an estimated 60,000 stockpiled antipersonnel landmines although the Government has never made public the number or types of stockpiled mines.[22] The National Interest Analysis which examines the cost to Australia of implementing the treaty notes that “final destruction and exact quantities for retention are still to be determined,” but then goes on to state that initial indicative costs for destruction of the stockpile are 4.l million Australian dollars, of which stock write-offs total 3.9 million Australian dollars.[23] This appears to mean that the actual costs for destruction of Australia’s AP mines is approximately 200,000 Australian dollars or approximately U.S.$127,380.

The Australian campaign has asked for, but not yet received, the release of more details on the cost of destruction, exact number, types, origins, and destruction schedule by the Australian Defense Forces. Such details have previously been regarded as classified information. The Department of the Parliamentary Library has also attempted to gain information in this area, but with no success--only replies that the information is either not available or classified. Stockpile destruction typically costs about one U.S. dollar per mine while dismantling the mine is slightly more expensive at U.S.$1.50 per mine.[24]

No timetable for destruction of the stockpile has been announced, however Australia intends to destroy its stockpile “consistent with the provisions of the Ottawa Treaty.”[25]


Australia halted operational use of antipersonnel landmines on 15 April 1996. It has not used antipersonnel mines operationally since the Vietnam War. Australia retains the right to retain and use command detonated munitions (Claymore type mines) which under the terms of the National Declaration are not defined as antipersonnel mines.

Australia is not mine-affected.

Mine Action Funding

Australia’s international development agency, AusAID, Australia has contributed almost A$36 million (approximately U.S.$ 22.9 million) in funding to humanitarian mine action programs since 1994 including contributions from both the head office and from in-country posts. Australia has committed to spending A$100 million by the year 2005.[26]

Some of these funds include in-kind contributions in personnel costs. For example, in 1997-98 an Australian Defense Adviser to CMAC Cambodia cost A$240,000 (approximately U.S. $ 153,000) while in 1996-97 technical advisers to UNDP Trust Fund in Laos cost A$500,000 (approximately U.S.$318,000). Australian technical advisors are sent overseas to country Mine Action Centers as well as United Nations Head Quarters usually through a cost sharing arrangement between AusAID and the Department of Defense.

The funds have also paid for equipment. For example, in 1997 the Australian government provided A$l million (approximately U.S. $637,000) to CMAC for the purchase of mine detectors from the Australian company Minelab, which initially provided 325 detectors.

Funding has been provided to governments (for example, UXO Lao and the National Rehabilitation Center); to the military (Australian Defense Force has supplied personnel on a “full cost recovery” basis, reimbursed by AusAID); to NGOs including Austcare, Australian Red Cross, Handicap International, ICRC, World Vision Cambodia, World Vision Australia, and numerous local NGOs in Cambodia; to the UN Trust Fund; to UN agencies (UNICEF, UNDP, UNOCHA, UNDHA) and also to the various national, regional and international activities of the Australian Network of the ICBL.

According to AusAID it is not possible to provide information on how much money was received by the recipient country or organization or how much was spent in the field, for all mine action projects that they have undertaken. “A good deal of the funds have been provided to UNDP Trust Funds, particularly for Cambodia, Laos and Mozambique and more recently Sri Lanka. Because these are multilateral funds, Australia’s contribution cannot be distinguished from all others. Even on victim assistance we would not be able to give you a clear picture since much of our contributions in that category have gone to the International Committee for Red Cross for global appeals. As with UNDP contributions, this goes into a pool and Australian funds cannot be distinguished from others.”[27]

A Government initiative using funds from the Princess Diana Trust Fund is called the "Destroy a Minefield" program, under which individuals, schools, community groups, businesses and associations raise funds to clear an adopted minefield and help to return the land to local populations for productive use. These funds are then be subsidized with monies from the Trust Funds on the basis of one for every two dollars raised.[28]

The government-funded Australian Defense Science and Technology Organization will spend A$4 million over the next five years on “further research into mine detection and neutralization.”[29]

Mine Clearance

Demining assistance focuses on four countries -- Cambodia, Laos, Angola and Mozambique -- and includes support for surveys and clearance using detectors, sniffer dogs and, to a limited degree, mechanical clearance devices. The ultimate goal of Australia’s demining assistance is to build local capacity in affected countries to implement and sustain demining programs.

According to the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, “Australia continues to address some of the broader problems exacerbated by the presence of landmines. For instance, Cambodia is a major recipient of Australian food aid--food that is required partly as a result of arable land being heavily mined.”[30]

Australia provide a core contribution to the UN Mine Action Service to support its key role of coordination and is concerned that “donor activities are properly coordinated and matched with the priority needs of communities.”[31]

In March 1998, Australia appointed a Special Representative on Demining, the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Kathy Sullivan. Sullivan plays a key role in ensuring Australia's demining efforts are coordinated to maximize their impact in the field. She also works “to encourage the most effective global coordination of international donor resources to demining, victim assistance projects and landmine awareness education.”[32]

Landmine Casualties

There are Australian military, and peacekeeping casualties from landmines but no detailed data is available. A cursory examination of records held by the Australian War Memorial reveals that approximately fifty percent of Australia’s casualties in Vietnam were the result of landmines; of the 504 personnel killed and 3,000 or more who were injured, approximately half were casualties of mines which had been removed from minefields that Australia had laid.[33]

Australian landmine survivors are cared for under the nation’s health care system. Comprehensive national disability laws exist including the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.


[1]Senator Gareth Evans, Questions without Notice, Australian Senate, l June 1995.

[2]“Australia Pledges Support for Global Ban on Antipersonnel Landmines; unilaterally suspends use,” Press Release by Downer and MacLachlan, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), 15 April 1996.


[4]Peter Jennings, Senior Adviser in the Office of Minister for Defense, Letter to Dr. Ian Buckley, 13 June 1997.

[5]International Campaign to Ban Landmines, “Australian Duplicity At Landmines Conference,” Media Release, 25 June 1997.

[6]Australian Network ICBL, “Australian Ambivalence, South Pacific Commitment at Landmine Colloquium,” Media Release, June 1997.

[7]“Australia Shows Mine Ban Doubts,” West Australian, 19 September 1997.

[8]First Committee Adopts APMs Resolution, WKGR 8995, UNGA 52, United Nations.

[9]The Honorable Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Speech on Antipersonnel Mines Bill, House of Representatives Hansard, p. 623, 26 November 1998.

[10]DFAT, Conventional and Nuclear Disarmament Section, International Security Division, “National Interest Analysis: Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction,” tabled on 26 May 1998, http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/nia/1998/1998019n.html

[11]For example see: Member of Parliament Kathy Sullivan , “Landmines: Australia’s Policies & Programs,” Speech to Soroptimist International meeting, Melbourne, 30 October 1998; and Downer, Speech on Landmines Bill, House of Representatives, 26 November 1998.

[12]Statement by Bulgarian Ambassador Petko Draganov to the Conference on Disarmament, undated but February 1999.

[13]“Australia and International Treaty Making: Questions and Answers,” http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/other/dfat/infokit.html#3.

[14]DFAT, “National Interest Analysis,” tabled on 26 May 1998. See also: Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, Declarations: Austrailia. www.un.org/Depts/Treaty/final/ts2/newfiles/part_boo/xxvi_boo/xxvi_5.html.

[15]Graham Edwards MP, Speech to the Australian House of Representatives (page 558 Hansard), 25 November 1998.

[16]The Honorable Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Speech to the Australian House of Representatives (pp. 624-625 Hansard), 26 November 1998.


[18]“Australia Pledges Support for Global Ban on Antipersonnel Landmines; unilaterally suspends use,” Press Release by Downer and MacLachlan, DFAT, 15 April 1996.

[19]U.S. Army, Armament, Munitions, and Chemical Command (USAMCCOM), Letter to Human Rights Watch, 25 August 1993, and attached statistical tables.

[20]Letter from Valerie Belon, Demining Action Officer, US Dept. of State, to Human Rights Watch, 29 March 1994, and attached table from the Defense Security Assistance Agency, "US Landmine Sales by Country."

[21]Bill van Ree and Patricia Garcia, Austcare, email correspondence to Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch, 22 March 1999.

[22]Two sources citing 60,000 AP mines are: Gervase Greene, “Australia to Sign Landmine Treaty,” The Age, November 1997; and MAPW (Australia), “Australia Joins the World at Ottawa,” MAPW National Newsletter, Summer 1997-98.

[23]DFAT, “National Interest Analysis,” tabled on 26 May 1998.

[24]Thomas Hajnoczi, Government of Austria, Panel Presentation “Toward a Ban: The Ottawa Treaty, An Overview,” in ICBL Report: Regional Conference on Landmines, Budapest, Hungary, 26-28 March 1998, p. 51.

[25]“Australia to Sign Landmines Ban Treaty and Destroy Stockpile,” Joint Media Release by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Defense, 17 November 1997.

[26]Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Penny Wensley, Statement on Assistance in Mine Clearance, UN General Assembly 53, Item 42, 17 November 1998.

[27]Humanitarian Emergencies Section, AusAID, Letter to LM Researcher, 19 January 1998.

[28]Australia and Landmines. http://www.dfat.gov.au/landmines/

[29]The Honorable Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs, “Statement to the Ministerial Treaty Signing Conference for the Convention on the Prohibitions of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines and on their Destruction,” Ottawa, 3 December 1997.

[30]Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Penny Wensley, Statement on Assistance in Mine Clearance, UN General Assembly 53, Item 42, 17 November 1998.


[32]Australia and Landmines: Demining. http://www.dfat.gov.au/landmines/

[33]Bruce Grey, Submission, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Parliament House, Canberra, 19 June 1998. See also, The Shadow of Vietnam, Television Documentary screened on TV3, New Zealand, 26 April 1995; Chris Gannon, “You’ll Be Back for Breakfast,” in Kenneth Maddock (ed.), Memories of Vietnam (Sydney: Random House, 1991), pp. 70-71.