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An Independent Queensland Regional & Rural 

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(Cairns... Far North Queensland)


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I appreciate your interest in the issues that effect not only Queenslanders, but all Australians.

Please let me hear from you about your views on the issues that matter to your Family, your Community and your State.


Selwyn Johnston



One person, with the support of the community, can make a difference




The Constitution established Australia’s High Court as the highest in the land. But appeal was allowed in particular cases to the Privy Council… a Crown appointed body of experienced men and women drawn from Commonwealth countries including Australia. The Privy Council could not consider any matter unless asked to. 

Under the Whitlam administration the right to appeal to the Privy Council was abolished. The argument was that jurisdiction in Australia should be exclusively Australian, going no further than Australia’s borders. As a sovereign country we legislated and applied our own laws in accordance with the 'will of the people'. 

Strange then, to have the Howard Government, under pressure from the then Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department, headed by Alexander Downer and Darryl Williams respectively, ratifying an International Criminal Court, with powers to over-rule Australia’s own High Court! 


In June 2001 the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade tabled its report on “Australia’s Role in United Nations Reform”. The Committee consisted of 17 Senators and 22 Members of the Lower House. Their hearings started on November 15, 1999. A special sub-committee was established to deal specifically with the issue. 

Among a number of contentious issues was the International Criminal Court. After its deliberations the Joint Standing Committee recommended that Australia ratify the Treaty. The Recommendation read:  “The committee commends the Australian Government for its contribution to the development of the International Criminal Court and recommends that the Government ratify the Statute of Rome as soon as possible.” 

But four parliamentarians included a dissenting report. They were Andrew Southcott, Geoff Prosser, De Anne Kelly, and Andrew Thomson. Their report highlighted the fact that the dissenters were motivated by a concern for Australia’s own sovereignty… increasingly discounted by the majority of federal politicians. 

Their report cited a letter of dissent signed by 12 prominent American administrators, which read:

“This legislation is an appropriate response to American sovereignty and international freedom of action posed by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The many obvious defects in the treaty establishing the ICC compelled the Clinton Administration to withhold signature of the treaty when it was concluded two years ago in Rome. 

Naturally we think it is essential that our nation’s military personnel be safely beyond the reach of an unaccountable international prosecutor operating under procedures inconsistent with our Constitution. 

War crimes and other human rights violations have long been subject to criminal penalties under U.S. law, and the United States has a far better record of enforcing its laws against human rights violations than some of the countries that support the ICC. 

As former senior US Government officials, however, we think it is equally important that the President, cabinet officers, and other national security decision makers not have to fear international criminal prosecutions as they go about their work. 

The risk of international criminal prosecution will certainly chill decision-making within our governments, and could limit the willingness of our national leadership to respond forcefully to acts of terrorism, aggression and other threats to American interests. 

Indeed we believe that American leadership in the world could be the first casualty of the ICC.”

The letter was signed by Lawrence Eagleburger, Brent Scowcroft, Casper Weinberger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, R. James Woolsey, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard V. Allen, George Schultz, James Baker, and Robert Gates. 


The four dissenters expressed concerns that: 

“… the Constitutional ramifications of this treaty have not been fully considered in the normal political process in Australia. 

What will be the status of decisions by the ICC? Will they be binding or persuasive? This appears to be a puzzling contradiction. 

The Australia Acts of 1975 and 1986 abolished the Privy Council as a court of final appeal for Australian courts. 

Although the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is no longer part of the Australian legal hierarchy, and its decisions are therefore persuasive only, the proposed ICC and its decisions would appear to constitute binding precedent in Australian common law by virtue of the ICC’s paramountcy over any Australian investigation or prosecution. 

We find this paradox unacceptable….”

Their argument is emphasised by Section 75 of the Constitution, which reads:         

Original jurisdiction of High Court

75. In all matters:

(i) Arising from any treaty;  

(ii) Affecting consuls or other representatives of other countries: 

… the High Court shall have original jurisdiction.”

High Court Justice Deane, in Polyukhovich v The Commonwealth of Australia (172 CLR 501 F.C.) made the point that: 

“…. the Court has not had occasion in the past to examine the extent to which Ch. III of the Constitution is applicable in relation to the trial and punishment of persons accused of crimes against international law….” 

That being so, the whole process of treaty making by cabinet and bureaucrats should be subject to some process whereby the provisions of the Constitution are not compromised. The International Criminal Court however lofty its rhetoric, is almost certainly a body whose powers, could further diminish the Australian Constitution.

The harsh reality of the implications of the International Criminal Court will become evident when an Australian soldier, in the course of his duties, and 'under orders', commits an offence subject to scrutiny by the ICC, is extradited from Australia, charged, and sentenced... possibly to death.

Is the United States of America a signatory to the ICC... NO!

I am totally opposed to Federal  Legislation sanctioning the International Criminal Court, and will vehemently seek the repealing of this outrageous International Treaty.


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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870