Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, today introduced into the House of Representatives the Foreign States Immunities Amendment Bill 2009.
The Bill will enable civil immunity in Australian courts to be conferred on United States fire fighters helping authorities in Australia prepare for, manage and respond to bushfires.
“This Bill is one way the Australian Government can assist the States and Territories with bushfire prevention and management to enhance the safety and security of all Australians,” said Mr McClelland.
The passage of the Bill will facilitate the conclusion of a fire fighter exchange agreement with the United States currently being negotiated by the Victorian Government on behalf of all Australian States and Territories.
The agreement will also provide for Australian fire fighters to enjoy similar protection when operating in the United States.
The immunity would only apply to acts or omissions of foreign personnel in the course of their duties, and would not apply in criminal proceedings.
United States authorities continue to provide critical assistance to Australia in the lead up to and during the annual bushfire season. Since 2003, over 170 fire fighters have been deployed to Australia, including for the horrific Victorian Black Saturday fires in February 2009.
“The Bill also provides a legislative framework for immunity to be conferred on other foreign emergency service personnel where required to help Australian authorities respond to disasters and emergencies.”
The protections provided by the proposed amendments will allow both Australia and the United States to be confident in the overseas deployment of their emergency service personnel.
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