Speeches

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS; Human Rights Day

December 02, 2019

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (18:37): I second the motion. The 10th of December marks International Human Rights Day. On this day, we come together as part of the concerned global community to recommit to the cause of human rights.

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, Australia was among eight nations that played a very key role in its drafting, under the leadership of the Hon. Dr Herbert Vere Evatt. Since then, Australia's commitment to human rights has been enduring. We have advocated for social justice and human rights within our sphere of influence.

Despite the ongoing efforts to protect those rights, many across the world continue to live in deprivation of very basic human rights. In Vietnam, the crackdown on dissent continues. The Vietnamese government maintains a monopoly on political power, supported by a law enforcement system that operates at the direction of the government. I take the opportunity to draw attention to the case of an Australian citizen, Mr Van Kham Chau, who earlier this month was found guilty of terrorism pursuant to the Vietnamese Penal Code and sentenced to 12 years prison by a Vietnamese court. Human rights groups have called his trial a sham, a closed court, in which no entry was granted to the free media and family and friends. Mr Chau is a 70-year-old retired baker from Western Sydney. He is a human rights advocate and is known locally for his charitable work. With no evidence presented by the Vietnamese authorities to substantiate the charge of terrorism, it is imperative that the international community continues to place public pressure on Vietnam.

On behalf of many concerned Cambodian Australians, I also lend my voice in support of human rights and true democracy in Cambodia. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has launched a broad crackdown against various critical independent voices. This includes the arrest of the opposition leaders, the dissolution of the main opposition parties and an assault on media organisations and others critical of his government. If this wasn't concerning enough, the influence of Hun Sen is now being played out in Australian universities, businesses and charities, given recent efforts to recruit students and members of the Cambodian diaspora in building a support base here in this country for the Cambodian dictator.

In the Philippines, extrajudicial killings have been the principal human rights concern, an issue which has escalated with President Duterte's war on drugs, which has now claimed the lives of many thousands of people. President Duterte seems to act with confidence of impunity, regardless of the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution for a transparent and independent inquiry.

In respect of both Cambodia and the Philippines, it appears that China is throwing its weight behind those administrations in order to help them avoid accountability. It also seems that China's Belt and Road Initiative is buying silence with respect to the situation currently on foot in Xinjiang province. I've been moved by the touching stories told by my constituent Zulfia Erk, a very passionate advocate for the Uygur community who is personally affected, as she has five brothers in detention camps in Xinjiang at present. Throughout the region, the Turkic Muslim population of 13 million people are being subjected to restrictions of movement, mass surveillance and significant limitations on their religious freedoms. Recent documents leaked from within the Chinese government have highlighted the government's clear and systematic policy of eradicating Muslim teachings in China as part of their detention and re-education camps for these religious minorities.

What is interesting about all these nations is that they seem to share the same flexible view about the rule of law. As members of the international community, we have a moral, if not legal, responsibility to do all we can to encourage countries in our region to adhere to their international obligations. Our international relationships should not just be built on economics, trade and regional stability but must include promoting and encouraging human rights and challenging our partners to honour their international obligations. We cannot and must not remain silent when people's human rights and the rule of law are being undermined so blatantly.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST