Mr HAYES: (Fowler—Chief Opposition Whip) (11:17): I would like to start by acknowledging the Member for Oxley for bringing this important motion to the House today. The human rights situation in Vietnam is something that, unfortunately, I've had to speak on in this place on a number of occasions, particularly as the human rights situation continues to deteriorate. My electorate of Fowler is the biggest home in the country to Vietnamese Australians, as you well know, Deputy Speaker Laundy. I've had the pleasure of seeing firsthand Vietnamese migrants who have worked very hard to build a strong home here in Australia and raise a generation of young Vietnamese Australians to make a positive contribution to our country. Among them are many of our doctors, lawyers, dentists, engineers, lots and lots of teachers, and artists—young Australians whose dreams have been built on the backs of their parents' sacrifice and hard work in their newly adopted country.
On top of these achievements, organisations such the Vietnamese Community in Australia, the VCA, Australian Health Humanitarian Aid and the Australian Human Rights Relief Foundation not only come together to celebrate their Vietnamese culture and heritage but also dedicate themselves to bettering lives in our community and for those here and abroad. As I've had the opportunity of representing such a large and spirited community, it is certainly disheartening, if not infuriating, to see that the human rights situation in Vietnam has continued to worsen, with a crackdown on basic human rights and freedoms very much intensifying. Those who are brave enough to speak out against the Vietnamese government are being charged under vague national security laws and are being thrown in prison without a fair trial or, in many cases, access to defence lawyers. On top of this, those who have been jailed are facing very poor conditions in detention and mistreatment by the authorities. It was only last August that activist Tran Thi Nga was beaten and threatened with death by another inmate in an attack which was widely believed to be orchestrated by prison authorities themselves. It is true that the Vietnamese government has become accustomed to oppressing peaceful activists, both inside and outside the prison.
Last week I had the pleasure of hosting the a human rights forum in my electorate, with organisations such as Oxfam, Amnesty International, Action Aid and the Family Court Registrar, Registrar Dinh Tran, who is very active in the human rights scene. They all came to speak about human rights issues occurring within our region. I was extremely encouraged to see more than 150 people turn up from many different communities. They came together to discuss human rights concerns in Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines and the Middle East. This was an image that displayed how much members of my community genuinely care about the welfare of others, and it was a stark reminder that there is much more that needs to be done to hold those who violate human rights accountable. In particular, it was Registrar Tran that noted the release of activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, better known as Mother Mushroom, as being a very small victory. She was released after only recently being sentenced to 16 years in prison. She was given her freedom at the expense of being exiled from her home country and flown immediately to the United States. This was also the case for prominent human rights lawyer Nguyen Van Dai and his colleague, Le Thu Ha, who have now been exiled to Germany.
Vietnam remains one of the most prolific jailers of human rights activists in the South-East Asian region. The Vietnamese government have shown themselves unwilling to adhere to the rule of law and are keen to oppress, jail and exile those who simply advocate for the most basic of human rights: freedom of speech, the right of association, the right to practise the religion of their choosing and, importantly, equity before the law. The economic relationship between Australia and Vietnam is good, yet this should not be at the expense of individuals whose human rights are being so flagrantly violated.