Human Rights Day - 02/12/2019

02 December 2019



Ten December is the United Nations' Human Rights Day. I would like to thank my colleague the member for Fisher for bringing forward this motion. As fellow members of the Joint Standing Committee on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we have heard countless stories of inadequate treatment of people with disabilities in Australia that tell us that human rights in this country certainly are not guaranteed. We must continue to fight for the rights of Australians with disability to live a life of choice and control. Tomorrow we will continue to do that, on International Day of People with Disability. We must continue to fight for the rights of our older Australians in aged care. We must continue to fight for the rights of our First Nations peoples, whose land was never ceded and who continue to live with the trauma and suffering inflicted by colonisers. With the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women just last week, we must work harder to make sure our women and girls can live lives free of violence.

In Australia, we have a system of governance that holds our leaders to account—a system where the power of the vote and the right to protest are upheld, despite efforts from our Prime Minister and home affairs minister. Yet these incredible privileges are not a given, and many people around the world simply do not enjoy them. Since the end of the First World War and the creation of the League of Nations, Australia has shown many impressive examples of human rights leadership. There is no doubt in my mind and in the minds of my constituents that our recent treatment of refugees and their ongoing detention in Nauru and Manus Island have damaged this reputation as a human rights leader. I hope that the Australian parliament can find a way to show more compassion to those refugees and treat them better. Nevertheless, Australia must continue to hold its international partners to account when it comes to human rights, including our valued international partners China and Indonesia.

The test of friendship is the ability to hold one another to account, and this Human Rights Day I want to take the opportunity to do so. A few weeks ago I met with a delegation from the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. For nearly 70 years China has consistently violated Tibetans' right to self-determination, their human rights and their liberties. I want to thank the delegation that came and visited me, and I hope that one day the Parliament in Exile can return to Tibet to take up governing once again.

The Chinese government's treatment of the Uygurs continues to be revealed to the international community. Australians have been shocked to read reports of the mass incarceration of Muslim Uygurs and the suppression of their religion and culture, and Australians have been shocked by the suppression of the rights and freedoms that the residents of Hong Kong have come to value so highly since the end of British rule. We urge Hong Kong authorities to engage in a genuine dialogue with the public that addresses widespread concerns, including police conduct, and builds trust between all parties. Labor will continue to call on the government to use its position as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to pursue these issues with Chinese government officials, and I commend the work of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Marise Payne, who has called on the Chinese government to observe the human rights of its people.

The treatment of West Papuans continues to raise concern, and I call on the Indonesian government to do more to ensure the safety of its citizens in the Papuan provinces. Last week I attended a briefing on the situation in West Papua on invitation by the member for Cooper, and it is clear, despite calls from the Australian government and Labor, that the rights of West Papuans continue to be violated. Access by media and human rights organisations continues to be controlled. The democratic rights of the people of West Papua, citizens of one of the world's largest democracies, continue to be suppressed, and the security and safety of West Papuans continues to be violated by government and non-government actors.

Finally, this Human Rights Day I call on the government of Israel to respect the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state. An enduring and just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the only answer, and we call on both Israeli and Palestinian authorities to again work together to achieve such a solution for the sake of your citizens and their safety and prosperity.

Human rights continue to be violated around the world. This Human Rights Day we must remind ourselves that this is the case and continue to push for governments and leaders here in Australia and around the world to uphold the rights of humanity.