18 November, 2007

Get the Laborials to tell the truth

Dear friends

In the closing days of an Australian federal election campaign that has mostly been about massive vote buying on a scale that puts to shame almost every failing dictatorship in the Third World. I think the shame is in OZ though! The actual substance of the positions taken by the major parties has been cynically absent as our political 'leaders' adopt the most regressive position of the most bigoted and least sensible voter. I have just put together a blog that I think will be useful for the rest of the week and the next ten critical years.

Get the Laborials to tell the truth


09 November, 2007

Papuan Voices – Conflict Prevention Workshop

Papuan Voices – Conflict Prevention Workshop

University of Queensland 9 November 2007

Speech by Willy Bach, Greens candidate for Griffith

Good afternoon.

First I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on, the Jagera and Torbul people. I do this to draw our attention to the fact that their dispossession has led directly and inexorably to our continuing enjoyment of the benefits of that dispossession.

This discussion, which we are having directly, relates to the marginalisation of indigenous people in West Papua through dispossession of their land and the exploitation of their resources.

The Greens draw attention to and do not avoid the issue of acknowledgement of the rights of the West Papuan people in relation to their land, their culture and language and their rights as indigenous people. The Greens emphatically support indigenous people’s rights to both control and benefit from the sustainable extraction of resources.

I take note of the fact that the Howard government recently refused to sign the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, passed in September 2007. The Howard government did this without consulting the people of Australia. I am sure that most of us would be outraged by this decision.

I am the Greens candidate for Griffith, the seat of Labor leader and possibly next Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd. I register here my deep concern and misgivings that Labor will abide by the bipartisan protocols on foreign policy and continue with the same policies as our present government.

What is wrong with this?

I had a meeting with Kevin Rudd within days of his return from walking the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea in April 2007, shortly after ANZAC Day. He was sunburnt and exhausted and complained that the telecommunications in that remote area were poor, even with satellite phones.

I tried to explain to Kevin Rudd that Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Damien Kingsbury (who I have met), all report that the Indonesian Army, the TNI, is conducting their own business enterprises in West Papua and routinely violating the rights of Papuan people.

Kevin Rudd said that I should bring proof to him, as though this proof is easily obtained from remote places and people who are intimidated and frightened. I reminded him that others had already taken risks and had written reports for human rights organisations. I pointed out to him that what he had experienced of poor communications should inform him of the difficulties in obtaining this information. How did Kevin Rudd expect reports of human rights abuses to reach the outside world when the people did not even have access to mobile phones, let alone satellite phones? It was obvious that I was just being blocked, stone-walled.

My concern continues to rise in regard to the provisions of the Lombok Treaty:

Joe Collins of AWPA said "Because Australia has signed a treaty with Indonesia, The Lombok Treaty, it is to be expected that Australia will try and keep West Papua off the agenda. However, it is hoped the other Pacific leaders including the New Zealand Prime Minister will raise concerns about the human rights situation in the territory”.

I am concerned because the treaty pledges Australia’s cooperation in maintaining the “integrity” of the Indonesian unitary state, as well as many aspects of military cooperation. Inevitably the Lombok Treaty does not mention the rights of indigenous West Papuans, who were not consulted either. I often wish that New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, were Australia’s Prime Minister, as that government’s policies are more ethically sound.

Kevin Rudd is fully briefed on West Papua. He cannot pretend that he does not know of the human rights abuses perpetrated against the people of West Papua. His denial and his silence are a stain on his conscience.

The Greens maintain an ethical stance on human rights and international relations. Senator Bob Brown has spoken in the Parliament and in the media on the question of West Papuan self-determination. The West Papuan issue underlines the importance of having the Australian people elect candidates to the Senate who will vote with their consciences, not in line with party dictates.

The Greens support efforts to implement effective codes of conduct for resource extraction corporations in line with the Equator Principles and the Kimberley Process and will represent the standards of morality and the values of Australians, not the short-term, unscrupulous deals that are done in secret and without the knowledge of the electorate.

Larissa Waters is the Greens lead Senate candidate for Queensland. You also heard yesterday from Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, who spoke about the Senate Committee on Treaties, where he examined numerous civil society submissions expressly opposing the Lombok Treaty and put on the public record his one dissenting vote. This is a very necessary step. This is the kind of meticulous work that is required of minor parties Senators. I am sure that Larissa Waters will carry out this type of work too.

Thank you, and I will now take questions.

Willy Bach