Monday, 26 March 2007
Private Members’ Business
Human Rights in Zimbabwe
I second the motion. Having spoken to a similar motion moved in this parliament by the member for Cook in November 2005 in relation to Zimbabwe, it grieves me to think that, as dire as the situation was then, it has since deteriorated markedly. The only consolation is that, since this motion by the member for Throsby was selected for debate today, the fourth point regarding the safety of Sekai Holland has thankfully progressed, and Mrs Holland has been successfully transported to South Africa and is now receiving treatment for the horrific injuries she sustained at the hands of the Mugabe government thugs. I wish Mrs Holland and her colleagues a speedy return to full health.
This motion also condemns the vicious beating of Nelson Chamisa MP in recent days. Many Australians have watched in disbelief at the reports of incarceration, horrendous bashings and torture of those who have dared to exert their democratic rights by forming and participating in an opposition party. The courage and determination of those few brave souls, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, all of whom have continued to pursue a democratic and accountable government, is an inspiration. We are all relieved at South Africa’s willingness to assist Mrs Holland and her colleagues.
Both our Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have actively called on the United Nations Security Council and the Human Rights Council to consider the situation in Zimbabwe. Further, representations have been made to key members of the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to use their influence to persuade the Zimbabwean government to respect the rule of law and the political rights of its people.
This is not the first time the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have condemned the actions of the Zimbabwean government and called for international action. In 2005 the Australian government referred the actions of the Mugabe regime to the International Criminal Court but received very little, if any, support.
This unwillingness to act is very hard to fathom for a country that now has the world’s lowest life expectancy, the highest inflation and in excess of, I think, 1½ million orphaned children with AIDS. AIDS now kills an estimated 3,500 people a week in Zimbabwe. It is a human rights tragedy of monumental proportions and it is a disgrace that, so far, we in the democratic countries of the world have not been able to take action to prevent this ongoing tragedy as it unfolds before our very eyes.
I, along with the member for Throsby, would also like to acknowledge the work of the Australian diplomats in the region, particularly the Australian consul Mark Lynch, who have been assisting Mrs Holland and her colleagues. It is difficult to conceive that one of the model countries that makes up the great continent of Africa has fallen so far. This is a country that has made a smooth transition from colonial rule to majority black rule, strongly supported by Australia. It had a strong economy, a model health system, and not only did it grow sufficient food crops for its own consumption but it also successfully exported. It was said to be the food bowl of Africa.
Over the past 10 years Mugabe, in seeking power for power’s sake, has brought his people to their knees. Inflation runs at 1,750 per cent and gross domestic product has dropped to $A5 billion, almost half of what it was seven years ago. Ignoring the rule of law and legitimate democratic processes, this despot, Mugabe, has driven white farmers from their land and is now ruling through brutality and fear. These misbegotten policies have seriously eroded food production and employment opportunities. Some three million people are said to have left Zimbabwe, leaving essential services disastrously depleted and, for those remaining, unemployment—running at about sixty per cent—is a serious threat to personal financial viability.
If the international community has any genuine concern for the people of Zimbabwe, it will urgently join the Australian government and call for action by the United Nations. I thank the member for Throsby for moving this motion and for the opportunity to speak up for the people of Zimbabwe.