Monday, 21 October 2019
Customs Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019, Customs Tariff Amendment (Growing Australian Export Opportunities Across the Asia-Pacific) Bill 2019; Consideration in Detail
I move amendment (3) as circulated in my name:
(3) Clause 2, pages 2 and 3, table item 4, omit the table item, substitute:
We have a chance now to make it clear that we are not going to proceed with the agreement with respect to Hong Kong until the situation there is resolved.
We've heard a lot from members of this place about how they support the democracy activists. Some even had pictures of them joining them. Those democracy leaders are now asking us to do something very straightforward. Those democracy leaders said, 'Don't proceed with this agreement because of the pressure that we are under, because of the assaults that we are under, because it will strengthen the case against us.' On this issue, Labor and the Liberals supped together, but you'd also find the Productivity Commission saying, as with the Greens, that we should have independent analyses into all of this. This is a day when a number of right-thinking people across the spectrum, no matter which political position you come from, are saying, 'Hang on, we should not be proceeding with this.'
I want to do another first and read an article from The Australian. I don't think I've ever done this before, but it's worth doing because they report that Hong Kong pro-democracy leader, Bonnie Leung, has urged Australian MPs not to ratify a new trade deal with the Chinese territory unless human rights guarantees are inserted into the agreement. Ms Leung issued the plea to members of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade on Thursday, saying Hong Kong had become a police state without accountability for those attacking the protesters. Ms Leung said Australia should use the deal to 'put some pressure' on the administration of Hong Kong chief Executive, Carrie Lam. These quotes from her are important. She said:
They should pause the trade deal and put in some guarantees on human rights and an independent investigation on police brutality.
I’m not asking them to scrap this deal. I’m sure it will be beneficial to both sides. But more importantly if we are facing imminent danger, if we are about to be killed, what good is the trade deal for us?
Let's put aside whether you think these agreements are good or bad. There's clearly a majority in this place that wants to proceed with them. Let's put aside all the other issues about labour market testing and corporations being able to sue individual governments and the loss of sovereignty. Let's just focus specifically on the one agreement and the one request that is being made of us at the moment. The democracy leaders in Hong Kong are putting their lives on the line. They told us to not rip up the agreement. They told us to not refuse to go ahead with it. They just said, 'Please give us some breathing space and send a message that what is happening now is not right.'
This amendment does a very simple thing. It buys a year's breathing space for the situation there to unfold and hopefully resolve itself peacefully and hopefully resolve itself in the interest of democracy. We're saying that you can have the agreement. This amendment doesn't even seek to alter any of the terms of it, in effect. It does not seek side agreements. It just says, 'Have the agreement as negotiated, but send a message that we have heard the Hong Kong democracy leaders.' This agreement will not come into effect, to allow time for those human rights safeguards to be negotiated.
The Australian government, people sitting on the backbenches of the Liberal Party, are out there at the moment, flaunting their colours and saying, 'We stand with the democracy leaders.' Well, show it. Show it by doing it really simply and really straightforwardly. Send a message back to the Chinese government saying: 'No, you have to do better than what is happening at the moment. You have to come up with a peaceful solution that respects democracy and that listens to democracy leaders. We are not going to put trade and money over democracy and lives.' That is what is happening here. Democracy leaders are pleading with us and saying that their lives are on the line—'Do not put money ahead of human life. Do not put what corporations want ahead of democracy.' That's what they're asking. This amendment would give effect to that, and I hope all of those people who have spoken out so strongly in the last little while will see their way clear to supporting this sensible amendment.