House debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Grievance Debate

Forde Electorate: Community Events

6:24 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In my electorate of Forde, we have a diverse range of talented, creative, forward-thinking and hardworking people, who we recently got to celebrate and acknowledge in the 2021 Logan Business Distinction Awards and the City of Logan Sports Awards. The past two years have provided great challenges for our business community, with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the most severe global economic crisis since the Great Depression. In April 2020, more than one million Australians lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero. However, with strong progress on the vaccine rollout there has been light at the end of the tunnel, and, as of March this year, Australia became the first advanced economy to have more people in employment than prior to the pandemic.

We know that small business is the backbone of our economy and the key to Australia's economic recovery. This is why our small business community deserves to be celebrated. The business awards were originally started by the Logan Chamber of Commerce over 35 years ago. It has a tradition of being the night of nights in the Logan business and social calendar, with 15 industry category awards and six major awards up for grabs. It's an honour for any business to receive a nomination. This year, six businesses from my electorate were celebrated for their business contribution to our local community. The 2021 major award winner for inclusiveness was local Beenleigh business the Empire Bodyshop, founded in 2016. The 2021 industry category awards range over a diverse number of industries, and this year's winners include AKIPS, the White House of Waterford, MyCity Logan, Transit Care and Laser Tag in a Box.

AKIPS is a network-monitoring software company, and they took out the Technology and Innovation Award. AKIPS has developed the world's largest scaling network and infrastructure monitoring software, which services some of the most high-profile organisations across the world. AKIPS software allows network engineers to be proactive instead of firefighting and to detect, analyse and rectify issues before any disruption to the business occurs. AKIPS was founded in Logan, and it currently operates out of a corporate office in my electorate, in Tanah Merah. The AKIPS team has rapidly expanded over the last few months, and is led by Susan Koch, the general manager—her husband, Paul, sadly passed away earlier this year—along with Nick Frampton and Mark Birkinshaw. I congratulate them on the success that they've achieved over this short period of time.

The event services category award was awarded to the White House of Waterford for creating amazing dining experiences and memorable events. They have a focus on locally sourced produce, high-quality service and delicious food, to serve the Logan community and strive to bring the best of Australian hospitality and cuisine to Logan. MyCity Logan is a news outlet that took the win for media and advertising. They strive to deliver the most comprehensive news updates and provide opportunities to advertise local businesses. MyCity Logan is a trusted source of everything Logan related. Whether you want to read the latest headline, catch up on local events, look for the perfect weekend food spot or local business or search for a good property location, they have all your needs covered.

Transit Care was the winner of the For Purpose (Charity and Not For Profits) Award. They are dedicated to providing safe, reliable and professional transport to those people in the community who have difficulty getting around. Their pre-booked, door-to-door service allows community members to travel to medical and social supports and appointments. They also offer fun social activities—including bus trips to interesting and beautiful locations, fitness classes, arts and crafts, and technology courses—to foster connection, participation and inclusion. The sports category award, which I was a sponsor of, was awarded to Laser Tag in a Box, a business that aims to provide a full day of fun, laughter and adrenaline. Laser Tag in a Box rents laser tag party gear Australia wide, right to your door. Everything you need comes in the box and provides hours of entertainment with minimal stress. It's perfect for birthday parties, sporting team celebrations and youth programs.

Not only do we have these amazing businesses in my electorate of Forde; the community can also celebrate the outstanding achievements of many representatives in the sporting arena. The City of Logan Sports Awards pay tribute to elite athletes and inspirational sportspeople. The awards also recognise our homegrown sporting icons whose accomplishments have seen them reach the highest level in their chosen sport, and this year is no different with another successful year for our sports men and women across the electorate of Forde. Logan Basketball, who are based in Shailer Park, were awarded the 2021 City of Logan Sports Awards organisation of the year. This award culminates in a huge year of success for Logan Basketball both on and off the court across various levels and programs. This is a well deserved win for the organisation, and I commend their players, coaches, officials, volunteers, staff and the management committee for all the hard work they have put in to achieving such great success. It was an honour on the night to see Marsden State High School with a number of both current and former students being recognised for their sporting contributions. Marsden State High School open boys rugby league team won sports team of the year. Ms Bartlett won sports coach of the year and judge's choice, and Ms Neumann took out the sports official of the year. Students Losa Niumata and Connor Gillen won sportswoman and sportsman of the year, and former Marsden State High School student and Olympic gold-medallist Logan Martin was honoured with the golden banksia award.

In addition to these many organisations, there are also the everyday clubs all around Logan that are run by volunteers who make such an outstanding effort each and every year to ensure that our kids, from under-fives all the way to our senior teams, can get out on the field and play their chosen sport. I want to congratulate and commend the businesses of Forde together with our sporting men and women for being honoured with these awards. They have worked hard and dedicated themselves through the tough times over the past couple of years. They are a credit to our community for their perseverance and dedication to their businesses and to their chosen sports, and I congratulate them all.

6:32 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the most important and significant communities I'm honoured to represent in this parliament is the community made up of many thousands of Australians who have Vietnamese heritage. Springvale has long been the heartland for Vietnamese Victorians. It's a place that I have lived in and that I have represented at a local government level, and now I have the great privilege of representing Springvale in this federal parliament. More than 20 per cent of the people who live in that suburb alone in my electorate are of Vietnamese heritage. The journey that's brought many of these families to Australia is simply an extraordinary one. Many Vietnamese Australians I represent either themselves or their parents or grandparents fled Vietnam after the civil war. Many were stuck in refugee camps in South-East Asia for years at a time and came to Australia with nothing but the clothes on their back. What this community has achieved in just two generations in our country is incredible, and I feel so humbled to represent people who have been able to make so much of the amazing opportunities that Australia offers. When I go around my community, it literally hums with the life of religious, social and professional activities that are being generated by these amazing people.

This community is supported by a number of incredible local organisations, and I want to talk about some of them. One of those is the South Eastern Melbourne Vietnamese Associations Council, called SEMVAC, which is a council that support all the not-for-profit organisations that support Vietnamese Australians in the region. They make an enormous contribution to social harmony and by providing direct service delivery through an amazing network of volunteers, people of Vietnamese heritage who reach out to people within their community to try to support and assist them. One of the areas where SEMVAC has most recently been most involved is through the vaccination efforts, and the volunteers have done amazing work to ensure that this core part of my community is able to access the vaccine. SEMVAC is led by Loc Lam and a group of amazing committee members and, as I mentioned, this large network of volunteers.

Another organisation I really want to point to is the Springvale Indochinese Mutual Assistance Association, also known as SICMAA, which is an organisation we could not do without in the local area. SICMAA has been servicing the local community for 39 years and it's an organisation that I've had the honour of being associated with for a long time, since I was a councillor in the City of Greater Dandenong. Their president, Be Ha, is a force to be reckoned with. Be is absolutely one of my idols and has led this organisation for a long time. They provide an unbelievable service to the people of the south-east, in particular, of Vietnamese origin.

The Australian Vietnamese Women's Association Springvale is another wonderful organisation headed by their founder, CEO and honorary secretary Cam Nguyen. Cam and her family came to Australia in 1975 as refugees and founded the Vietnamese Friendly Society, which initially provided interpreting services and information about Australia to new Vietnamese refugees. She was honoured this year as the Victorian state recipient of the award for Senior Australian of the Year, which was so well-deserved.

I also want to mention the Vietnamese Australian seniors association and Nancy Skorin, who is a dear friend of mine and a brilliant leader. Overseeing all of these organisations is the Vietnamese Community in Australia Victorian Chapter, which is so well led by Phong Nguyen, and is a hugely dynamic organisation right across Victoria.

I want to note how crucial these organisations are. They provide essential services and support any time in Victoria. However, during the pandemic, the role that these organisations have played has been crucial. We've had a real issue in Victoria getting into communities where English isn't the first language spoken, and these organisations have been an essential in ensuring that correct information has been getting out to Vietnamese families and making sure people understand that the available vaccines are safe and trying to help us bring vaccination rates up for these constituents of mine.

The majority of the Vietnamese Australians who I represent still feel very deep ties back to Vietnam, either because they have friends and family there or through their cultural ties. Something that's constantly raised with me as I move around my electorate is the very serious distress that a lot of Vietnamese Australians feel about the human rights abuses that are taking place in Vietnam at the moment.

I know a lot of Australians have probably visited Vietnam. I'm not sure if they are aware of the staggering differences between the political systems in Vietnam and in Australia. The very basic freedoms that we enjoy as Australians—freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association—are not guaranteed for the people of Vietnam. There isn't an independent media in Vietnam, so the government controls TV, radio, newspapers and other publications, and Vietnamese citizens are not entitled to join organisations, labour unions, political associations or human rights organisations the way that you and I can in Australia. This is not some problem of the past which is slowly resolving over time. Human Rights Watch in their most recent report said, 'Vietnam's human rights record remains dire in all areas.' What we see in so many countries like this is that the people who are persecuted the most are those who are trying to fight the system and speak out for their basic freedoms.

One of the most concerning things about the situation in Vietnam is the unfair imprisonment of a lot of these activists who are fighting for a fairer and more just society in Vietnam. Human Rights Watch found in 2021 alone that authorities prosecuted and imprisoned at least 31 people just for expressing opinions online that were contrary to the government's positions. Pham Doang Trang is one such person—an incredible woman. If you have an interest in this area, I encourage you to google and learn about this amazing woman who has advocated very strongly for the rights of women and for a Vietnamese democracy. She has been imprisoned again recently in Vietnam. She has been horribly violated and left disabled by the security forces but is someone who doesn't turn away because of those things. This is a strength of this activism—someone who is willing to continue to stand up and fight for what she believes in, despite the fact that she knows that she's going to face these kinds of outcomes in Vietnam.

Chau Van Kham's case is one that I know has been raised in the parliament before, because Chau Van Kham is an Australian, an Australian of Vietnamese heritage. He is serving a 12-year prison sentence for simply expressing peaceful political beliefs in Vietnam. He was arrested for, amongst other things, being a member of a political party. Deputy Speaker, can you imagine the freedom that you and I feel to join a political party, to express the beliefs that we are entitled to express in a democracy? In Vietnam, someone doing that basic act can end up in prison for 12 years.

I find the bravery of these activists incredible. It's one thing to see people protesting on the streets in Australia, which they are very much entitled to do, but imagine having the inner strength to do that in a country like Vietnam, where you know that you are going to get hunted down by the authorities and punished for simply stating a point of view. What we know is that the judicial system in Vietnam is not going to ensure free and fair trials for these activists. They get detained and they are put away essentially without proper evidence.

One of the other things I need to mention, which is very disturbing, is the way that the Vietnamese government has restricted religious practices through legislation and different types of surveillance. The Khmer Krom Buddhist Temple and the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam are good examples. These are churches, people expressing religious beliefs, who face more or less constant surveillance and intimidation for exercising this basic human right. In Australia we value those basic human rights. We seek to protect them here in Australia. But what I'm concerned about is the silence on these issues, on what's happening in Vietnam, from the federal government. When faced with these incredibly serious problems in Vietnam, some of which are even affecting Australians who are in Vietnam, what has the Australian government done? Essentially, they've done nothing. That is not good enough. We hear nothing from the government. We don't hear these things being properly condemned. We don't hear the voice of Australians out in the world, making it clear that these things are unacceptable.

I call on the federal government to stand up for human rights. We owe it to our friends in the region. Importantly for me, we owe it to the thousands of people of Vietnamese heritage that I represent for whom these issues are absolutely crucial.