Tuesday, 18 March 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister Brandis. I refer to Minister Bishop's recent meeting with the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen. Did Minister Bishop raise the issue of the irregularities which marred the 2013 Cambodian election? And did she raise the prospect of Australia supporting a United Nations independent inquiry into the election, either at that meeting or at any other meeting, with members of ASEAN nations she met with on her trip?
I thank Senator Milne for her question. The foreign minister did visit Cambodia on 22 February, and she held meetings with, among others, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the foreign minister and the opposition leader, Mr Rainsy. Mr Rainsy is, in fact, visiting parliament, as you know, Senator Milne, this week and will be meeting Ms Bishop tomorrow. At each of those meetings Ms Bishop did raise the issue of human rights, with both the government and the opposition. We have raised issues of human rights, including the issues to which you refer, through our embassy in Phnom Penh, through UN human rights forums and directly at the meetings to which I have referred.
During the course of those meetings, the foreign minister reaffirmed Australia's statement at the universal periodic review in Geneva on 28 June this year when we expressed our concerns about restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Cambodia; expressed particular concern about the recent disproportionate violence against protesters and the detention without trial of some protesters; recommended that the government of Cambodia ensure full respect in law and practice of the freedom of peaceful assembly and association consistent with international law; and recommended that Cambodia establish an independent national human rights institution consistent with the Paris principles. Australia continues to monitor the human rights situation in Cambodia and to work constructively with the Cambodian government for the protection of human rights.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer and I welcome the fact that the minister raised the issue of human rights in her meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen in Cambodia, but I wish to go specifically to the question of Australia's support for an inquiry into the irregularities which marred the 2013 Cambodian election. I ask specifically: what actions will Australia now proactively take to advance electoral reform— (Time expired)
Senator Milne, the issues raised with Hun Sen and other members of his government—and, indeed, with the opposition leader, Mr Rainsy—are as I have indicated. In relation to the more particular matter about which you have asked, I will take that on notice.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. Australia is a major aid donor to Cambodia—$85 million in the current financial year. Has the government raised with Prime Minister Hun Sen the possibility that that aid money may be transferred to non-government organisations and away from government activities unless there is an improvement in human rights and a move towards electoral reform and a new election?
As I indicated in my answer to the first supplementary question, the matters raised by the minister with the Prime Minister of Cambodia were as I have indicated. In relation to the specific matter about which Senator Milne inquires, I will take that on notice.