Monday, 4 December 2017
In lieu of suspending standing orders, I seek leave to make a short statement of no longer than two minutes.
Not more than 10 minutes ago, we were in this chamber debating a motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to pass a resolution on the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. That is a complex foreign policy matter on which the government was prepared to grant formality to the opposition in order to facilitate the passage of this motion. That makes a lie of the government's denying formality simply on the basis that a motion relates to foreign policy. No, they are denying formality because they don't want to vote on foreign policy issues that make them uncomfortable.
That's what denying formality has done here, because the situation in West Papua, our close neighbour, is one where successive governments have ignored the horrendous human rights abuses committed against the West Papuan people by the Indonesian government, facilitated by the support given to the Indonesian government by Australia through military training and other support. Researchers at Griffith University, who are backed up by Amnesty International, say that in the last 50 years half a million people have been killed in West Papua as a result of Indonesia's occupation. It's been referred to as a 'slow-moving genocide'. Here we have both major parties denying formality on an issue where people in our region are facing 15 years in prison for doing nothing other than raising the Morning Star flag, and where political prisoners are locked up for years for attending demonstrations. It is time now for other parties to join the Greens and the international movement building in support of the West Papuan claim for self-determination.
In line with the longstanding view of successive governments, given that formal motions cannot be debated or amended, they should not deal with complex and contested foreign policy matters, particularly where the motion has the potential to damage Australia's relations with other nations. Senator Di Natale knows well that this is a complex and contested foreign policy matter and, as such, would be denied formality. The Senate should not consider a vote on foreign policy motions of this kind without the ability to have a full debate, given that they involve serious and substantial issues.
Australia has long recognised Indonesia's sovereignty over the provinces of Papua and West Papua. This is a bipartisan position in Australia, underlined by the 2006 Lombok treaty between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesian sovereignty is also widely recognised by the international community. In May 2017, during Indonesia's United Nations Human Rights Council universal periodic review in Geneva, Australia made a number of recommendations, including that Indonesia finalise investigations on all human rights cases in Papua. In September 2017, Indonesia accepted this recommendation. (Time expired)