Thursday, 6 December 2018
This motion was not a complex foreign matter. It simply acknowledged what the government had already done and asked that it continue engaging with China on human rights. Most of the crossbench have no issue with it. Indeed, I understand the alternative, Labor, government had no issues either. It's cowardly for the Liberal government to take this action.
We should never be so beholden to a foreign nation that we're afraid to engage on even the most minor inoffensive motion. This cop-out is particularly disappointing, given yesterday's Thank You Australia event hosted by the Tibetan community in exile and the fact that they presented a gift to this government, which was accepted by Minister Ken Wyatt. Denying formality makes that acceptance very hollow.
Despite what Senator Griff has just put on the record, the government remains committed to operating in line with its longstanding view that motions that cannot be debated or amended should not deal with complex foreign policy matters. We believe this is such. The government remains concerned about human rights in several countries, including important issues of freedom of speech, freedom of religious expression, the treatment of ethnic minorities and the rights of women and children. Australia raised concerns with China during the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. We continue to urge China and certain other nations to introduce meaningful human rights reforms.