Senate debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2020


Human Rights, Climate Change: Pacific Islands, Pauga, Mr Talalelei

8:51 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise again tonight to speak on the issue of human rights around the world. The Australian Greens believe that universal human rights are fundamental and must be respected and protected in all countries and for all peoples. I had the privilege recently of speaking at two roundtables organised by the Humanism Project on human rights in India and particularly the concern that we have, as my speech was about, the RSS, which is a fascist organisation that openly admits admiration for Adolf Hitler and the appalling genocide that occurred under his Nazi regime. The contemporary RSS rides roughshod over people's human rights. Time and time again, the RSS has attacked Indian people's rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion and safety. Their advocacy of a Hindu Rashtra is for an India where, by definition, minorities are denied rights and privileges. They demonise and encourage persecution of some of the non-Hindu citizens of India, particularly those of Muslim background.

At the second of these forums, I particularly raised my concern that Australia's High Commissioner to India, Barry O'Farrell, had recently met with the RSS. He's only the second senior diplomat from any country to meet the RSS at their offices in recent times. This is a disgrace. We believe that the high commissioner should resign. I'm seeking further information about what advice the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provided to him before that meeting. There were a range of speakers from around the world at these two roundtables, including at the second—Mr Raju Rajagopal, Professor Anjali Arondekar and Pieter Friedrich. They provided important perspectives on human rights in India, on international connections and particularly on what we can do next, working together globally, to champion human rights in India. I'm keen to continue this discussion here in this parliament in the new year, because I believe that issues related to the erosion of human rights and democracy are things that needs to be drawn to people's attention and for us to discuss here in this national parliament.

Today is the 59th anniversary of the first raising of West Papua's symbol of independence, the Morning Star flag. The Australian Greens have long advocated for West Papuan independence. It was the former Australian Greens leader Richard Di Natale who in 2012 launched Australia's chapter of the International Parliamentarians for West Papua. When the Indonesian President visited here last year we took the opportunity to raise the issue of human rights in West Papua with him. So today we support the people of West Papua; we call on the Indonesian government to withdraw its combat troops from West Papua and to allow the UN Human Rights Commissioner to visit West Papua.

We are incredibly concerned at the likelihood of violence by Indonesian police, military and militias against protesters who are marking this day today. This concern is particularly important for us here in Australia because we have provided training and support to Indonesian police. When Indonesian police commit brutalities and human rights violations in West Papua, that is of real concern to us here as Australians. We must examine whether we are enabling these violations and take serious, urgent action if we are. This is, again, something that I'll be seeking further information on. We must not, as Australians, be enabling human rights abuses in West Papua.

Another crisis point for human rights is occurring right now, of course, in Ethiopia. This is a tragic situation. The crisis has been ongoing for some time now and has reached a point where devastating impacts are displacing thousands of people. We are calling for an immediate ceasefire, including protection for civilians, and the international community must provide support to negotiate a political solution to this conflict. The United Nations must have full access to provide humanitarian support and address this crisis. Here in Australia, the Greens believe that the Australian government should be doing everything it can to address this crisis, including supporting a peaceful resolution and humanitarian aid, and providing assistance to bring home Australians who are stranded in the conflict zone. It should urge the Ethiopian government to lift the telecommunications blackout which has had devastating impacts on many who are seeking news of their loved ones. The tragic reality is that this crisis is going to result in more deaths, more impacts on vulnerable communities and prolonged conflict unless the international community steps in. The Australian government should be advocating for and providing international support to help this to occur.

Of course, human rights often intersect with environmental crises in profound and important ways. I want to thank the writers from the Pacific nations of the open letter in The Sydney Morning Herald today for their courage in calling out our Liberal-National government's inaction on climate and what that then means for their communities. They called for Australians to work together with Pacific island peoples. They had five key requests. They wanted us to commit to zero net emissions by 2050 and to develop a long-term low-greenhouse-gas emissions strategy by next year, 2021. They want us to cancel Australia's leftover Kyoto protocol credits, which legally cannot, and morally should not, be used to meet our 2030 Paris Agreement targets. They want Australia to double our current nationally determined contribution, in line with the 2014 advice from the independent Climate Change Authority. They want to maximise the opportunities associated with the COVID-19 recovery package to boost the renewable energy sector and the low-emissions transport sector. And they want us to provide new and additional funds beyond the current aid budget to finance climate mitigation and adaptation under the Paris Agreement, including contributing to the Green Climate Fund. These are all very important things that Australia should be doing. But, of course, we actually should be going much further. The truth is that the Liberal Party's inaction on the climate crisis doesn't just hurt Australians; it's devastating our regional neighbours, who deserve so much better from us. Australia must do its part, and that means taking urgent, serious action on our climate crisis.

I want to conclude tonight by mentioning a particular case of a Samoan Australian, Talalelei Pauga, who is in custody in Brisbane awaiting extradition to Samoa. It's important, of course, that there is an independent, fair process to examine any allegations against him. However, it's a concern where we believe an individual may potentially not receive a fair and independent process. In this instance, I am particularly concerned at reports that the Prime Minister of Samoa has intervened by writing and criticising bail decisions in Samoa by the ministry of justice in relation to two individuals who were also charged in the case associated with Mr Pauga. An Amnesty International Pacific researcher has said:

The concern here with the extradition charges is that we don't know what evidence they have to allege this person has been involved in any crime in Samoa and yet he's been detained and held in custody, …

Talalelei Pauga has been a critic of the Samoan Prime Minister. We think it's incredibly important that a person's political activities should not result in political interference in what should be a fair and independent judicial process. Amnesty International has particularly raised concerns about this potential political interference. They said:

We've seen the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers communicate with the Samoan Government this year around some of their concerns about the lack of separation of power.

In conclusion, I want to be very clear: we are asking that the government pay very close attention to this case to ensure that there will be an independent and fair process to examine the allegations against Mr Pauga and to make sure that this process is not being influenced by political considerations before allowing Mr Pauga's extradition to proceed.