Monday, 7 December 2020
Conduct of Senators
At the request of Senator Wong, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that, during a hearing of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee's inquiry into issues affecting diaspora communities in Australia on 14 October 2020, Senator Abetz demanded that witnesses of Chinese heritage 'unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship' in what those targeted have described as 'a jarring experience';
(b) affirms that:
(i) social cohesion in Australian society is the basis of our sovereignty,
(ii) statements and conduct that target Australians based on their cultural background or ethnicity risk driving division and undermining our social cohesion and sovereignty, and
(iii) all Australians have a right to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect regardless of race, colour, creed or origin; and
(c) calls on all senators to ensure their conduct recognises these principles.
The government agrees that all Australians have a right to enjoy equal rights and be treated with equal respect, regardless of race, colour, creed or origin. Australia is a strong and robust liberal democracy with one of the world's most open and thriving multicultural societies. Australia owes its strength and prosperity in no small part to the economic and social contributions of successive generations of migrants coming to our shores. The Australian government proudly acknowledges Chinese Australians' strong cultural, social and economic contributions to Australian life. Our nation has greatly benefited from the contribution made by people of Chinese heritage, many of whom have distinguished themselves in all walks of life including business, medicine, education and, indeed, politics.
The Greens support this motion. What Senator Abetz did was disgraceful. There is no doubt about that. Interrogating a person's loyalty to this country because of their cultural background is unacceptable. It's just as disgraceful that Senator Abetz has dug his heels in and refuses to engage in self-reflection. It's even more disgraceful that not one single minister of this government has condemned Senator Abetz for his racist targeting of Chinese Australians. The government should not be tolerating any insinuation that Chinese Australian communities are suspect or have questionable allegiances. This is horrid, toxic stuff. I was proud to put my name to an Asian Australian Alliance open letter calling on Minister Tudge to make clear that Senator Abetz's behaviour was unacceptable. I reiterate my call today.
On a point of order, Madam Deputy President: I wonder if you can ask Senator Faruqi to reflect on her contribution just then. It's not temperate language, and I think there are a number of things that could even be sought to be withdrawn.
Senator Faruqi was reflecting on the substance of the motion, but I do remind senators that these are obviously important topics and to be careful about how they express themselves. I would ask Senator Faruqi to consider withdrawing, and I'll leave it at that.
I see it as essential that senators have the authority to speak their minds and to call on Australian citizens to reject a foreign power, especially one with a totalitarian government like the Chinese Communist Party. Secondly, I will not be supporting this motion. I disagree with (b)(i). I believe that the laws and values of our country are the basis of our society and our sovereignty.
I thank the Senate. I completely reject the outrageous assertion that has been made that, in any way, shape or form, I engaged in racist conduct. That should be withdrawn under any interpretation of the standing orders. Secondly, the motion asserts that I demanded certain things. The Hansard shows no demand was made. Thirdly, I can indicate that no request for loyalty was made, yet that is once again repeated in the motion. Because they have no feathers to fly with, the two Labor Party operatives who gave evidence to a Senate committee found difficulty in answering a simple, basic question as to whether a country, a dictatorship, that has one million of its citizens in a concentration camp ought be condemned. They have this immediate reaction that to do so is racist. I stand with the oppressed.
Honourable senators interjecting—