Monday, 15 March 2021
China: Human Rights
Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Patrick moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of this Senate, namely a motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion No. 1043 immediately, determined without amendment or debate.
We have had leave denied on Senator Patrick's motion. We have just failed a suspension of standing orders, denying the Senate the ability to consider an issue of critical foreign policy. Barely a month ago we had the government and the Labor Party giving notice of a motion in support of the US alliance and, as we said then, we took that as a move that finally—a welcome change—the government and Labor would now allow foreign policy motions to be considered by the Senate at this time. But, sadly, that appears not to be the case.
I want to put on the record that the Greens would have supported Senator Patrick's motion if we had been given the opportunity to vote on it, because the Chinese government's abuses against the Uighur people are appalling. We have millions of Uighurs who are detained in re-education camps, and the Chinese government is conducting a campaign to reduce Uighur birthrates and to systematically destroy cultural heritage. This is at the very least cultural genocide, and the Australian government must—
As is often the case with matters as complex as this relating to foreign policy, we don't deal with them as formal motions, but Australia remains deeply concerned by reports of enforced disappearances, mass detention, forced labour and pervasive surveillance of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and by restrictions on freedom of religion and belief in China. Recent reports of systemic torture and abuse of women are deeply disturbing. The Australian government urges China to allow international observers, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to be given immediate, meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang at the earliest opportunity. We consider transparency to be of utmost importance and will continue to work closely with our key partners to advocate on this issue in a meaningful way.
I'd like to just briefly acknowledge and associate myself with the comments of Senator Duniam—this feigned outrage at being denied formality by Senator Patrick, who is a marvellous actor, at times. That's exactly what he's trying to do. We are having every motion denied at this point in time. Every motion that you choose is being denied. A substantial matter like this, on human rights violations, deserves more from this Senate than moving a motion during formal business, where it's a yes or a no. There is no ability for anyone to speak. That is the problem we have with this, and the abuse of this part of the program. It is an abuse of this part of the program.
Senator Lambie interjecting—
Labor strongly condemns the human rights violations against the Uighurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang. But we do not believe that moving it during formal business at this point in time allows that to be appropriately debated.