Senate debates

Tuesday, 30 November 2021


West Papua, Human Rights

8:31 pm

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

The Australian Greens believe that universal human rights are fundamental and must be respected and protected in all countries and for all people, and that must inform our approach to foreign policy, including our approach to bilateral relationships, as well as broader foreign policy approaches. Tomorrow is West Papua Flag Day. It's the 60th anniversary of 1 December 1961, when the Morning Star flag was first raised, when the Indigenous people of the former Dutch New Guinea declared independence.

Following this act of self-determination, Indonesia invaded the territory, and many West Papuans have been killed or imprisoned by the occupying Indonesian military ever since. This flag is seen as the national flag of West Papua and continues to stand as a symbol of hope for a free West Papua. I'm proud that tomorrow morning I'm going to be attending and speaking at a flag-raising of the Morning Star flag to be held at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy here in Canberra, organised by the Free West Papua campaign. There is significant connection and support between our First Nations peoples and West Papuans, who are both working for sovereignty of their traditional lands.

Raising the Morning Star flag is a really potent and moving thing to do because it is illegal to do so in West Papua. Anyone who raises the Morning Star flag in West Papua faces arrest, torture and a long jail sentence. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been arrested over the years for raising the flag, including dozens in 2019. Just last month, a Catholic brother was arrested by the Jayapura city district police for wearing a banned Morning Star flag T-shirt while watching a soccer match between Papua and East Nusa Tenggara at Indonesia’s National Games at Mandala Stadium.

Sadly, the Indonesian government's suppression of the West Papua people doesn't stop at arresting people who are attempting to assert freedom of speech or freedom of peaceful protest. Ongoing attacks in West Papua have displaced thousands of people and resulted in multiple civilian deaths. We've heard the awful reports of rockets fired from helicopters, and those displaced in the forest face the risk of disease and starvation, even when they're able to find shelter from the attacks. These attacks in West Papua are horrific and they must cease. It's particularly concerning that the Australian government has been so unwilling to call out these attacks and, in fact, has been training Indonesian security forces at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement. However, there has been no willingness to provide accountability of whether our government is enabling these human rights abusers. Australia has also provided 15 Bushmaster vehicles to the Indonesian government, again without transparency or accountability for how they're being used and whether they're being used in support of human rights abuse and attacks on West Papuan people.

The Australian Greens support the right of the people of West Papua to self-determination and we call on the Australian government to cease training or enabling those who are committing human rights abuses. The Australian government should support the proposed UN human rights visit to Indonesia to investigate human rights abuses. We call for humanitarian aid to reach those who need it, especially to support the health and safety of internally displaced West Papuan refugees—especially women and children who have had to flee their homes due to the ongoing conflict. And we call on the Indonesian government to cease its attacks on civilians in West Papua and to withdraw all military troops.

As well as talking about human rights in West Papua, I want to touch on some different approaches that we can take to ensure human rights are protected and central to our foreign policy approaches. After the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the world became powerfully aware of the urgent need for timely, decisive and coordinated international responses to mass atrocities. An agreement was reached through the United Nations for the Responsibility to Protect, or R2P, a norm encouraging states to take action to ensure that the horrors of Rwanda and Srebrenica would never occur again. At the 2005 World Summit, all UN member states made a commitment to R2P, recognising our shared responsibility to protect populations which are being violently and systematically targeted, and to halt mass atrocities regardless of where they're happening in the world.

As R2P provides a mandate for coercive as well as diplomatic measures, it's important that it be used appropriately and that we do not forget nor overreach its sole purpose of civilian protection. While we should be wary of when we use R2P to justify coercive measures, we should embrace its ideas of atrocity prevention, of mutual assistance and of international solidarity against grievous human rights violations. R2P gives us an avenue to act to halt atrocities and to protect human life.

Australia should be actively supporting R2P, both through advocacy and policy routes, by developing an atrocity prevention unit to improve our ability to prevent and respond to regional atrocities and by clarifying our national atrocity response strategy. Australia can become a global leader in R2P, advocating for human rights and protecting populations across the globe.

Finally this evening, I want to move to some end-of-year things. First of all, I want to take this opportunity to wish all Jewish Australians who will be lighting the menorah over the week a very happy Hanukkah. It has been a tough couple of years, especially for people in my home state of Victoria, but I hope that the lights of Hanukkah bring brightness and renewed hope to all those celebrating. Hanukkah sameach!

Finally, of course it's two days until we break for the year, and it has been a huge year. I want to thank anyone who has taken any action this year to help make Australia and the world a fairer, more caring and more sustainable place, who has reached out to their neighbours doing it tough as they've struggled with the pandemic, with being out of work, with being unwell, with not having enough food to put on the table or money to pay the rent. I have learnt a lot in the past three months since I took on the community affairs portfolio for the Greens. I really want to salute people for whom just getting through each day is an achievement and who are some of the true heroes of our country.

I want to thank everyone working for and supporting the most amazing advocacy and campaign organisations. They are working to help people to live their lives with dignity and respect. I want to thank everyone who has taken action to protect nature and the places we love, from pulling out weeds in their local park to being heroes protecting our forests and putting their bodies on the line in protest action. And I want to thank people who have given their all working for peace and disarmament and for democracy here and around the world.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has made our jobs here as senators possible. Personally, I want to thank my amazing staff. I want to thank my party room colleagues, and all our Greens members and supporters. And I want to thank the people who make this place tick: the Senate attendants, the library staff, the Clerk and all the procedures staff, the amazing committee staff, the Comcar drivers and the cleaners. Thank you; I thank every one of you. I really hope you all have an excellent holiday break, a merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year's celebration and that 2022 is going to be a year when things go well for you and indeed for us all. Thank you.