Senate debates

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Statements by Senators

Federal Election: Labor Government, Myanmar: Human Rights

12:55 pm

Photo of Paul ScarrPaul Scarr (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to firstly commend Senator Cox for bringing to the attention of especially the people of Queensland what the realities will be if the Labor Party win the next election. I was listening very carefully to Senator Cox's contribution the other day, when she talked about the sharing of power in the event that Labor form the next government in this place. That's the reality, and Senator Cox pursued that theme in her contribution today. The Greens will use their numbers—and it doesn't matter what Senator Farrell thinks—to take the Labor Party to the extreme Left. That is the reality of the situation in the event there is a change in government in this place at the next election. The people of Queensland should consider their choice very, very carefully, because the only way in which the Labor Party will be able to get legislation through this place to pursue their agenda—to abolish the ABCC and do whatever else they want to do—is to do deals with the Australian Greens. And that is a potential—

Senator Farrell, I will take that interjection: I will certainly not be voting for the abolition of the ABCC, and I believe you wouldn't, either, if you had the power not to. The reality is, if the Labor Party wins the next election, it will be—to use Senator Cox's words—power sharing with the Australian Greens. That is the reality that faces the Australian people at the next election. So, Senator Cox, I commend you on that contribution, and I hope that the people of Queensland have listened very, very carefully, because that's the reality of life in the event that the Labor Party wins the next election and it's not pretty for the people of Queensland. It's not pretty for their jobs or their economic prosperity or for all those industries which provide so many jobs and generate so much wealth and opportunity for the people of Queensland. That is the reality in the event that the Labor Party wins the election: power sharing—I'm quoting the Greens—between the Greens and the Labor Party, in the event that Mr Albanese becomes the next Prime Minister of this country.

I would like to make a contribution in relation to the situation in Myanmar, which I'm sure all senators in this place are deeply concerned about. In the last week I've had the opportunity to attend a round table discussion with members of the Australian Myanmar community in Queensland. Firstly, I'd like to sincerely thank them for taking the time to meet with me and to convey personally their concerns in relation to what is a deteriorating situation in Myanmar. In this context, I'd also like to associate my remarks with the comments of Senator Bilyk in relation to the situation in Ukraine. I think Senator Bilyk has very effectively conveyed the concerns many of us have with respect to that awful, awful situation in a region that has borne so much tragedy over the last hundred years.

In relation to the situation in Myanmar I commend to all senators a report recently released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report is dated 15 March 2022 and the summary says:

Myanmar is caught in a downward spiral of violence characterized by the increasingly brutal repression of individuals actually or seemingly opposed to military rule, by violent resistance to the coup and by several active non-international armed conflicts. Action must be taken to stem the pace at which individuals are being targeted by the military authorities and stripped of their rights, their lives and their livelihoods.

I will emphasise that point: 'Myanmar is caught in a downward spiral of violence'. In this report, there is a shocking amount of evidence of the human rights abuses and violations which are occurring in Myanmar. I'll quote just a few sections, again for the information of all senators, and I recommend that all senators read this report, dated 15 March 2022:

19. Credible sources have shown that, between 1 February 2021 and 31 January 2022, at least 1,500 persons died at the hands of security forces and their affiliates; that total is above and beyond the number of civilian deaths resulting from pre-existing armed conflicts … Over 100 children … including at least 90 boys and 15 girls, were killed.

…   …   …

22. Security forces first employed lethal force at peaceful assemblies. In many instances, police and military personnel used live ammunition, sometimes directing it at individuals, to disperse demonstrations. Interviewees described snipers being stationed near protest sites. The relative of one source was reportedly shot in the back by a marksman at a protest held in March …

…   …   …

25. Over 20 per cent of fatalities (about 325 people, including 16 children) occurred in custody, with a significant increase in the number of cases starting in July 2021 …

26. Many interviewees indicated that they remained unaware of the whereabouts of numerous detainees, that corpses were disposed of without informing or receiving the consent of families and that requested information about relatives was simply withheld …

27. Individuals have also been killed by the security forces during "clearance operations". Beginning in July 2021, a series of mass killings during military operations have been reported.

…   …   …

29. Since 1 February 2021, the State Administration Council illegally amended laws to confer to the security forces unchecked powers of arrest and detention … Initially, the military detained hundreds of individuals from the executive and legislative branches of government. Subsequently, it targeted doctors, nurses, celebrities, students, educators and others for criticizing the coup, for participating in peaceful demonstrations or the civil disobedience movement …

30. Credible sources indicate that, between 1 February 2021 and 31 January 2022, the State Administration Council and its affiliated armed elements detained 9,307 males and 2,349 females, 240 of whom were children. Additionally, another 1,971 individuals were wanted by the State Administration Council, forcing them to go into hiding.

…   …   …

44. Myanmar is wrought with devastation. The increasing prosperity that many around the country have in recent years begun to enjoy has come to a halt. Concurrently, ethnic minorities who have been persecuted for decades face even more violence and insecurity. In attempting to crush the armed opposition, the Tatmadaw—

the military dictatorship—

has continued its "Four Cuts" policy and conducted offensives using air strikes, helicopter gunships, artillery and mortars …

45. Many armed actors persistently use land mines and hidden improvised explosive devices, killing and injuring individuals around the country.

And so it goes on—a litany of human rights violations which are occurring as we sit here today in this Senate, in safety, in Australia.

I would like to commend the work of the Australian Myanmar diaspora in advocating in relation to these issues and bringing these atrocities to our attention. I also commend their generosity in doing all they can to raise funds in Australia to help the hundreds of thousands of people in need in Myanmar.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the statements made on the weekend by our Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison. The Australian government is providing 2,000 additional visas, under Australia's humanitarian program, for Myanmar refugees. It is fit and proper that we do so, because our Myanmar diaspora—our Myanmar community in Australia—make such a wonderful contribution to Australia in so many ways. In addition, there is going to be an increase in targeted aid for Burmese in refugee camps in border regions. Indeed, this financial year, Australia will deliver over $95 million of assistance to the people of Myanmar.

Lastly, I would like to pay tribute to my colleague Senator Dean Smith in relation to his advocacy on behalf of the Burmese diaspora. He has been tireless in his efforts to bring these matters to the attention of the Senate.