19 March, 2002 ACT

"What sort of country is it where we have the government stand next to the foreign minister from the Beijing dictatorship and "acquiesce" to that dictatorship's breaches of human rights not just in China but now by its de facto curtailing [of] our rights to peacefully protest here in Australia.

I can 't tell you how much I object to the breaches of not just international law but China's own constitution by the government of Jiang Zemin. But when Alexander Downer, our Foreign Minister, stands next to the Foreign Minister from China and allows these peaceful people with the advocacy of truth and of gentleness and of tolerance and of the human spirit to have their rights curtailed in this country, to stand for those things is a shameful piece of behavior by the Howard government.

One can argue that they are putting commerce in front of standing for civil liberties in this country, but once you allow it the right to begin, where does it end?

I am glad to be a member of parliament who defends the right to expression... peaceful expression by members of our community in any manner that they like, but when it comes to a spirituality, for goodness sakes, we should be fostering it in this spiritual society. Not tramping on it. Now, I have to say that I object -- I think the behavior of Mr. Downer and the Howard government is cowardly.

It is Beijing dictating to Australia now. We may not be able to dictate to Beijing about human rights. And we have heard about people being shot [and] tortured, having their rights removed.

I was in China in 1999 when the clamp down on the practice of Falun Dafa began. I saw the television coverage. I was sitting in my room in Beijing. And it is incredible now that we have an Australian government saying these peaceful people, these people who believe in tolerance and humanity, will not be able to hold up a placard as they have been doing for nine months here because the representative of a brutal dictatorship in Beijing happens to be driving in and out of this gate.

That is complicity by the Howard government and I for one could not live with myself if I did not come here today. I want to be with these people, these Australians, expressing their rights to freedom and for a better world against the representatives of this government, not the people of China -- this government and its dictatorial abuse of people's rights and of killing and torturing of people simply because they believe differently [from] the [...] communist system.

Alexander Downer should be standing here on behalf of Australian freedom. It should not be left to Kerry Tucker and... and these good citizens to protect the rights this country holds dearly.