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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 2702 ..

MS HORODNY (continuing):

exercised as well by other MLAs, particularly members of the Labor Party, who have said correctly in a media release that it is up to all of us, if we care about democracy and freedom of expression, to do whatever we can to ensure that gross abuses of human rights are exposed and condemned. I commend the amendment to the Assembly.

MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (11.40): Mr Speaker, let me state at the outset the Government's view about the actions of the Nigerian Government. Clearly, the decision to use the gallows as a weapon to suppress the interests of particular national groups within Nigeria is an abhorrent development and deserves to be condemned in the most strident terms. This Assembly has from time to time taken a stance on similar issues where other governments have used various tactics of terror to produce results they think would be conducive to consolidating their control over their own country, and I think it behoves the Assembly to stand out and take those positions on those sorts of issues.

I recall that we have done so in the past in respect of the regime in Burma, and recently we have made statements about the activities of the French Government. On this occasion it is certainly appropriate for us to be acting in respect of the decision of the Nigerian Government to hang nine activists, apparently for their non-violent resistance to the Government of Nigeria. The hanging underpins an ethnic and racial problem and a religious problem in Nigeria, where peoples of certain regions are clearly outside the mainstream of the Nigerian establishment. For various reasons, these people are subject to oppressive behaviour by the Nigerian Government.

The argument has been put - I do not know whether it is true or not - that there is a conflict in Nigeria between the Muslim north, which generally controls the government in Nigeria, and the Christian south, and that the Ogoni people of the south have had considerable exploitation of their natural resources, particularly oil, conducted by the Government of Nigeria. Very little of the revenue from that exploitation has been returned to those people. Instead, it has been used by the Government to develop the north of that country.

The world has reacted with anger to those hangings. Nigeria has been suspended from the Commonwealth and boycotts have been organised by a number of nations, notably South Africa. I certainly support any action by the Commonwealth Government of Australia to take action against Nigeria. Elements of the motion call for that to happen, and that has the support of the Government. Having said that, I repeat what Mr De Domenico has said, that is, that the Government does not support paragraph (3) of the motion before the Assembly. The reason is, essentially, that we believe that there is a problem in translating action at appropriate national and international levels into action at the local level, which has an impact that arguably hurts us and local franchisees of particular companies - in this case Shell - more heavily than it hurts the people of Nigeria or the Government of Nigeria. It is arguable that nothing in the third part of this motion will have the least impact on the Government of Nigeria. It is arguable that it has relatively little impact on the people who run the Shell oil company as well.

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