Page 3749 - Week 12 - Tuesday, 18 October 2005

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MR STANHOPE: I have detected a high degree of alarm at the spineless lack of support for human rights and civil liberties by the Liberal Party in Australia. I think that there is a very high degree of anxiety around the complete lack of support by the Liberal Party, as expressed by the attitude that we have seen displayed today in this place to deeply held Australian values. I think that there is genuine anxiety and concern within the community about the way in which the Liberal Party in particular, over a number of years, has treated the Australian community, particularly people marginalised within Australia, in a quite contemptible way.

In letters that I have received over the last few days, for instance—700 or 800 letters—and the hundreds of telephone calls that have been received in my office, there has been constant reference to anxiety about the Liberal Party’s attitude to refugees, to Cornelia Rau, to David Hicks and to Mamdouh Habib. The complete abrogation of any commitment to human rights or even to human dignity by the Liberal Party is a matter of grave concern to Australians, as are the nature, values and morality of the Liberal Party’s policies, most particularly the federal Liberal Party’s policies, in those areas to the extent that they constantly demean and devalue Australia’s commitment to things such as the rule of law, civil liberties and human rights.

Yes, Mrs Burke, there is a significant degree of anxiety within the community about your behaviour and the behaviour of your party, as reflected in issues such as the children overboard saga, the locking up of children behind razor wire in refugee camps, the deportation of Australian citizens without any sort of justification or checking, the failure of the federal government—the only Western government in the world to do so—to seek the release of its citizens from the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, and a raft of similar—

Mr Stefaniak: That’s lovely! It is an insult.

MR STANHOPE: How else could you describe it? David Hicks, an Australian citizen, has had four years of incarceration without access to a lawyer, without being appropriately charged or brought before a court with the capacity to try him consistent with the rule of law, and the Liberal Party in this place is prepared to support that.

The great irony, of course—and I do find it the finest irony—is that of the seven people in this place supporting that is a person who was detained without charge and incarcerated, and who rails against his incarceration, the fact that he was detained without charge. He stands in this place and supports policies such as the detention without charge for four years of an Australian citizen and yet continues to rail against his own experience. Of course, we will not go into the attitude or response of his co-incarcerated in relation to that and the particular feelings that they are continuing to suffer as a result of the circumstances around their detention.

Mrs Burke, these things are of enormous anxiety to Australians and I do detect that level of anxiety within Australia over your party’s attitude to the issues that I have just discussed.

MRS BURKE: I have a supplementary question. Attorney, why are you so out of step with every other leader in Australia?

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