Page 2781 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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On Sunday, there was another event—this was the initiative of St Margaret’s Uniting Church in Hackett—where the work of Stepping Stones came into strong focus. We were welcomed by Jo Bishop and the Reverend Harvey Smith and other members of the church community, including Jeff Bishop, who was chair of their aged and disability committee. On that occasion, the Chief Minister was also present. He and Mrs Stanhope conducted a reading. We were also treated to a concert by a group of disabled people afterwards. They and their families were present and there was, on the occasion of the service, a collection taken up to help with the work of Stepping Stones. They should be formally recognised for their important work and for the great day that was held at St Margaret’s Church in Hackett last Sunday, and my congratulations go to them.

Ms Ingrid Betancourt

International affairs—Burma

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (7.18): I want to talk today about what has really been a very wonderful event in the world of the Global Greens. I think I have talked before here about Ingrid Betancourt, who was the Green Colombians candidate for the Senate and who, in February 2002, was kidnapped by the revolutionary forces, so-called, there, the FARC. She had been held a captive and moved around within the jungles of Colombia for six years. There have been many efforts to have her released.

At the Global Greens conference in Sao Paolo in very early May, we moved a motion to put pressure on the Colombian government to do all it could to secure the release of Ingrid Betancourt. Her husband and somebody who had been a captive with her for a period of time were there. He spoke about the experiences that they had when he and Ingrid tried to escape from the FARC. Clearly, that was not successful. Ingrid Betancourt is certainly very ill and it will probably take her many years to recover. I think the important thing is that she is alive and that she is free.

I need to acknowledge in this the efforts made by the French President and the Venezuelan President in their attempts to persuade the Colombian government to make every effort to rescue Ingrid. I should say that 14 other people have been freed at the same time. I am sure they are no less important but they are not known to me. I think it is a great day that Ingrid Betancourt has been freed, after six years, and I think that Colombian politics will be the better for it—that is, if she feels safe in Colombia. It is quite possible that she will be given asylum in some other country. I do think Venezuela has made that offer.

I want to say, as I have a couple of minutes left—and I hope not to annoy people—this: it is out of the news, but the people of Burma are still suffering most enormously. While the media moves on, people are still suffering and that should be remembered. The money has stopped pouring in and people need to know that there are ways that they can donate that will go to the people who need it. One of those ways is probably through the Red Cross.

I know that AFEDA has now got a campaign. I also want to mention that the Burma-Australia Association is collecting money that is distributed through the monks of Burma and if people—and I am sure that everybody does, if they have not already—want to contribute to help feed the Burmese people, they can do so through that

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