Page 3192 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 18 August 2009

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That there are these helpless and vulnerable people caught up in war is self-evident to anyone who watches the TV news at night. Rarely a night goes by when images of human suffering from war zones are not splashed across our television screens. And of course, as we all know, TV representations of events far away will never tell the full story.

As the Attorney-General noted earlier, it was for these reasons that the ICRC commissioned a survey of some of the people living in the most troubled places on earth, people who were either in the midst of war or suffering from its aftermath. As the Attorney-General noted, the survey covered a range of civilian populations in places such as Afghanistan, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of respondents to the survey thought that there should be clear distinctions made between civilians and combatants. Those surveyed felt strongly that certain actions such as depriving civilians of food and taking civilian hostages should be completely off limits. One finding of the survey that did stand out as surprising related to how many of those surveyed had heard of the Geneva conventions. Fewer than half of those surveyed had heard of the conventions; that is, people had not heard of the conventions that seek to prevent the acts of war which they spoke out against and classified as off limits.

It is with this fact in mind that I congratulate the Red Cross movement on its work in international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva conventions. I congratulate the Red Cross movement and its volunteers, because it is those and other like organisations who are on the ground in the war zones making a difference and seeking to uphold the conventions. It is those types of organisations that make a real difference to the vulnerable in times of war. I make the simple point that without the Red Cross movement, the conventions would be far less than they currently are.

The survey I referred to earlier asked if people had heard of the Geneva conventions, but it did not show them any of the three emblems of the Red Cross and ask if they recognised them. The three distinctive emblems—the Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the more recent Red Crystal—are emblems that are instantly recognisable to those in need at times of war. People associate the emblems with neutrality and with hope. The Red Cross movement offers hope where otherwise there would be none, and that is worthy of our full support today.

The ACT Greens are a party of peace and non-violence. We will always campaign for non-violent resolution to conflict. This position is based on a concern for the wellbeing of all humans, but especially civilian populations. It is from this basis that the Greens fully support the motion before the Assembly today marking the 60th anniversary of the Geneva conventions and congratulate the Red Cross movement on its work to prevent atrocities against the helpless.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.40), in reply: I would like to extend my thanks to members who have spoken in favour and support of this resolution this morning.

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