Page 4001 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 15 Sept 2009

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speaking out against what is occurring in the camps. Most recently, a key representative and worker for UNICEF was expelled from Sri Lanka for speaking out against the conditions in the camps and a journalist was sentenced to a 20-year jail term for supposedly unbalanced reporting on the situation.

The forum addressed what actions governments, and the Australian government in particular, can take to challenge the Sri Lankan government for their treatment of the Tamils and human rights in general. The Tamil community in Australia are asking that the Sri Lankan government be treated as other countries such as Fiji are being treated by the Australian government—that is, to recognise where human rights violations are occurring and apply appropriate sanctions. They are also asking for the Australian government to assist Australian citizens who have family in or are themselves held in the camps as currently people are unable to get access to or communicate with their families.

It was also noted that the International Monetary Fund is set to provide approximately $2.6 billion in reconstruction funding to the Sri Lankan government without any conditions being applied. The United Kingdom and the United States abstained from voting on this funding. However, Australia has not disclosed how it voted on this. The forum speakers advised that, at a minimum, the Australian government should immediately disclose and explain its vote on the IMF funding, call for the release of the journalist who has been sentenced to a term of 20 years and call for aid agencies and the media to be given unrestricted access to the camps and that citizens of other countries be released immediately from the camps.

These are fairly basic actions that the Australian government should pursue. I would hope that it listens to the calls from the Tamil community in Australia, the international community and members of a number of organisations and undertakes these actions as a matter or urgency and also starts to pay greater attention to the human rights situation of Sri Lanka.


MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (4.39): I would like to talk about an event I went to on Friday night at which I was very privileged to be the speaker. It was organised by a group called Spring, a group of young professionals, a couple of whom decided, in a kitchen six weeks ago, that they wanted to raise money for homelessness services. In that six weeks they managed to pull together an event that was held at the Albert Hall.

About 100 young people slept out in the Albert Hall on Friday night. There were some rules around this. They were not allowed to bring air mattresses or anything comfortable to sleep on. They could bring a sleeping bag and had to sleep on cardboard boxes.

I would like to also acknowledge that the ACT government waived the fee for the Albert Hall for this fundraising event.

As I said, in six weeks they pulled together the event. They promoted it, they got many people involved and they got hundreds and hundreds more to sponsor them to

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