Page 4403 - Week 10 - Thursday, 22 September 2011

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The inquiry is, of course, a very important part of the process. It is important that we understand the scope of what happened here in Canberra and, as a community, collectively apologise for what was done to our fellow Canberrans in the past, and for those who are still suffering in the present. Many of those who were affected by this are now quite elderly, and we need to ensure that we respond to this issue as quickly as possible. I hope the government is following the inquiry and considering the evidence that does particularly apply to what happened in the ACT.

I was going to read out a couple of the particularly touching submissions that the inquiry has received, but I am sure that all of us in this place who are parents can imagine nothing worse than having our babies taken away. This is certainly one of the most horrendous things that have happened in our history and I hope that, very soon, we will be in a position to apologise and to participate in initiatives to help all those who suffered so badly.

International affairs—Iran

Canberra Chronicle

MR COE (Ginninderra) (6.35): On Saturday, 17 September, I had the pleasure of attending a dinner hosted by Brian Medway at Grace Canberra for members of the Australian Friends of Iranian Democracy. Brian has had an association with the group for some time and has been a strong advocate for their cause both in Australia and abroad. The dinner was held to honour the visit to Canberra by Mr Mohammed Sadeghpur, the leader of the Australian Friends of Democracy, and his wife Sayesheh. The dinner paid tribute to the group in their ongoing work with Iranian refugees who currently live in a portion of land that lies 100 kilometres north of Baghdad in Iraq, known as Camp Ashraf or Ashraf City.

Camp Ashraf is home to 3,400 members of Iran’s principal opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran, who have resided in this area of Iraq for 25 years. Iraqi government forces have renewed attacks on this group of refugees in recent years, despite them being recognised as protected persons under the fourth Geneva convention.

Supporters in Australia of the residents of Camp Ashraf are urging the Australian federal government to support the European parliament plan for the transfer of Ashraf residents to other countries and to join international condemnation of the current Iranian regime’s plan to relocate Ashraf’s residents inside Iraq, allowing for further and more sinister persecution.

I commend the Australian Friends of Iranian Democracy and the work they are doing to bring international pressure to bear in support of the plight of Ashraf City refugees.

I would like to take this opportunity to place on the record my congratulations to the Canberra Chronicle and its entire staff, past and present, for 30 years of service to the Canberra community. While we all in this place have a love-hate relationship with most of the media outlets in the region, I think it is appropriate to pay tribute to the Chronicle this evening and to acknowledge the role it plays in the Canberra community.

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