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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 385

Senator CHAMARETTE (7.09 p.m.) —I wish to indicate where the Greens stand in relation to this motion. We certainly support part of the motion without necessarily agreeing with all the arguments of the opposition or with the particular wording of parts of it. Like Senator Gareth Evans and the other members who have expressed this view in the chamber, the Greens are not at all proud of Australia's involvement in the war in Vietnam.

  However, on this rare occasion, I have to agree with the comment from Senator Kemp that, regardless of the circumstances which led to the tragic death of Australian soldiers, the responsibility of the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) was to acknowledge that tragedy and loss in the same way that he acknowledged the death of Australian soldiers on the Burma Railway on his visit to Thailand. We believe it has caused concern and that it was his responsibility.

  We have concerns about the third and fourth paragraphs of this motion, but as I have just indicated, we believe that there is sufficient justification for the first two paragraphs to be accepted as they are. In relation to the third and fourth paragraphs, we are disappointed in the Prime Minister's stance on human rights. Concerns have been expressed over and over again regarding human rights violations and abuses in Vietnam, particularly imprisonment of religious groups such as the Buddhist nuns and priests. We have to express disappointment that the Prime Minister has not taken a firmer stand.

  However, I believe that calling the particular human rights delegation an emasculated one, which is not appropriate language—in my view anyway—and to then denigrate it, does not support the view of many people that that delegation has a very legitimate role to play in challenging the human rights position in Vietnam. We do not wish to denigrate that delegation, and to do that in a motion moved in this place.

  Similarly, there is some difficulty with the wording of the fourth paragraph, which suggests that people may be offended by the visit of Mr Do Muoi. So the Greens would be prepared to support this motion if the paragraph that relates to the human rights delegation is removed, as well as the section on the reason why many people in Australia might be offended by the visit.

  We are prepared to support paragraphs (a), (b) and (c)(ii). We feel it is inappropriate that the Prime Minister has invited the Vietnamese communist party chief Mr Do Muoi to visit Australia in an official capacity. We want to support any way in which the Prime Minister takes a firm stand on human rights violations. For that reason, while we do not support that aspect of the motion, we believe it has been debated sufficiently. Provided we have Senator Short's agreement to the deletion of those parts of the motion that we find ourselves unable to support, we will support the motion. I ask for a response from Senator Short. I move:

  Paragraph (c), subparagraph (i), omit the subparagraph.

  Paragraph (d), omit the paragraph.