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Tuesday, 25 June 2002
Page: 2577

Senator BROWN (7:40 PM) —I am not. The chamber had this report in shorter form from the minister last night. He said that everything looked comfortable. It reminds me very much of the visitors to Drapchi Prison in Lhasa in 1998 who saw nothing. These were ambassadors from Britain and other European countries who went home and made quite a good report, but in the meantime 11 people, including five nuns, had been murdered in the prison simply for saying that they supported freedom for Tibet. We have had nothing from the Chinese authorities to explain what happened there.

I am not saying that there has been murder at Guantanamo Bay; what I am saying is that there is cruel and unusual punishment, including psychological torture, taking place there. I do not say that lightly. These people are deprived of touch with the ordinary surrounds that human beings have. They do not have the ability to exercise, the ability to meet and talk with others or the ability to have sport and social contact, which is usual in Australian prisons. The government should be ashamed of itself for trying to imply that everything is okay. These men have had their basic civil rights totally and deliberately abrogated by the Bush administration, which has taken them to a third country expressly for that purpose, and it says so.

The government tells the chamber tonight that it is all okay and it is not worried about these men, that it feels that their circumstances are acceptable. That is deplorable. That is the government abandoning Australian citizens. Were we to treat American citizens in this fashion, there would be hell to pay. It is obsequious—I had better be careful with my language here—and it falls far short of the mark of behaviour of a government which has pride in itself and its own country. Can you imagine the reaction in this country if these two men were being held under these circumstances in China, Somalia or Colombia? There is a total double standard here from the Howard government, simply because our Prime Minister does not have the gumption to eyeball the leader of another country, the United States, a foreign country, and say, `I will not put up with you treating Australian citizens in a way that you would not allow us to treat American citizens.' I also say that the Australian people would not put up with American citizens being treated in this fashion by the Australian government.

Senator McGauran —They would if they were guilty.

Senator BROWN —That is not the first remark that the senator opposite has made on this occasion. It seems to me that he has a presumption that he can find people guilty before they are even charged and that he knows what has gone on as far as these people apprehended by the United States are concerned. I think he is basically reflecting the opinion of the Prime Minister on the matter. But it is not an Australian opinion in this case, because Australians believe that you should be charged, you should have your rights met, you should be brought before a court and, if convicted, you then should be locked up with certain standards applying. None of those things apply in this case. The matter does not rest there.