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Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Page: 1055

Senator LUDWIG (Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (3:52 PM) —by leave—The Australian government does not support his motion. The Australian government again places on record its objection to dealing with complex international matters such as the one before us by means of formal motions. Such motions, as I have said before in this chamber, are blunt instruments. They force parties into the black-and-white choice of supporting or opposing them. Furthermore, they are too easily misinterpreted by some audiences as statements of policy by the national government.

For the record, the government is disappointed that the Beijing High Court has rejected the appeal of Dr Liu against his verdict of incitement to subvert state power and upheld his sentence of 11 years in prison. We are concerned by the nature of the charges and the very harsh sentence meted out to Dr Liu, who was seeking to exercise his rights of freedom of expression, which are guaranteed by Chinese law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China has signed. The outcome of the legal process would seem to be incompatible with international norms. We urge the relevant Chinese authorities to take into account the strong reaction of members of the international community and we call for Dr Liu’s immediate release.

While recognising that China has made some progress in human rights over the last 30 years, the government remains concerned about human rights in China. However, we do not believe that either the Australian government’s careful management of the complex and important relationship with China or progress on human rights, including Dr Liu’s case, will be materially assisted by this Senate motion.