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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4237

Mr SULLIVAN (8:22 PM) —As you will be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker Vale, I was not scheduled to speak in this debate, but I heard a few moments ago that there was a vacancy, so I am very pleased to be able to take this opportunity to support the motion put forward by my colleague the member for Leichhardt in respect of the circumstances that the Baha’i community find themselves in in Iran at the moment. I must apologise to Erica Cole, the secretary of the local spiritual assembly at home in Longman, as I had indicated to her that I was not going to have an opportunity to speak, so perhaps she will not be glued to the radio or the television to hear the contribution I am about to make. I welcome the members of the Baha’i community who are here today to listen to us support them in what are very troubling times for them. As my colleague has just said, a number of the people in prison, particularly the seven Baha’i that we are concerned about, have relations in Australia. It is important that we as Australians support our fellow Australians of the Baha’i faith.

These folk have been imprisoned for 12 months, essentially without charge. There have been charges levelled but no charges made—a circumstance that we just would not tolerate in our own country. I am not particularly interested in trying to force our standards onto the entire world, but in any part of the civilised world this would be intolerable. I think we have in Iran a country on the cusp, a country that ought to be doing more to look after its community, because it does want to be, I understand, a player in the world situation. Essentially what it is doing is marginalising itself as a country. We have seen other countries come from this situation in the past by recognising the error of their ways. I would hope that the error of Iran’s way in relation to the treatment of the Baha’i’s, not just in 2008 but for many years previously, is something that it will change.

I had the privilege—and it was a privilege—to act on behalf of a Baha’i member of my community, a fellow whose first name is Hamid, which is not an unusual first name for somebody from Iran. He is, I can stand here and say, one of the most delightful men I have met in my life. He was facing a grave injustice; he still faces it, but he faces it with great stoicism. I guess that is part of what he has learnt as a Baha’i person who escaped from Iran and came to our country via New Zealand as a refugee.

As has been said, the Baha’i people are a wonderful, brave, peace-loving people. They do not deserve anybody to find fault. That somebody does and that somebody does it repeatedly, serially and incessantly, with great unfairness in the penalties that are imposed, is something we need to stand up and talk about. The fact that so many beyond the seven who are the focus of the current campaign are currently in prison or have been in prison over recent years is something we should regret a great deal. The international Baha’i community is right to bring this campaign to us, as members of this chamber. We are right, as was the British Prime Minister, in saying to Iran that they must bring forward charges and they must give the imprisoned people the opportunity to answer those charges which, as we know, are best described as ‘trumped up’. The purpose for them is hard to see other than as a form of genocide. A religious cleansing of Iran could be the only context we could be looking at. As I think the member from the opposition mentioned earlier, who are they spying for? What are they going to tell them? (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DS Vale)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.