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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6091


Ms ANNETTE ELLIS (3:17 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister please update the House on developments in Iran?


Mr STEPHEN SMITH (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the member for her question. As members will, of course, be aware, the Iranian election was completed on 12 June and on 13 June the Iran Election Commission announced the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. This result has caused great controversy in Iran. Overnight we saw thousands of Iranians in Tehran protesting that result. It is now crystal clear—


Mr Dutton —If you say, ‘Fair shake of the sauce bottle,’ we’ll know these are Rudd’s words!


Mr STEPHEN SMITH —I am pleased to acknowledge the member’s complete lack of interest in what is occurring in Iran.


Mr Dutton —It’s a reflection of your lack of grasp of your portfolio


The SPEAKER —The member for Dickson will cease interjecting. The minister will ignore the interjections.


Mr Dutton —They are the Prime Minister’s words.


The SPEAKER —The member for Dickson!


Mr STEPHEN SMITH —Mr Speaker, I am happy to ignore the interjection but it is impossible to ignore his complete indifference. I assume that that reflects the attitude of those opposite. It is now crystal clear that there are very grave doubts about the result so far as the Iranian election is concerned. Two of the main challengers, Mr Mousavi and the former speaker, Mr Karroubi, have indicated that they want the election result to be cancelled. The main challenger, Mr Mousavi, has filed an official complaint against the election result and he has been joined in that respect by the third challenger, Mr Razai. Australia, as with other members of the international community, is watching these developments very carefully and closely. We urge the Iranian authorities, the Iranian government, to ensure that the issues raised by the three challengers are dealt with promptly and transparently. We very strongly hope that the commitment made by the Supreme Leader that these matters will be reviewed leads to a thorough and transparent review and investigation.

In some respects more importantly—and hence my riposte to the member opposite—we are gravely concerned about both the reports and the images of the serious human rights abuses we have seen on camera and in photos in the last 24 to 36 hours in Tehran. That is why I admonish the member opposite. We are very gravely concerned about the very serious breaches of human rights we have seen. We join the UN Secretary-General, we join President Obama and we join our colleges from the European Union and the United Kingdom in underlining very seriously our condemnation of these events and our call for restraint by the Iranian authorities. That is why I admonish the member opposite—for his complete indifference on human rights matters. We urge the Iranian government to—


Mr Dutton —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I find the remarks of the Minister for Foreign Affairs quite offensive. I would ask that you ask him to withdraw them.


The SPEAKER —Again, I indicate that quite often things are said in this place that are very robust. I also caution people that, if they want to interject, thereby interrupting the proceedings, often they get, to use the term that the minister used, ‘ripostes’ they do not like.


Mr Dutton —Further to your ruling and with respect, Mr Speaker, I took personal offence to the comments made by the minister. Regardless of the interjections and the way in which parliament conducts itself—on both sides—to suggest somehow that I have no sympathy for the Iranians or for the situation in Iran at the moment is offensive. I ask that they be withdrawn.


The SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat. If the honourable member wishes to reflect upon the comments that he introduced by way of interjection at the start of this answer, I think he will understand the point I am trying to make. If he indeed feels aggrieved, there are other forms of the House that he might choose to use.


Mr STEPHEN SMITH —The Australian government has, of course, over the period made very strong representations to the Iranian government about serious human rights breaches. We underline those serious human rights breaches so far as the right of Iranians to protest peacefully is concerned. Like other members of the international community, Australia was impressed by the robust debate that we saw in the context and course of the election campaign. It would be most distressing if the spirit of that debate during the election campaign were not reflected by an election outcome which properly reflected the will of the Iranian people.

Putting those issues to one side—those serious breaches of human rights and our concern to ensure the election reflects the will of the Iranian people—there is in my view a more fundamental point to make. Irrespective of the outcome of the election, what is absolutely crucial for the international community and for Iran is that Iran changes its policy approach so far as its nuclear program in particular is concerned and so far as its treatment of human rights issues is concerned. These points have been made crystal clear by me in recent times to my counterpart, Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki, and to his Deputy Foreign Minister Akhundzadeh. The time for Iran to engage properly with the international community, to respond positively to the overtures by the Obama administration, is now here. Iran needs to change its course, respond to the concerns of the International Atomic Energy Agency and act consistently with United Nations Security Council resolutions. If it does not, Iran runs the risk of further isolating itself and runs the risk of doing further damage to its standing in the international community and continuing to add to concern about its nuclear program.

We hope that the Supreme Leader’s undertaking for a review of these matters is effected transparently and promptly. More importantly, we hope that Iran changes policies in respect of these matters. And I would certainly hope that there would be a general, bipartisan approach in these matters.