Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Malaysian oppn leader 'disgusted' by response -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, says he's surprised and disgusted at the Australian Government's response to threats against Malaysian students in Australia.

The students have been warned by the Malaysian government not to attend a speech by Mr Anwar at this weekend's Festival of Ideas in Adelaide.

They were told that attending the event could threaten the future of their scholarships.

Late yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a one line statement saying all students residing in Australia, including the Malaysian students, enjoy all rights and liberties available under the Australian law, but Mr Anwar has told AM that's not good enough.

He spoke to our reporter in Canberra, Samantha Hawley.

ANWAR IBRAHIM: I appreciate the initial response, at least giving the Australian position on the issue, which is clearly known to the Malaysian authorities and the students. What is required is to suggest or to indicate that this is wrong, that under Australian laws or in democratic tradition, you cannot condone or tolerate these excesses.

If you don't, if you fail to do this, it seems to be condoning the excesses. And that is my surprise or disgust at the failure of the Australian authorities to do the barest minimum to say 'please, back off from this sort of instructions in Australia'.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Do you think that that message should come directly from our Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Well I presume that's the correct position to do, because I happen to come here on an invitation as the leader of the opposition in Malaysia.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: So will you be making that point while you're here in Australia? That you're not satisfied with the Australian Government's response to this?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: Well I am surprised and disappointment. There's clearly ambivalence - you talk about democracy promotion in Iraq and then you seem to be condoning excesses, glaring excesses, in front of your very eyes?

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And what would you say to the Malaysian students here in Australia that want to come and hear you talk but are obviously somewhat concerned now because of the threat?

ANWAR IBRAHIM: I would appeal to them if they come in large numbers, we on our part will take it up in parliament, due to sit next week, and also have parliament expose this. Which means I am quite sure that the Malaysian authority will not have the guts to withdraw scholarships or send students back home.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

The Independent MP Nick Xenophon says the Australian Government's response is in stark contrast to that of the United States during a visit by Mr Anwar there.

He's spoke to Samantha Hawley.

NICK XENOPHON: Well, this is a pathetically timid response that will simply embolden the thuggish and paranoid behaviour of the Malaysian government. These students have been intimidated by this message from the Malaysian government. The Australian Government's response is a non-response. You contrast it with the US State Department when Anwar Ibrahim was due to speak to Harvard and Stanford universities, the Malaysian government tried this ploy on Malaysian students there but the State Department actually intervened and told the Malaysian government this was unacceptable. The Australian Government has lacked backbone on this, and it really is quite shameful behaviour on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Minister.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: And do you think the Minister herself should have put her name to it?

NICK XENOPHON: Look the Minister, I realise the Minister's overseas, but the Minister could have put her name to it, or the Acting Foreign Minister could have put his name to it.

This is really a massive fob-off to a man whose opposition parties won close to 52 per cent of the official vote at the last Malaysian elections just a few months ago. Anwar Ibrahim deserves some respect from our government, given that he won even on the Malaysian government's figures, well over 50 per cent of the popular vote and the real vote was actually likely much higher than that.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: So you do see their response as showing disrespect for him?

NICK XENOPHON: Well I think it shows - it is an embarrassing response. I am embarrassed as an Australian that our Government has responded in such a way that is not only pathetically timid, but it actually emboldens the thuggish and paranoid behaviour of the Malaysian government.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Independent MP Nick Xenophon speaking there to Samantha Hawley.

And a spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop says that because the Minister is overseas the statement from the Department is appropriate.