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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2153

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (9:52 AM) —Can I say at the outset that that contribution shows just how low populist politics can go, quite frankly. As a person who has previously opposed Westfield development and been critical of their influence upon both sides of politics, I have to say that, in this particular instance, the state government is doing the right thing. This is a situation where the planning laws have being ignored and processes have been incorrect. Now we have people saying that, just because people contravene the laws, just because jobs are created, you cannot therefore enforce the laws of New South Wales in regard to planning. That is absolutely preposterous.

I turn now to Burma. This country is certainly out of step with the United States state department's analysis of Burma. On 1 March this year, the US state department said Burma:

... remains far from demonstrating a counternarcotics commitment that would ... get itself out of the drug trafficking system.

This is a regime that the Australian government has decided to go soft on. Against international opinion, this government is basically in an engagement with Burma, to see if the Burmese government might improve and become nice people. Burma, of course, is internationally regarded as a pariah. At the moment, it is trying to set up a national convention process. A characteristic of that process has been the fact that people who were supportive of the government have died in the time since the previous convention and have been replaced by government toadies. Those supporting the National League for Democracy have not been approved. It is in contravention of the call from the National League for Democracy and Aung San Suu Kyi, who says that, rather than a national convention controlled by government toadies, there should be a tripartite negotiation between the military, the National League for Democracy and the various minorities in the country. As I say, Australia is way out of step with international opinion. The United States is enforcing major bans on Burma, and Burma is a matter of constant criticism within the US Congress.

Let me give you an indication of the kinds of preposterous shenanigans of this regime. On 1 April this year, 26 monks were given long jail sentences for refusing government donations. Their offence was that they refused to take money from the government in one of its propaganda exercises. Minority people are forced to work as porters in war zones, and there is the enslavement of young children and forced labour throughout the country. There is, of course, a very close correlation between the Burmese government and the international drug trade. Again I quote the US Department of State, which stated on 14 August this year that there was a humanitarian crisis in Burma characterised by `poverty and shrinking trade'.

The government of this country, which feels that the United States and others are wrong in being too hardline with this regime, is totally out of step with international opinion. We should be critical of this national convention proposal, and we should call for the release of all political prisoners throughout the country—in particular, I note the international case of Aung San Suu Kyi. The National League for Democracy and other parties should be able to reinstate their political activities in the country.