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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9571

Mr OAKESHOTT (8:59 PM) —I will not speak for long because I am expected in the House of Representatives chamber for a private member’s bill. I thank the Main Committee and various members for allowing a rejigging of the speakers list to accommodate my needs. I rise tonight to talk about the United Nations and its relevance to the local community of the mid-North Coast of New South Wales. I attended a dinner last week, which several members of this place also attended, with former UN ambassador Robert Hill. At the same dinner were representatives from the United Nations Association of Australia, the United Nations Youth Association, the United Nations Information Centre and various promoters and supporters of the UN.

I said in my first speech to this place, 12 months ago, that the United Nations and similar international organisations do get rough trade in this place and within Australian culture, with the typical ‘them versus us’ positioning about what the UN is and somewhat of a fear of what the UN means for Australian sovereignty and Australian life. The point was made by Robert Hill, and has been made by many others, that, if we as members of parliament and we as Australians generally believe in the principles of peace, justice, reconciliation, mediation and negotiation rather than in war and violence, it is a logical extension that a body like the United Nations is important. If you do believe in those principles, there is not only an opportunity to place a value on those principles but almost an obligation that we have as holders of those principles to support, promote and advocate for the various United Nations processes.

The reason for making that point is that on 11 October we are going to try something a bit different on the mid-North Coast of New South Wales and establish a United Nations Association of Australia branch. It is being held at the well-known palaeontologists’ retreat Falls Forest, Dr Mary White OAM’s farm. I am trying to encourage many members of the local community to participate in this exercise and hopefully in UN processes into the future. Why? It is not only because of what I have just said; I will now put on the record three particular examples of issues this week that an organisation like UNAA should be involved with. If anyone in the mid-North Coast region wants to participate in advocating on these issues, participating in the branch of the UNAA is a good way to do it.

The first example is the Micah Challenge issues that have been promoted this week. In my first week here last year I ran into my former church minister, Mr Perini, who I had not seen since my school days. He was down here lobbying on the Micah Challenge. I did not know what it was, and now that I do I am a great advocate for its work. I think that generally advocating for the Millennium Development Goals is important. One in 10 Australians today might know what MDG stands for, and I think that a challenge for and a responsibility of members of this place is to, like those promoting the Micah Challenge, advocate for exactly what those Millennium Development Goals are, their importance in the Asia-Pacific region and how we as a country and as a parliament can do a lot better in advocating, promoting, defending and understanding what those Millennium Development Goals are and how we can contribute to achieving better outcomes.

The second example is the case of James Elder, an old uni mate, who is the UNICEF spokesman currently being thrown out of Sri Lanka in an extraordinary case in which he is being accused of being a promoter of propaganda and being akin to a terrorist. I do not know where people stand when giving character references, but I can certainly give one for James. He is one of life’s great larrikins in the journalistic tradition, but in no way would he be a promoter of propaganda, in no way should he be likened to a terrorist. He is being challenged by the Sri Lankan government for merely doing his job, and doing it well, as a spokesperson for children in the refugee camps—children very much in need in the conflict situation in Sri Lanka.

Again, this is an opportunity for local Australians to get involved in not only defending the interests of someone I know, but also defending current Australian passport holders doing Australian aid work overseas—good Australian aid work through legitimate agencies—and future Australian passport holders who I would hope we encourage to be involved in legitimate international aid work.

The third issue is the Guy Campos case. Guy Campos came to Australia on a World Youth Day temporary visa. He was identified in the local community as being involved in war atrocities in East Timor and in the independence movement. The AFP, to their credit, started an investigation in that process. The DPP were given a brief of evidence, as I understand it. A great deal of concern arose about the end of his temporary visa being on the horizon—that is, tomorrow. A lot of people were pushing, myself included—Bob Brown in the upper house, to his credit, has done a lot of work on this—to try to get the Australian government to act to either deliver on the brief of evidence through the DPP or to keep Guy Campos in Australia so those investigations could be completed.

It is my sad duty to tell House today that Guy Campos has skipped the country. We have an extraordinary situation where Immigration has potentially had the mickey taken out of it by Guy Campos, the AFP and the DPP have potentially had the mickey taken out of them by Guy Campos, and it is potentially a very embarrassing case for the Australian government generally if this is not elevated to the status that it deserves. Someone such as Guy Campos has clearly been identified as being involved in war atrocities. This is potentially Australia’s best war crimes prosecution, and we have missed it. The guy has gone, the guy has skipped the country, and it should be to the great disappointment of the Australian government. Going back to the UN processes, it is now a matter for the international processes to make sure that the brief of evidence makes it to the country where Guy Campos has gone to and that international pressure is applied if he has returned to a country that is not going to prosecute.

This is very relevant to local Australians on the mid-North Coast of New South Wales. UN processes do matter, they are relevant and there is an obligation for every single one of us to be aware, to understand and to be involved. I would strongly encourage residents on the mid-North Coast to take up the chance of joining the branch, and once again I thank the House for the opportunity to speak.