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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 942

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (21:16): I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Iran for the second time in a week. This motion is about human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and I would say that there is very little that constitutes human rights in that nation. Indeed until the establishment of a liberal democracy I cannot see much hope at all.

What we know about Iran is that the current leaders were pretty much the junior officers of the Revolutionary Guard in the period shortly after the 1979 overthrow of the Shah. What we also know is that it is a country of failure—economic failure and failure to even achieve the hopes they had for their own revolution. Perhaps the fact that President Ahmadinejad, being the best known of the leadership group, acknowledges that the nation has been a failure is not that positive a factor. It is certainly my view that, in acknowledging their failures, what they seek is to revive the revolution and get back to its basics. The revival they pursue is firstly through regional leadership and that they seek to achieve through a foreign policy triumph.

It is of course hard to achieve regional leadership when you do not have a model that others could be inspired by. A basket case of an economy is no inspiration. A Shiah Islam dominated nation is again not the leader that the mainly Sunni Middle East will seek to follow, and of course with Iran not being Arab, they are again not easily able to win hegemony in the region. However, all such uninspiring and unsuccessful regimes turn to the usual prescriptions to overcome pathetic failure. In the Middle East that is hatred and threats towards Israel and domestically of course finding local scapegoats for the Iranian government's inability to create a working and effective society that governs in the best interests of the people.

Briefly I would remind the House that in the near future Iran will have developed a nuclear warhead that can be placed on the missiles they already possess. Iran as a nuclear power is not the sort of threat that we want in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world. The time for direct action to alleviate that threat approaches and negotiation and talk is only an Iranian ploy to gain time, in my opinion.

This motion, however, is about human rights in Iran and I will therefore devote the remainder of my contribution towards that. As I said before, it is always a hallmark of failing governments to blame their own failings on a group within society that can be a scapegoat for them. For the last 150 years the Baha'i have been persecuted in Iran and their human rights abused, including in more recent times the arrest and jailing of the leadership in Iran, known as the Baha'i seven. Other notable Baha'i have been arrested in recent months. It of course goes beyond that with ethnic groups also facing restrictions on full participation in Iranian society.

It is my view that so much of what is going on in Iran relates to the maintenance of power in the hands of the ruling elite. They always need someone to blame for their own failings and they always need distractions, and this is what drives so much of what is going on in Iran. Of course the means by which this persecution takes place and is allowed to take place is through sharia law—the system of religious law that is medieval in its positioning and barbaric in its outlook. It is hard to see a purpose for it in the world but it is always there in these nations that do not work on any level. It empowers ruling groups with the means to suppress minority ethnic elements and even women who do not have the same opportunities in education or in any part of mainstream society. Clearly nations that adopt sharia law are the nations that will never advance and in general terms will move backwards despite having wealth through oil, gas and other natural resources.

To be clear on this matter I would like to be specific about how sharia impacts on the rights of women in Iran, thereby demonstrating its retrograde and backward nature. It is surely barbaric when women's rights activists are targeted for suggesting that women should be able to inherit the estate of her husband, that her testimony in court does not equal a man's, or that she should be able to fully seek a divorce and that a mother should be allowed custody of her own children.

Part of this motion has specifically mentioned the United Nations' Report of the Secretary General on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran. While I greatly value the details in that report, I also find irony in the fact that the United Nations' Durban 2 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racial Intolerance was so badly abused by the very subject of this motion being Iran.

This Iranian regime are a failure. They have failed economically. They have failed to govern in the best interests of their people. They persecute their political opponents in order to maintain their position of power. They attack those who hold different religious views. They attack journalists who hold them to any form of account and they do all this because they like power and, as do all such regimes, they govern for themselves and everything is focused on maintaining their positions of privilege and power.

Iran is a nation where the people are held back and their government is guilty of abusing human rights. I condemn them and look forward to when a liberal democracy can be established to properly look after the rights of the people of Iran.