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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7190

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsAttorney-General, Minister for Emergency Management, Minister for the Public Service and Integrity and Special Minister of State) (10:00): I rise today to raise human rights issues in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Australia has worked with Vietnam over the past 30 years to assist in the development of its economy, governance, education, trade, infrastructure and to counter transnational crime. Against this backdrop Australia has continued to hold and convey at the most senior levels its serious concern at the human rights situation in Vietnam. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has directly raised human rights issues and individual cases of concern with his counterpart. Our embassy and Consulate-General are also active on human rights issues by raising individual cases, attending trials of human rights activists and regularly meeting peaceful human rights activists and religious groups.

Australia and Vietnam also hold a regular bilateral human rights dialogue with the 10th round held in Canberra only last week. Today I would like to add my voice as a local member on behalf of my constituents to one particular case, Roman Catholic priest, Father Nguyen Van Ly. Father Nguyen Van Ly has long campaigned for the human rights of the Vietnamese people and suffered several strokes while serving an eight-year prison sentence before being granted temporary medical parole. Now he has been incarcerated again, despite his critical medical conditions. Father Ly, now aged 66 and in a very frail state of health, has spent his adult life peacefully campaigning for religious freedom, democracy and human rights. I join with my local constituents in welcoming Father Ly's nomination for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, both as a recognition of his courage and an avenue to draw attention to his situation. It is a situation shared by many who seek to peacefully introduce reforms to his country's media and system of governance and to ensure freedom of religious observation.

The Australian government will continue to do what it can to pursue the case of Father Ly and others and the general severity of sentencing for the democracy activists as well as reiterate our long-held opposition to the death penalty. Australia will also continue to deliver a human rights technical cooperation program, in operation since 2006, which provides funding for practical activities to promote human rights on the ground and improve the lives of the Vietnamese people. I thank my local constituents who continue to advocate for the release of peaceful human rights and democracy campaigners in Vietnam and around the world.