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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4857

Mr HAYES (Fowler) (22:05): On 28 April this year I was invited by the Vietnamese community in Australia to speak at the Australian War Memorial on the occasion of the 37th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. It was an occasion to remember the many thousands who died fighting for freedom and liberty in Vietnam, including 521 Australians who gave their lives for this cause. It was also a time to acknowledge the many others who continue to fight long after the war because their fight has not ended. They fight for their fundamental human rights, the freedom to speak their mind and the freedom to practise their religion—rights that we here in Australia take for granted. We are indeed privileged in this country, but we should not forget about the millions of people who live with constant suppression of their human rights. Therefore, we should use our freedom to speak on behalf of those who do not have a voice.

The Vietnamese community in Australia have been speaking on behalf of the people of Vietnam over the past 37 years and I join with them in championing the cause of freedom and liberty for the Vietnamese. Representing an electorate that has the highest proportion of Vietnamese born citizens in Australia, I am painfully aware from my constituents of the persistent humans rights abuses occurring in Vietnam today. I have raised these issues in this chamber on many occasions. I will continue to do so as long as there are individuals such as the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Patriarch of Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Father Nguyen Van Ly of the Vietnamese Catholic Church, Viet Khang, a rather famous young singer-songwriter, Dr Ngyuen Dan Que and many others who are being denied their freedom simply because they have exercised their basic human right to speak out.

This evening I want to draw the attention of the House to a lone human rights protester, a young and courageous Vietnamese man, Truong Quoc Viet, whose actions are the result of a passion and dedication to raising awareness to the continuous and escalating humans rights violations occurring in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. He sat alone in a little shelter just outside our parliament, our national seat of democracy, and I, together with Melissa Parke and many others who care about human rights, spent time with him.

Truon Quoc Viet is particularly concerned about Australian aid going into the wrong hands—namely, those in the Vietnamese administration—with no apparent benefits for the Vietnamese people. In fact, the people of Vietnam continue to live in ongoing poverty and are faced with constant threats to their freedom and their liberty. The Vietnamese Community in Australia have joined Truong in advocating for greater scrutiny of the Australian overseas development aid program to ensure those who are truly in need are the ones receiving the benefits.

Australia is known across the world as a generous nation, a nation that give selflessly and has regard for the wellbeing of others. However, Australian aid and support should be directly linked to efforts to improve the basic human rights and welfare of the Vietnamese people. I think the message is clear. I challenge the Vietnamese government to look to the value and potential of their own people. I challenge the administration to build relationships with people and unleash the passion and commitment to achieve. Above all, I challenge the Vietnamese government to view people, as we do, as their most valuable and precious resource. Vietnam has a great potential to grow and achieve much in a modern world, but there is only one way that can properly be achieved and that is, first, by respecting the fundamental human rights of its own people.

In the very short time the Vietnamese have been here in Australia, they have achieved much and have given total commitment to their adopted country. Their contributions to Australia have been invaluable. One good Vietnamese friend has reminded me of a saying, and it goes something like this: 'When you eat the fruit remember those who planted the tree.' That is essentially their commitment to this country, as they are benefiting from the labours of many others. That is why they have led the way in raising money for bushfires in Victoria and the floods in Queensland.

In concluding, I thank the Vietnamese community of Australia, the Vietnamese Catholic community, the Vietnamese Student Association, Viet Tan, Vietnamese Sydney Radio and many others who have kept me up to date on human rights development in Vietnam.