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Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Page: 116

Senator BARTLETT (5:33 PM) —I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the response by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom that has just been tabled.

Leave granted.

Senator BARTLETT —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I will not speak for long, but I think that this document should be noted. It is a response from the UK Prime Minister, Mr Blair, to a resolution of this Senate which I think was moved by Senator Watson in March. Whilst the Northern Ireland peace agreement was noted by a resolution of the Senate, it is something that merits comment. It is a quite incredible and very historic development. As someone whose main ancestral heritage is Irish, along with a bit of Greek, I have followed the whole Irish situation for many years with personal interest. But I also think we could learn a lot of lessons from it.

It is absolutely extraordinary. I still cannot believe that I heard on the radio of Ian Paisley sharing government with anybody, frankly, let alone with anybody from the Catholic side of the spectrum or with people from Sinn Fein. That should be a tribute to him as it should be to those from the Sinn Fein side and to those who worked over the years in what would be perceived to be the middle ground. They are probably just as bamboozled as everybody else that the middle ground disappeared and it is the people on the perceived extremes who have managed to pull together what I hope turns out to be a workable government.

I think it is appropriate for the Senate to acknowledge the response from the UK Prime Minister and I put on the record both my support for the resolution in a personal sense and a recognition of how important and historic this event is and the lessons we can learn from it. No situation anywhere in the world translates perfectly to somewhere else, but it is worth looking at what it was that managed to get peace between some extremely divided groups.

It is worth noting how the definition of who is and who is not a terrorist and who is or is not a bad guy can shift over time. Gerry Adams from Sinn Fein—along with others whom the Senate acknowledged by a resolution as being part of this peace process—is the same Gerry Adams who was refused entry into Australia not that many years ago because of him being seen to be not a fit and proper person. People often say the same thing about Nelson Mandela and others who were called terrorists at one stage and then statespersons and people of peace the next.

It is a reminder that even the most impossible situation can still have a resolution if people look and work towards peace. It is also a reminder about the importance of working to try to include people—even some of those who appear most on the extreme—rather than simply dismissing, exiling and alienating people. I note the response from the UK Prime Minister and welcome the UK peace process that it relates to.

Question agreed to.