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Thursday, 29 March 2007
Page: 92

Mrs MOYLAN (2:44 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the Minister explain to the House Australia’s response to events in Zimbabwe?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —First, can I thank the honourable member for Pearce for her question and her interest. I think people from Zimbabwe reside in her own electorate, so she has a real interest in this. The barbaric actions of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe just continue. Overnight, Morgan Tsvangirai, who is the Leader of the Opposition in Zimbabwe, was detained by Zimbabwean authorities. The headquarters of his party, the MDC, were raided. This is part of a campaign of intimidation by President Mugabe. It is a campaign of intimidation which is not just being resisted by a courageous opposition in Zimbabwe; it is an opposition which will be supported by many in the international community.

This kind of behaviour is not going to cover up the complete destruction by President Mugabe and his cronies of that beautiful country. Their vindictive brutality is designed to hide their shameful incompetence. Our ambassador and our embassy in Harare have been monitoring the situation closely and have been constantly reporting to us. We will continue to argue our case for a free and democratic Zimbabwe, not one which is beholden to a leader like President Mugabe.

The Prime Minister and I have said on a number of occasions that we are encouraging the African leadership more generally to do what it can to place more pressure on ZANU-PF, President Mugabe’s party, to resolve these problems in Zimbabwe. Yesterday the Prime Minister and I met with the President of Uganda and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We took the opportunity, the Prime Minister in particular, during lunch with him to press our case on Zimbabwe. I hope that the President of Uganda will take that message back not just to his own country but to leaders around Africa.

Today, 29 March, the heads of government of the Southern African Development Commission are meeting—there are 14 countries in SADC—and I believe they are going to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe. I very much hope that SADC will deliver a strong message to President Mugabe, telling him that his brutal tactics are no longer tolerated and that far-reaching political and economic reform is desperately needed.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that we are setting up an Australian fund for Zimbabwe to alleviate some of the worst impacts of President Mugabe’s economic failures. We are also doing what we can to support the political and civil rights of ordinary Zimbabweans through our support for non-government organisations and other civil society activities. We will also be keeping in place our targeted sanctions to apply maximum pressure on the Mugabe regime. We very much hope that a broader range of countries than already is the case will support sanctions against the Mugabe regime.

I have talked about this issue from time to time over the last couple of weeks, because I think for many Australians what is happening in Zimbabwe simply appals them. Our country, a significant country in the international community, needs to be at the forefront of ideas and action to put pressure on ZANU-PF, President Mugabe’s political party, and encourage President Mugabe to stand down.