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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12383


Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (18:36): I want to pay tribute, also, to the Armenian National Committee for their involvement with the member for Goldstein and organising this debate this afternoon. It's a very important anniversary, the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and I'm proud to be involved in recalling its passage.

It was Raphael Lemkin, a Jewish lawyer from Poland, who coined the term 'genocide' in response to the extent of the atrocities inflicted on the Armenian people—1½ million people, as the member for Berowra said. Apparently it wasn't understood or known before that. Of course, in that conflict with Turkey, many Greek and Assyrian people of the Ottoman Empire were equally badly affected. But the non-remembrance of it had a specific effect. As the member for Berowra said, Adolf Hitler told a leading group of Nazi generals, meeting in the days before the commencement of the Second World War, words to the effect, 'Who remembers the Armenians?' He said this phrase because it presaged what his aggressive plans in eastern Europe were. They were issued at Obersalzberg on the eve of the Second World War to say that Germany was going to launch a racial war in eastern Europe. It was not a war of nation against nation. He was assuring his generals and gauleiters that they could get away with it because of what had happened to the Armenians.

It's so important to go back to the beginning and, as we recall what happened in the Second World War, to remember this genocide that happened in the First World War. If we don't remember these kinds of things, it leads to situations that we've seen to a lesser extent all around the world since—in Darfur, Myanmar, Syria, North Korea and now in East Kazakhstan and Xinjiang in China. For Labor members of parliament, it's great that our then President of the UN General Assembly, Herbert Vere Evatt, who was foreign minister of Australia through the passage of the genocide convention, urged all signatories to ratify the convention at as early a date as possible. Australia was one of the first. Evatt's words were, 'The vote marked the protection of the most fundamental right of all, the very right of human groups to exist as groups.'

I, like the member for Berowra, have a deep personal attachment to this mission. I stand here today as a member of Australia's vibrant Australian Jewish community and the son of a refugee who fled Nazi Germany in 1939. Probably one of the proudest moments of my parliamentary career was to stand, as a junior minister, in Berlin amongst the Commonwealth war graves, and to recount, to the several hundred German and diplomatic dignitaries, the fate of my grandparents, who were murdered by the German state in Auschwitz.

In 2015, I represented the opposition leader at the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. Michael Koziol, and all of the horrible journalists who follow that particular low road, can be reassured that I paid my own fare there. I thought it was important that there be an Australian who was present with Bill Clinton and others to see what Ratko Mladic and the others convicted of genocide in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had done there in Srebrenica.

I've also spoken many times on the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and on the massacres in Rwanda and in Darfur, where international law has had some success in prosecuting those charged with genocide. There have been major inadequacies in the consistency of the genocide convention worldwide. The Armenian genocide remains unrecognised. Again, it was one of the great moments to see a son of Armenian heritage, Mr Joe Hockey, the former member for North Sydney, raise this, and I think it's great work by the member for Goldstein and by the Armenian National Committee to raise this issue. Well done. This is an issue that the parliament will continue to address, until we officially pass recognition of what happened to the Armenians.