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Monday, 22 October 2018
Page: 10660


Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (17:00): It's a pleasure to speak after the member for Fowler and the member for Werriwa, and I also want to congratulate and thank the member for Bruce for moving such an important motion.

My community is home to a large and vibrant Cambodian population. I spent a really enjoyable evening two Saturdays ago celebrating Ancestors' Day at the temple on Third Avenue in my community with all of my friends from that particular temple. I will say here what I said then: I'm proud to represent a big Cambodian community here in this place, and I'm very grateful, very thankful, that they have welcomed me so substantially into their community. I work very closely with them, and I consider many of them to be personal friends of mine. I stood proudly here in Canberra with 23 Cambodians from my community last December after they drove here to protest against the denial of basic political rights and freedoms in their home country. I have also been privileged to repeatedly meet with representatives from Cambodia's opposition party over the years to hear about their plight to restore proper democracy and freedoms to Cambodia. It's been an honour to lend support to their cause, along with so many members on this side of the House.

Having heard their stories of their struggles, it is with a sense of anger and revulsion that I watch what's going on in Cambodia at the moment. Earlier this year, I stood in the parliament to condemn Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's despicable and deplorable threats of violence against those who wanted to peacefully protest against him at the ASEAN Summit. And I also said that we condemn many of the other activities that he has undertaken to condemn basic political rights. This is a man who banned the main opposition party and silenced any effective opposition in his country to win what's been slammed among the international community as a 'sham election'. This is a guy who cracked down on and suppressed media and NGOs and civil society in his country, and publicly threatened civil war if he lost the election. These are despicable things.

On top of that, party insiders have told Al Jazeera recently that members of Cambodia's ruling elite are involved in money laundering and visa fraud in Australia, and the member for Bruce went through some of these issues in some detail. These revelations are in addition to a Four Corners investigation that uncovered more than $15 million worth of properties and companies in Australia owned by members of Hun Sen's extended family and his political allies. There are also serious questions to be asked about the official 82 per cent election turnout figure, especially when you consider the opposition boycotted the election and many polling stations were quiet.

Despite all of the despicable remarks and his disgraceful actions, Hun Sen was formally reinstated as Prime Minister for another term just a couple of months ago, where he had the gall to tell parliament that this was the end of a free, just, fair and transparent election. We in this parliament, and indeed people around the world, know that that election was not free or fair; it certainly wasn't just and it wasn't transparent. It didn't properly represent the will of the Cambodian people, nor did it uphold the ideals of democracy that those of us in free societies value.

I do think it is a little bit disappointing that there is not a speaker from that side of the House to join with Labor to condemn all of these actions, whether it be the money laundering, the interference in elections or the suppression of basic political rights. It is disappointing that we have not had a single speaker from that side of the House so far. On this side of the House, we're proud to stand with the Cambodian people—the member for Cowan is here and the member for Hotham. Right across the board, we are proud to stand with our Cambodian friends. I want to also acknowledge the work of Senator Penny Wong in the other place. She has done a great job advocating for the Cambodian people, calling for a condemnation of the suppression of democracy in Cambodia, reiterating our concerns about Cambodia's sham election and expressing our extreme disappointment that the Cambodian people have been denied the right to a fair and truly democratic election.

We call on the government to fully investigate the allegations of illicit activity, including money laundering. We urge the Cambodian government to allow free and open political debate without intimidation and threats of violence. And we call on the government to consider, in coordination with our other partners, additional measures to support democracy in Cambodia. We owe this to our Cambodian friends who have fled a repressive regime in their homeland. We reassure them that they have the right to protest peacefully here. We thank them for their tireless efforts to advance and support human rights and democracy in Cambodia, and we stand in solidarity with them.