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Monday, 22 October 2018
Page: 10662


Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (17:11): I am incredibly proud today to stand in this chamber on the side of the Cambodian people and particularly on the side of Cambodian Australians. I have the enormous privilege of representing thousands of people in this parliament who are of Cambodian descent. I don't just represent them; I represent their places of worship and their community organisations. The Wat Dhammarangsee, the Wat Khmer, the Wat Dhamaram and the Cambodian Buddhist Association of Victoria—all of this community infrastructure is located in my electorate.

It was with huge regret that Labor moved the motion before the House this afternoon. We did so because it is absolutely clear that the situation in Cambodia is going backwards, not forwards. The member for McMahon really clearly articulated the things that have happened recently, but I want to echo one of the points he made. I feel the straw was broken when we heard the leader of Cambodia, Hun Sen, effectively threaten violence on Australians who are of Cambodian descent who were protesting peacefully here in Australia when he visited. It's not appropriate for members of the Australian parliament to allow that sort of thing to go unaddressed and unspoken. That's why we've got so many Labor members of parliament standing up in the parliament today to say enough is enough.

On this special day for Cambodian Australians it's appropriate that we reflect on the past and we reflect on what we can do to secure a better future for Cambodians. Tomorrow we commemorate the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. This marked the end of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. It was an enormously auspicious occasion that seemed to herald a new way of doing things in Cambodia. The agreement led to the deployment of the first post Cold War peacekeeping mission and the first-ever occasion on which the UN took over as the government of a state. The agreement was signed and agreed to by 19 countries. The peace accord process launched a process of ceasefire, peacekeeping and rebuilding that stabilised the country, but it left deep wounds unhealed—through the 1970s genocides and the decades of war that have afflicted Cambodians.

The peace process was one of the first of its scale undertaken by the international community after the Cold War. It was an enormous amount of work, and all of us in this chamber are entitled to feel proud because our country and our government, through the foreign minister at the time, Gareth Evans, was instrumental in making sure that Cambodia was able to turn the corner towards a brighter future for democracy in their country. We love democracy in this chamber. We talk about it a lot, but most of us actually don't know what it feels like to fight to have the right to do basic things, like to vote in an election and to peacefully stand in a chamber like this and articulate a point of view. The Cambodian people understand that, and that is why hopes were so high after the Paris Peace Accords that things were going to improve. But things have turned in the opposite direction in recent times. Cambodia became a multiparty democracy, but I don't think any commentator would describe Cambodia as a multiparty democracy today. There was a recent election in Cambodia. Enormous issues which do not reflect a democratic process have taken place there. In 2017 the Cambodian opposition leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested on charges of so-called treason, on the basis of a speech he gave in my electorate in Melbourne in 2013. That's how connected we are to what goes on in this country. It's not just the imprisoning of the opposition leader. In 2016 the Cambodian government's most ardent critic, Dr Kem Ley, was shot dead in broad daylight in Phnom Penh. The people who committed, planned and masterminded that crime have never been brought to justice.

For too long the leaders in Cambodia have been getting away with murder, literally in some instances. It's not good enough for us to keep standing in this parliament and saying we're not happy with this situation. I believe the time has come to take action. The member for Bruce has outlined some of the ideas Labor has for how this might change. One of the most obvious things we can do is call to end this ridiculous refugee resettlement deal where the Australian government, the taxpayers listening to this broadcast now, have paid $50 million for the resettlement of three refugees. We can't continue like this. On this anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords it's time for us to reshape this relationship and make it clear that Cambodians are not to be treated like this.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr McVeigh ): There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.