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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1759


Senator CHAMARETTE(9.51 a.m.) —I move:

That the Senate—

(a)   expresses greetings to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her birthday on 19 June;

(b)   notes:

   (i)   with deep concern, the recent moves by the military regime in Burma against the democracy movement in that country,

   (ii)   reports that the State Law and Order Restoration Council is using `scorched earth' tactics, in the form of looting and burning villages in Kayah State, and

   (iii)   with approval, the strong statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Downer) in response to renewed repression in Burma;

(c)   welcomes moves by the State Legislature of Massachusetts in the United States of America to ban state contracts with companies doing business in Burma; and

(d)   calls on the Government to actively discourage Australian companies from doing business in Burma.

I reiterate that what we are discussing today is not only an expression of greeting to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for her birthday today, 19 June, but also the deep concern that people throughout the world have felt about the recent moves by the military regime in Burma against the democracy movement in that country.

Only recently, we have heard with grave concern about the increasing number of arrests of those people who were democratically elected in Burma in the elections of 1990 to prevent them meeting together. The movement of people throughout that country has been curtailed by the military regime.

We have heard very disturbing evidence of scorched earth tactics being used in the form of looting and burning in villages in Kayah State. Heaven knows that the information is not as clear and comprehensive as we would wish in relation to other areas and the problems that are being experienced by minority groups in Burma.

We express our approval of the strong stance that this government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Downer) have taken in response to the renewed oppression in Burma. We want to make sure that that stance is supported at every level by this parliament. That is why this motion does two things. It expresses our concern and it urges this government to take its responsibility very seriously and to go even further than the previous government was prepared to go. In the United States moves have been made by the state legislature of Massachusetts to ban state contracts with companies doing business in Burma. As far as I know, that has not yet received total assent but there is pressure in that regard.

We believe that it is time that Australia considered a stronger stance than the one we have taken so far because the situation in Burma is deteriorating rapidly. We can no longer say that constructive engagement is achieving anything. We are standing by and letting a disastrous situation get worse and we are remaining silent. We become culpable when we do that.

The motion I have moved calls on the government to actively discourage Australian companies from doing business in Burma. We read news reports daily of increasing attempts to exploit the situation in Burma, to exploit the willingness of the SLORC to entice trade as a way of building up their support. This is not acceptable. As global citizens we have to voice our protest against it. That is the reason for the motion that is being put to the chamber today. I have heard from the government and from Senator Schacht their concerns about the wording of this motion, so I welcome to the debate the suggestions that are supplied and indicate that we will be prepared to support anything that strengthens the stand of Australia and makes our voice much stronger on these issues.