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Wednesday, 19 June 1996
Page: 1768


Senator SCHACHT(10.40 a.m.) —We would have preferred it if the motion moved by Senator Chamarette with our amendment were the only resolution. We have no objection to the items in Senator Hill's amendment—in the spirit of giving everyone a place in the sun on this issue, there can be no objection to the content of Senator Hill's amendment—but we believe that Senator Chamarette's motion, as amended by our amendment, puts greater pressure on SLORC. There is nothing untoward or unreasonably negative about Senator Hill's amendment but, because of SLORC's recent actions, we want to take things a step further, putting a bit more stick on SLORC rather than a bit more carrot.

Senator Hill said he was a bit concerned about the reference to scorched earth tactics with the burning of villages in Kayah state. We do not have the exact number of villages that were burnt down but over the last seven years more than enough atrocities have been committed to fill pages of a resolution. The reference in this motion is modestly put so I do not think it is a real problem.

Senator Hill also referred to that part of the motion that welcomes the moves of the state legislature of Massachusetts. He was concerned that we do not have the actual wording of its resolution. It is not an unusual practice in this place to quote in shorthand the resolution of another organisation, be it the United Nations, UNESCO or the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I do not think we should be embarrassed about that.

My amendment to Senator Chamarette's motion puts SLORC on notice, and I think that is reasonable at this particular time. SLORC should be aware that there are members of this parliament who are willing to take the next step unless there is an improvement in the situation. I believe that is a useful mixture of carrot and stick to SLORC on this issue. Although it might appear in parliamentary terms a bit clumsy to have two separate resolutions, it means that Senator Hill has succeeded with his amendment on behalf of the government while the Senate as a whole has carried another resolution which is a bit stronger.

All in all, I think the government has addressed this issue well today. Although we might be going a bit further than Senator Hill would have liked, the general thrust of what this parliament is doing is more than acceptable to the Australian people; I think they would demand this level of action. If Radio Australia and the other national radio programs can broadcast the outcome of this motion, there will be many millions of people in Burma who will welcome it as a sign of support and a sign that they are not forgotten.

Question resolved in the affirmative.