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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 3857

Senator FORSHAW (2:55 PM) —My question is to Senator Faulkner, the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the continuing reports of violence in the streets of Tehran over the weekend, the reported loss of life amongst demonstrators, as well as reports of innocent students at the university being killed, and I ask the minister if he could outline to the Senate the situation in Iran currently and the government’s reaction to what is clearly a serious situation.

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —I thank Senator Forshaw for his question. I certainly can indicate that the Australian government is deeply concerned about events in Iran. Shortly after voting was completed on 12 June, Iran’s election commission announced the election of President Ahmadinejad. From the beginning, there have been real doubts about the election outcome. The two main challengers, Mr Mousavi and Mr Karoubi, have called for the election result to be cancelled.

Senators will have seen the violence perpetrated against protestors over the past week which has, of course, continued over the weekend. The government condemns the deaths—as I know every other senator in this place will—of at least 10 more protestors on Saturday and the injuries of many more, and we deplore reports that Iranian security forces have fired on demonstrators. The government calls on Iran to halt all violence against protestors, to ensure that all Iranians have the right to peaceful protest and to release those who have been detained for expressing their views. Of course, the government is also concerned that foreign journalists have been told to leave Iran. I think this is a further sign of Iran isolating itself.

The world’s eyes are on Iran and how Iran deals with the concerns of ordinary Iranians about the election result. Those concerns need to be addressed fairly and transparently— (Time expired)

Senator FORSHAW —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, in your answer you of course correctly referred to the recent election for the presidency held in Iran and to the concerns raised regarding the legitimacy of that election result. Can the minister advise the Senate as to the Australian government’s view on that election?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —I thank Senator Forshaw for his supplementary question. I can say to Senator Forshaw that there certainly are real doubts about the accuracy of the election results in Iran. This has been reflected in the opposition candidates’ call for a full rerun of the election and also, I think, in the demonstrations by ordinary Iranians day after day in Tehran and in centres around the country. Like our other colleagues in the international community, such as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US President Obama and colleagues from the European Union, the Australian government wants to see an election result that reflects the will of the people. (Time expired)

Senator FORSHAW —Thank you, Minister. Mr President, I have a further supplementary. That is, could the minister outline to the Senate what representations the Australian government has made to Iran regarding this current and extremely serious situation?

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) —I thank Senator Forshaw for that further supplementary question. The government called in the Iranian charge d’affaires in Canberra on 18 June to discuss this matter. The government expressed to him the deep concerns the Australian government had about reports of violence and the deaths of a number of protesters. We said it was very important that all Iranians have the right to peaceful protest and the free expression of their political views. We said it was clear that many ordinary Iranians had very serious doubts about the integrity of the electoral process and the official results and that the ongoing demonstrations in Iran were evidence of that. We urge the Iranian government to address seriously and transparently the issues that were raised by all three— (Time expired)

Senator Chris Evans —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.