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Labor, Liberal block Dalai Lama from Senate floor

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 20 Aug 2009

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says the Greens are disappointed that the Senate has refused to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama onto the Senate floor during his scheduled Australian visit later this year.

This morning Senators Hanson-Young and Xenophon jointly moved a motion calling on the Senate to invite the spiritual and political leader to sit in the distinguished visitors’ gallery. Both senators are members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, and enjoyed an audience with His Holiness on a delegation to Dharamsala, India, last month.

“The Senate this morning stopped the Australian Parliament from joining other legislatures around the world in extending this rightful invitation to His Holiness,” said Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson for Human Rights.

Senator Hanson-Young said the fact that there was no existing precedent for a person of the Dalai Lama’s standing to sit in the distinguished visitors’ gallery did not mean that a precedent of this nature could not be set for the future.

“The Senate is empowered to set its own precedents, and this morning missed an opportunity to do so,” she said.

“Other nations have recognised the value in hosting the Dalai Lama on the floors of their parliaments – His Holiness addressed a joint sitting of the United States’ Congress in 1991, and the European Parliament in 2001 and 2008.

“The Greens will continue to call for the Australian Government to properly recognise the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, as the Tibetan people continue in their struggle for genuine autonomy.”

The motion, negatived 6 ayes – 36 noes, read:

That the Senate

(a) Notes that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama:
i) is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate;
ii) addressed a joint sitting of the United States Congress in 1991 and received a US Congressional Gold Medal in 2007;
iii) addressed the European Parliament in 2001 and 2008; and
iv) has been made an honorary citizen of Canada;

(b) Extends an invitation to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, to sit in the distinguished visitors gallery on the floor of the Senate during Question Time, on the last sitting day of 2009, Thursday November 26.

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