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West Papua - Mr Viktor Kaisiepo

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (10.06 am) - I move:

That the Senate -

(a) notes, with sadness, the recent passing of West Papuan activist Mr Viktor Kaisiepo in his hometown of Amersfoort, in the Netherlands, at the age of 61;

(b) acknowledges Mr Kaisiepo's life-long commitment to raising awareness of the plight of West Papua; and

(c) extends its sympathy to the family and friends of Mr Kaisiepo and to the broader West Papuan community.

Senator LUDWIG (Queensland - Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (10.06 am) - by leave -

The Australian government is not in a position to support the motion in its current form. The Australian government again places on record its objection to dealing with complex international
matters such as the one before us by means of formal motions.

Such motions are, as people have heard me say before, blunt instruments. They force parties into black-and-white choices: support or oppose. They do not lend themselves to the nuances which are so necessary in the area of policy.

Furthermore, they are too easily misinterpreted by some audiences as statements of policy by the national government. We will not support motions in the Senate unless we are completely satisfied with their content.

The Australian government recognises that at one level this motion extends condolences at the time of a death. It also addresses a substantial policy issue, namely Papua and West Papua. Australia respects Indonesia's territorial integrity including its sovereignty over Papua and West Papua.

Effective implementation of special autonomy and development of the region is the best path to improving the situation in Papua and West Papua. We continue to urge Indonesia to investigate any allegations of human rights abuses and to hold the perpetrators to account.

The Australian government continues to raise with Indonesia the importance of access to Papua and West Papua for credible observers, including non-government organisations and journalists.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (10.08 am) - I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is granted to speak for two minutes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG - I am extremely disappointed with the response given by the minister in relation to this motion. This motion is about reflecting on the death and extending  condolences to the family of somebody who was a human rights activist in our region.

I was very careful in drafting this motion not to inflame the government, because I know it does not have a clear position on West Papua despite the fact that it probably ought to. Australia is the wealthiest country in our region.

We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to human rights issues in our region. We have to be a leader.

I could have put that in the motion but I did not because I realised that the government was gutless on this. I realised the government did not want to deal with complex foreign affairs matters in this chamber.

But this motion is about extending condolences to the family of somebody who worked very hard in our region. I think it is a totally gutless and cowardly act.

It is about time the government started relating to foreign affairs matters in our region with some maturity and some responsibility.

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (10.09 am) - I seek leave to make a short statement.

The PRESIDENT - Leave is granted to speak for two minutes.

Senator XENOPHON - In the event that there is not a division called on this, I indicate that I will be supporting this motion. I have had a number of discussions with the Australian  businessman and human rights activist Ian Melrose, with whom I have had lengthy discussions.

He has taken me through his concerns about what has occurred in West Papua.

I think is motion is entirely appropriate.

Question put:

That the motion (Senator Hanson-Young's) be agreed to.

The Senate divided. [10.14 am]

(The President-Senator the Hon. JJ Hogg)

Ayes............ 6

Noes............ 37

Majority......... 31


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