Additional comments by Australian Democrats
Senator Stott Despoja
The Democrats agree
with the evidence presented in the Chair’s report.
We share the
concerns raised and endorse the recommendations contained therein, particularly
in relation to human rights and labour standards.
acknowledge the committee has placed a reasonable emphasis on such issues, we
would like to highlight further the continued violations of labour standards
and human rights in China and draw attention to Australia’s obligations to
ensure that trade is conducted in a way that is in accord with Australian
values and international human rights conventions. Australia must ensure that
economic considerations do not outweigh human rights considerations.
We note Amnesty
International’s 2005 Annual Report that stated:
There was progress
towards reform in some areas, but this failed to have a significant impact on
serious and widespread human rights violations perpetrated across the country.
Tens of thousands of people continued to be detained or imprisoned in violation
of their fundamental human rights and were at high risk of torture or
ill-treatment. Thousands of people were sentenced to death or executed, many
after unfair trials. Public protests increased against forcible evictions and
land requisition without adequate compensation. China continued to use the
global “war on terrorism” to justify its crackdown on the Uighur community in
Xinjiang. Freedom of expression and religion continued to be severely
restricted in Tibet and other Tibetan areas of China.
Democrats acknowledge differences in culture and political systems between
Australian and China, but reject arguments that this somehow justifies inaction
or silence on human rights abuses and dismal labour standards in China.
We also note
concerns raised during the inquiry, and noted by the committee, in relation to
the numerous allegations made of intimidation, surveillance and suppression of
groups and individuals within Australia by the Chinese Government, in
particular, but not limited to, practitioners of Falun Gong. We reaffirm our
position that such activity by a foreign Government within Australia is totally
We agree with
comments made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, among others, in
relation to guidelines on multinational enterprises. There is far more room for
a debate on the appropriate application of a corporate code of conduct for
Australian businesses operating overseas. While we acknowledge the committee’s
recommendation on this issue and the difficulties involved with such an
endeavour, we urge governments, NGOs and businesses to work toward the
formulation of formal guidelines for Australian corporations operating
We also note the
importance of Taiwan to Australia’s national interests and again urge the
Australian Government to allow high-ranking Taiwanese officials transit stops
in Australia, and to recommence Australian ministerial visits to Taiwan.
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