Speech by Kris Hanna MP - House of Assembly

October 09, 2006

AUSTRALIAN VALUES

Mr HANNA (Mitchell): I will make some remarks today about Australian values—more particularly, about the political device which is being employed by the federal political leaders, John Howard and Kim Beazley, in the lead-up to the federal election. I am referring to a divisive debate whereby the concept of Australian values is used as a tool to appeal to people's fears and prejudice. The Leader of the Opposition (Kim Beazley) last week suggested that everyone coming to this country, including tourists, should be quizzed on whether they accept Australian values. Of course, that plays right into the hands of John Howard (the Prime Minister). He would love an election to be fought on fear and debate about so-called Australian values rather than industrial relations laws, for example.

The proposal that tourists should be quizzed about values raises all sorts of questions. Our government has taken our country to war in Iraq as a result of our foreign policy alliance with the United States, even though we had no conflict with the people, or even the government of Iraq, and we are therefore party to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people in pursuit of that foreign policy. Does this represent the Australian values that the opposition leader was on about? Also, we have laws targeting prostitution, yet every day in the daily newspaper we have a couple of full pages with explicit messages advertising just such a phenomenon. Is this representative of the Australian values about which Beazley and Howard would like to quiz people coming to this country?

We know what it really is. It is a kind of code. It is an appeal to fear of the unknown and fear of the other, particularly fear of people of Islamic faith. It is not only dangerous but also an insult to many good Australians. I do want to make one positive assertion about what might be included in Australian values, however. I particularly want to mention the rule of law. It is not widely understood, although if you give people examples they know what is a fair thing and they then do agree that the rule of law is something that we would seek to uphold in Australia.

I particularly want to refer to a visit and a speech by the Rt. Hon. Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor of England and its highest ranking legal officer—equivalent to our federal Attorney-General. He visited Australia recently; and, on 13 September, he gave a speech in Sydney. It was part of a series of lectures entitled Magna Carter Lectures. The lectures often touch on human rights, and so on. In his speech, Lord Falconer said:

“The response to terrorism must be conducted in accordance with fundamental human rights principles or we cede to the terrorist. Those principles allow for a balance to be struck between the rights of the individual and the rights of the community as a whole. We must recognise that national security is not a wand which sweeps away human rights, and human rights is not a barrier which prevents a state from protecting itself against those who would destroy it.”

There is a particular relevance to Australia in what he said. In another part of his speech, he said:

“It is a part of the acceptance of the rule of law that the courts will be able to exercise jurisdiction over the executive. Otherwise the conduct of the executive is not defined and restrained by law. It is because of that principle, that the USA, deliberately seeking to put the detainees beyond the reach of the law in Guantanamo Bay, is so shocking an affront to the principles of democracy.”

Of course, we have an Australian held beyond the rule of law in Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks; and I, like most Australians, fully support his right to a fair trial. We know that if he was brought back to Australia there would be no law according to which he could be charged and convicted. Ironically, that seems to be why the federal government is refusing to call for him to be brought back here. That is an absurdity, it is an injustice and the tide is turning in relation to David Hicks. A News poll recently acknowledged that most Australians want to see that he gets a fair trial.

(Time expired)


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