Mr PASIN (Barker) (18:33): I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Fremantle for bringing this motion to this place, which amongst other things affirms the longstanding, important and respectful relationship between Australia and the Philippines. I want to join my voice to others in this place in reflecting on the importance of that relationship, its complex nature and its interwoven constituent parts. However, just like you need to have honest conversations with friends, there are some elements of that relationship that I will touch on in a minute. But before I do I want to touch on that part of the relationship which has brought me here today to support the motion, and that is very much the people-to-people links.
As a member representing a rural electorate which has three export abattoirs in it, I’ve got to tell you: Filipino Australians represent a disproportionate share of those workforces. They’re fabulous Australians, quite frankly, and they’re amazing citizens.
We share a passion for life and energy, a work ethic which in my view is second to none and, of course, in many cases Judeo-Christian faith. It’s in many of my local churches that I interact, particularly as a Catholic, with members of this community.
But, as I said earlier, just as Australia and the Philippines enjoy a great relationship, it’s one of friendship, and we need to be honest with our friends. As the member for Fremantle has said, there are some elements of the relationship, particularly behaviour by the Duterte government, which are giving our government some concern. Before I mention that, I will reflect that ours is a relationship that is officially 75 years long in terms of diplomatic ties in 2021. As I have said, we have concerns regarding the human rights situation in the Philippines, including issues around the ongoing so-called ‘war on drugs’ and widespread extrajudicial killings with the controversial anti-drugs campaign. I’m particularly concerned about the clampdown on media freedoms, including the revocation of ABS-CBN operating licences and attempts to suppress government critics. As a long-term opponent of the death penalty, attempts by the Duterte administration to reintroduce it give me serious cause for concern.
These concerns, I must say, have been raised on a number of occasions by the Australian government directly with the Philippine government through bilateral diplomatic representations and through advocacy as a voting member on the Human Rights Council. We’re a strong supporter of the independent mandate of the United Nations and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We we’re careful to combine our human rights advocacy with our peace and development work to maximise its impact through programs that support human rights and civil society such as strengthening the investigative capabilities of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, assisting with the case load reduction in the Philippine anti-corruption court and supporting the retention of the office of the UN resident coordinator and senior human rights adviser in the Philippines. Those opposite have spent some time here discussing the ILO. I wish to indicate that the Australian government fully supports the ILO Conference Committee on the Application of Standards.
As I said, this is a relationship of long standing. It’s one that is complex in its nature. It operates, as others have indicated, on many levels. But, as I interact with Filipino Australians who have decided to live in the greatest electorate on earth, they share just the concerns I’ve indicated. They are particularly concerned about developments in the Philippines and the Duterte regime. I am pleased to say that our government has four-square put those concerns on their behalf and on behalf of our nation to the Duterte administration. I hope that our concerns are heeded.