House of Representatives Speech – Human Rights and Iran

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I want to pay tribute tonight to the member for Menzies, the member for Casey, Senator Chandler and all other colleagues across the House and in the other place who have championed the cause of human rights in Iran. As the member for Berowra, with a significant Persian community, I want to pay tribute to the members of our diaspora who have bravely led the movement here and in other diaspora communities around the world to draw the attention of those in power to the injustices committed by the Iranian regime.

On Tuesday in my address on the anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, I spoke about the journey of our country and the integral part that simple actions of extraordinary people have played in driving change. I recorded the walk of Jimmy Clements and John Noble to the opening of Old Parliament House in 1927, and the 1938 march of that great Yorta Yorta man William Cooper, who, after Kristallnacht, protested outside the German consulate. Martin Luther King wrote from a Birmingham jail:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Long before Martin Luther King, William Cooper understood and shared our interconnectedness. In a democracy like ours, we celebrate what Alexis de Tocqueville observed when people band together to advance some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example. In a democracy like ours, we celebrate free speech by bringing a free media into this building so that power is held to account.

Political action and free speech can be confronting because they create calls to change. Over the past year we’ve seen this sort of political action in the waves of protest in Iran—protests for freedom, protests for liberty, protests for equality. I want to state clearly my admiration for the young people who are standing for freedom and liberty, young men and women of Iran who are risking it all. To them I say: you’re part of a great tradition that extends through much of human history. You may live under the sword of fear, but you are counted among the champions of liberty.

Persians are a timeless and ancient people, with a nation that has experienced war and revolution. We witness now the future seeking freedom from the past, where the young are seeking to free themselves from the cult-like madness that has gripped the old for over 40 years. For decades this madness has been expressed against the very existence of the only democracy in the Middle East, the state of Israel, and our great friend and ally the United States. That madness has metastasised and is now expressed against the citizens of their own republic.

Many years ago the great American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of the four freedoms, the four freedoms that underpin human dignity: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Freedom from fear—that’s what the Iranian people are standing against. The fear felt by children jailed for who their parents are or for expressing ideas that are different, the fear felt by women who walk alone or who wish to cut their hair, the fear felt by a person who identifies as LGBTI and fears jail and death, the fear of being labelled a heretic for a misspoken word or a deeply held faith belief; the fear of surreptitiously being recorded and having daily conversations monitored, and the fear of a justice system—if you can call it that—expressed through abductions, torture, secret trials and death penalties.

The Iranian regime is a criminal regime. Iran might have a coat of arms, a flag, uniforms and a passport accepted in fewer and fewer countries, but they act no differently than the terrorists who dispense their version of justice from the barrel of a gun on the back of a Toyota truck. Iran’s crimes against their own people have destroyed the resemblance of legitimacy. That’s why I support moves to make Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation. The IRGC are feared; they operate at home and abroad. The Australian Signals Directorate has confirmed that guard affiliated actors have targeted Australian organisations with ransomware attacks. They’re a known supporter of listed organisations such as Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria. The repeated actions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps rob them of any governmental legitimacy.

I understand questions have been raised that part 5.3 of the Criminal Code makes the listing of the IRGC difficult. These are not insignificant issues, and I appreciate the sensitivities. But tonight, as shadow Attorney-General, I want to put on record and say to the government that we are open to working with them to support amendments to the Criminal Code that would address those difficulties. I am confident, working together, we can list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation.

The lesson of 2022 and 2023 in Iran and in Ukraine and elsewhere around the world is that we should stand with those who are defending liberty and flying the flag of freedom.

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