This afternoon I joined New Zealand unionists outside the Australian High Commission to express the solidarity of the Green Party with those in Australia resisting the repressive anti-union legislation being pushed through by the Howard Government. The attack on union rights in Australia is part of a more general attack on human rights in that country, with much-criticised anti-terror legislation also going through the Australian Parliament.
The Green Party this parliamentary term will continue to be an internationalist party, working with Green parties overseas to deal with global problems and expressing our support for those who are suffering-from Zimbabwe to West Papua, from Tibet to Australia.
Today we are standing alongside the Australian people, including our fellow Australian Greens, against legislation that takes away long-held union rights and against anti-terror legislation that betrays the centuries-old right of habeas corpus.
Under John Howard’s anti-terror legislation people can be subject to house arrest or electronically tagged for up to a year without any charges being laid. Police will be able to impose shorter periods of preventive detention for terror suspects. Of course, John Howard tries to sell that legislation as being necessary to confront a terrorist threat and, with exquisite timing for Mr Howard, some terror suspects have now been arrested.
However, the proposed new laws were not necessary to arrest those people, and the introduction of this legislation is counterproductive. As an Australian Islamic community leader Keysar Trad said last month: “It’s just going to cause greater antagonism amongst Muslims and, ironically, could be used to justify a terror act.”
Muslims in Australia feel under siege today, and we do not want to see that happen here. We have a much more tolerant climate in New Zealand. Tomorrow there will be a celebration in Parliament marking the end of Ramadan – a month of prayer and positive reflection; one of whose themes is peace. However, we cannot rest on our laurels.
Prejudice towards Muslims is a by-product of the so-called war on terror spearheaded by the Bush administration and implemented in a repressive legislative form by George Bush’s allies, particularly John Howard and Tony Blair. We have some bad legislation of our own, such as the Terrorism Suppression Act of 2002 that is now being reviewed by this Parliament.
One of the goals of the Green Party this term will be to prevent us from following the British and Australian lead in introducing even more draconian anti-terror legislation. We hope the Government will resist the pressure of some hard-line officials like Assistant Police Commissioner Jon White, who said in the
New Zealand Herald
on 19 August that he was watching the new Australian legislation and was worried that “New Zealand was a little way behind.”
A second and related goal of the Green Party will be to promote racial and religious tolerance, particularly towards Muslim people whose religion has been so negatively portrayed by such people as the leader of New Zealand First, Winston Peters. Associated with this, we will be trying to get people to understand the roots of small group terrorism of the al-Qaeda type. That has nothing to do with religion itself, but very unfortunately it draws adherents out of the political, social, and economic crisis – and injustice suffered by many people in the Islamic world, particularly in places like Palestine.
Thirdly, we will try to get New Zealand to play a greater part in addressing these political, social, and economic problems. In the Middle East an essential ingredient in any such solution is the withdrawal of the foreign occupying troops from Palestine and Iraq.
We want New Zealand to be a peacemaker in the world, beyond what we have already done in places like the Solomons and Bougainville in the Pacific. Under the Green-Labour post-election agreement, we will be working out ways to progress this. To be successful we need to be seen to be pulling our weight in overseas development assistance, and we are pleased that the Green-Labour agreement also prescribes an increase in New Zealand’s overseas aid.
New Zealanders can crow about the economic boom that this country has seen in recent years, but much of the world is in bad shape. This morning the
New Zealand Herald
reported that the number of rich, non-Western countries had fallen, from 19 in 1960 to nine today. It reported that overall, downward mobility of countries was more common than upward mobility. It stated further that the market reforms may drive growth, but that this tends to favour those already blessed with access to capital and other advantages – namely, the already rich countries.
The Greens, as internationalists, aim to get New Zealand and this Parliament to address such critical problems.