Abbott Government’s Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

 

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Abbott Government’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria

12 FEBRUARY 2014

CANBERRA

The Abbott Government’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria has been woefully inadequate.

Despite the record $6.5 billion United Nations’ appeal for help, the Abbott Government has contributed only $12 million.

I have written to the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, urging her to provide more assistance from Australia as a matter of priority.

On my visit to Syria earlier this year, I saw first-hand the great extent of the suffering in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

The UN says about half of Syria’s population, some 9.3 million people, are in urgent need of assistance.  Around 2.3 million people have left the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced.  More than half of those who have fled are children.

The Abbott Government’s $12 million contribution pales in comparison to other countries.  During the last round of pledges to the UN appeal, Britain gave an extra $164 million, Norway gave $75 million, and Kuwait gave $500 million.

The Howard Government gave $1 billion to Indonesia after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004.

The $12 million pledged by the Abbott Government to UN relief efforts does not reflect the scale of the humanitarian disaster facing Syrians or Australia’s generous tradition.  As a member of the UN Security Council, Australia has a responsibility to show global leadership.

The fact a UN convoy was recently attacked in the Syrian city of Homs also underscores the desperate need for protected humanitarian corridors to safely deliver aid - as championed by former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

From 2011, the former Labor Government delivered around $100 million in assistance for Syria.

Syrian peace talks have recently resumed in Geneva.

 

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Opinion piece – The Schoolyard Diplomacy Must End

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development 

Opinion piece – The schoolyard diplomacy must end 

Originally published in The Australian Financial Review - 11 February 2014 

In 1971, Gough Whitlam visited China as part of a Labor Party delegation.  That was one month before US President Richard Nixon made a similar visit that would change the course of global politics.  Prime Minister Whitlam’s foresight on the importance of China was again witnessed in 1973 when he returned to the country, this time as the first Australian Prime Minister to do so.

China’s ascendance is just one of the seismic shifts occurring in today’s geopolitical landscape.  The realignment of economic and strategic weight toward Asia in recent decades is something new to Australian foreign policy.  Engaging in this new environment is a delicate business, requiring both skilful diplomacy, and a nuanced understanding of Australia’s international relationships (longstanding and new).  Sadly the current government is struggling on both fronts.

Even before the election, experts including the Australian National University’s Professor Hugh White, observed that Beijing was wary of Tony Abbott.  It wasn’t a good start, and the Government’s actions since have done nothing to dispel China’s misgivings.

Last year, the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, admonished China when she summoned the Chinese Ambassador to her department demanding an explanation about his country’s behaviour – then issued a media release about it.  This was a major diplomatic misstep that earned Ms Bishop an unprecedented public rebuke from the Chinese Foreign Minister when she was in Beijing.

The Abbott Government’s pivot to the US has seen a change in language too.  Ms Bishop has made a point of ignoring the fact that China is our biggest two way trading partner to award the US the title of 'most important economic partner’.  While the US-Australia direct investment relationship is also significant, what is China to make of the Government’s determination to rank and grade our friends?  It’s the kind of rhetorical inelegance which reminds us of Mr Abbott’s simplistic “baddies versus baddies” assessment of the Syrian conflict.

Basic factual errors on the Prime Minister’s part have also raised eyebrows in our region, like calling Japan our ‘ally’.  Our relationship with Japan is one of longest, strongest, and closest in our region, but not formally an alliance.  That was a significant misuse of a word with a very specific diplomatic meaning.  This came on top of Ms Bishop’s insistence that Japan was our ‘best friend’ in Asia.  Not one of our best friends, but decidedly top of the rankings.

The Government’s bungling, ham-fisted diplomacy has arguably led Australia’s relationship with China to its lowest ebb since before Whitlam’s historic visit.

So why would the Government allow ties to be damaged with our largest trading partner, merchandise export market, and a nation that is set to become the world’s biggest economy by 2025?  What would drive the Coalition to risk our near-term economic interests and long-term security interests so recklessly?  The answer is a deep misunderstanding of the world of diplomacy.  The Coalition sees our relations with the US and China as a zero-sum game – that is, becoming closer to one must move us away from the other.

This type of Cold War thinking has no place in a world with growing multi-polarity.  US Secretary of State, John Kerry, recently advised against zero-sum thinking in relation to the Ukraine.  And the US and China continue to work to strengthen their own relationship, with US Vice-President, Joe Biden, recently warmly welcomed in China.  Labor’s achievements in government completely invalidate the zero-sum approach too.  Then Prime Minister Gillard had President Obama visit and we agreed on stronger defence ties with the US.  During the same term, Gillard made a historic visit to China and established a high level strategic partnership.

The US-China relationship will shape the future of our region like no other factor.  It is in Australia’s interests to ensure this relationship is characterised by dialogue, and underpinned by trust and an understanding of the importance of cooperation.  This cannot be achieved by unthinkingly taking sides or clumsily ranking relationships.  While both China and the US already engage with each other on their own, Australia has something unique to offer.  Australia has an obvious cultural bond to the US, underpinned by a shared anglosphere heritage.  That combined with our growing ties and economic complementarity to China, as well as our large Chinese diaspora, allows us to play a role no other country can.

Beyond our bilateral relationships, we can help facilitate a good China-US relationship through multilateral engagement.  Having a rules-based international system which engages and adapts to rising powers like China is the best way to ensure long-term peace and stability.  As a middle power, our strength lies in our ability to influence and build like-minded coalitions with others.  Working alongside neighbours like Indonesia, we can help magnify our voice.  Multilateralism effectively acts as a force multiplier.

For all this we need policymakers who are adaptable, seek out new opportunities and avoid emerging threats.  At such a phenomenal time in global history, pursuit of our national interests and values will not be furthered by a schoolyard style ranking of friends.  It is inexcusable for Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop, with an entire government bureaucracy at their fingertips, to be blind to something Whitlam and Nixon saw so clearly 40 years ago.

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Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard Appointed Chair of the Global Partnership for Education

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

 

The Hon Kate Ellis MP

Shadow Minister for Education

Shadow Minister for Early Childhood 

 

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed Chair of the Global Partnership for Education 

11 FEBRUARY 2014

CANBERRA

The Labor Opposition congratulates former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on her appointment as Chair of the Global Partnership for Education.

As a global leader in education for years now, Julia Gillard is the perfect choice for this important international role.

During her time as Prime Minister, and Education Minister, Julia Gillard drove the biggest reforms to Australian education in a generation.  And now the international community will benefit from her leadership and passion for improving educational opportunities for all.

The Global Partnership for Education is an international organisation focused on supporting school education in developing countries.

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Goverment Should Take Action to Support Rule of Law in Nauru

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TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

THE HON MARK DREYFUS QC MP

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE ARTS

MEMBER FOR ISAACS 

MEDIA RELEASE

GOVERNMENT SHOULD TAKE ACTION TO SUPPORT RULE OF LAW IN NAURU

 

THURSDAY, 6 FEBRUARY 2014

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Tanya Plibersek and Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC have called on the Abbott Government to do all it can to support the rule of law in Nauru.

This week the Australian and New Zealand Governments meet for a joint Cabinet in Sydney.

New Zealand has expressed concern about recent actions of the Nauruan Government. The Australian Government should use this meeting to discuss with their New Zealand counterparts how Australia and New Zealand can assist with supporting the rule of law in Nauru.

The rule of law is the foundation stone of functioning democracies around the world.

We are deeply concerned at recent reports that the Nauruan Government is now moving to draft an emergency order, which would give it the power to dismiss the Chief Justice, Geoffrey Eames.

This follows the deportation of Nauru’s only Magistrate, Peter Law, followed by the cancellation of Justice Eames’ visa after he attempted to prevent Mr Law’s deportation.

Labor has serious concerns about the consequences of the Nauruan Government’s actions for the rule of law in Nauru. We encourage the Nauruan Government to ensure a functioning and independent justice system.

Australia has historically had a close legal connection with Nauru.

The High Court of Australia remains the ultimate court of appeal for the Nauruan justice system.

It is not good enough for our Government to excuse its own inaction by claiming these are internal matters for Nauru.

The cancellation of Justice Eames’ visa has led to statements of concern and comments about the importance of the rule of law in Nauru from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria and the peak legal professional bodies, the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Bar Association.

The International Court of Jurists, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, the Commonwealth Magistrates’ and Judges’ Association and the South Pacific Lawyers Association have also expressed their concern about the current situation in Nauru.

 

 

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Australia’s Consul-General in New York

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TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

MEDIA RELEASE 

Australia’s Consul-General in New York

WEDNESDAY, 5 FEBRUARY 2014

SYDNEY

The Foreign Minister must immediately explain why the post of Australia’s Consul-General in New York has been vacant for five months.

In September last year, the Abbott Government stripped former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks, of the post saying he had ‘no obvious credentials for the job’.

Now, five months on, the Foreign Minister needs to say who she intends to appoint, and when.

Australia’s diplomatic, business, and cultural interests in New York have gone without senior representation for months because of the Abbott Government’s indecision.

By any measure, Steve Bracks was eminently qualified to serve as Consul-General.  Mr Bracks is a respected Australian businessman and an eight year Premier of Victoria.  He has held senior positions in foreign affairs, finance and superannuation and would have played a central role in Australia-New York business growth.

 

 

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Australia's Next Governor-General - General Peter Cosgrove AC MC

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY

 

MEDIA RELEASE

 

AUSTRALIA’S NEXT GOVERNOR-GENERAL – GENERAL PETER COSGROVE AC MC

TUESDAY, 28 JANUARY 2013 

The Federal Opposition today congratulates General Peter Cosgrove AC MC on his appointment as Australia’s 26th Governor-General.

Labor welcomes the selection of such a capable, eminent and respected Australian to this high office.

General Cosgrove reflects the best of Australia and its people. He has dedicated his entire adult life to serving his country, inspiring others with his determination, strength and leadership.

As Commander of the international peacekeeping forces in East Timor, General Cosgrove helped bring independence to a new nation and stability to our region in difficult times.

As a former Chief of the Army and Chief of the Defence Force, General Cosgrove represented the most remarkable qualities of our service personnel at home and abroad.

He continued his unwavering commitment to public service in leading the recovery effort in Far North Queensland following the devastation of Cyclone Larry in 2006.

General Cosgrove was also recognised as a role model for others when he was named our Australian of the Year in 2001.

We wish General Cosgrove the very best as he undertakes this new role on behalf of the Australian people.

Federal Labor also recognises and thanks Governor-General Her Excellency the Hon Quentin Bryce AC CVO for her tremendous contribution and service since her appointment as Governor-General in 2008.

Ms Bryce is Australia’s first female Governor-General and has brought a renewed sense of respect and appreciation to Australia’s highest office, in particular, serving as a role model and mentor to Australian women.

Ms Bryce has served Australia with honour and represented our country with grace.

We will miss her sincerity, and her warmth.

All Australians are grateful for Ms Bryce’s service.

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STATEMENT - Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

 

STATEMENT

 

MYURAN SUKUMARAN AND ANDREW CHAN

 

SATURDAY, 17 JANUARY 2015

Labor opposes the death penalty in all cases.

We urge clemency for anyone facing it, whoever and wherever they may be. That includes two members of the Bali Nine, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Consistent with the long standing bi-partisan opposition to the death penalty, both Labor and Liberal governments have made representations to a number of countries on behalf of Australian citizens who face the death penalty. That work has Labor's full support.

 

 

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Media Release: Government Must Pledge Support For Holden Workers

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

ACTING LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SENATOR THE HON KIM CARR

SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION & INDUSTRY

THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP

SHADOW MINISTER FOR EMPLOYMENT & WORKPLACE RELATIONS 

MEDIA RELEASE 

GOVERNMENT MUST PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR HOLDEN WORKERS 

Today is a devastating day for Holden workers, their families, and thousands more Australians who depend on a strong automotive sector.

The ramifications of this announcement will be felt throughout our economy. We know there will be more bad news to come, and we know more Australians will lose their jobs.

Our hearts are very heavy for these workers and their families, and the communities that depend on these jobs.

The Federal Opposition has repeatedly called on the Abbott Government to provide certainty to Holden and its workers. Their inaction has helped create a situation where an important business believed it could no longer operate in our country.

Workers and their families are the ultimate losers from the Government’s irresponsible game of brinkmanship.

Having succeeded in forcing GM Holden out of Australia, the Abbott Government must now deal with the consequences of its reckless policies.

Some 2,900 Holden workers will now go into Christmas knowing that the Abbott Government has cost them their job.

A further 47,000 workers directly employed in the automotive industry face great uncertainty over their future.

The Abbott Government helped cause this situation.

First, the Government decided to rip out $500 million in government assistance for the automotive industry.

Second, they sought to cover their inaction with a Productivity Commission Inquiry, which won’t report for months.

Then they undertook an extraordinary back-grounding campaign in the media, attacking the company and its workers, including letters designed to be leaked.

And yesterday, the Treasurer dared Holden to leave Australia. He got his way.

This devastating news was preventable. Under Labor this would not have happened.

The Labor Government had come to an agreement with Holden that would have seen them stay in Australia until the middle of the next decade, for less than $150 million a year in government co-investment.

The Abbott Government needs to urgently put forward a comprehensive and detailed plan to help these workers retrain, reskill and transition to new jobs.

It is not good enough to say that the company will look after redundancy payments and that there won’t “necessarily be any extra assistance required from Government”, as Senator Abetz said today.

The Abbott Government has failed Australian manufacturing. They must not be allowed to fail their workers even further.

Today, our Prime Minister has let an Australian icon die.

WEDNESDAY, 11 DECEMBER 2013

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Joint Media Statement: Nelson Mandela

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THE HON BILL SHORTEN MP

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG


THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

MEMBER FOR SYDNEY 

STATEMENT -  NELSON MANDELA

On behalf of the Federal Opposition, we pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, unarguably one of the greatest global figures of our time.

Today we have lost a light of our world.

In fractious and troubled times, Mandela led his nation out of the dark age of apartheid – not with a violent struggle, but with peace, compassion and a force of moral leadership.

Mandela knew his country could never be healed with violence or vengeance. He suffered so his people could be free.

Mandela was a true leader, a statesman, and the defining symbol of reconciliation.

He achieved perhaps more than any other leader in his pursuit of peace, acceptance and justice.

The slow struggle for reconciliation does not end today – not for South Africa, and not for any of us.

Let today renew our resolve for reconciliation. Mandela was an example to the world – we must live by that example.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, his country, and all who looked to him in hope for a better world.

We are better because of Mandela. May he rest in peace.

FRIDAY, 6 DECEMBER 2013

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Media Release: ABBOTT GOVERNMENT CUTS FUNDING TO GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST AIDS, TUBERCULOSIS AND MALARIA

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The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development

 MEDIA RELEASE

ABBOTT GOVERNMENT CUTS FUNDING TO GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST AIDS, TUBERCULOSIS AND MALARIA

Today, the Abbott Government started to show where the harsh axe will fall in their cuts to international aid funding.

In Washington DC, countries from around the world are currently gathered to pledge their financial support for the future work of the Global Fund to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

This year, the Australian contribution to the Global Fund is at the historic high of $100 million.

Today’s announcement cuts Australia’s contribution to $200 million over three years - an average of around $67 million per year.

Tony Abbott has failed to deliver the $375 million contribution expected of Australia to replenish the Global Fund – an international financing institution established to dramatically increase resources for the fight against the three pandemics.

The Abbott Government has fallen $175 million short on Australia’s contribution.  Instead of the $125 million a year expected, the Abbott Government will only give about half.

The cut comes as countries on Australia’s doorstep continue to battle against the three pandemics.

The Abbott Government was forced to reveal the cut today following Labor’s calls to maintain Australia’s strong support for the Global Fund.

Australia has been associated with the Global Fund for many years, under both Labor and Coalition Governments.

3 DECEMBER 2013

CANBERRA 

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