Oct 13, 2011

Motion on Coptic Christians in Egypt

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:11): by leave—I very much want, on behalf of the Australian government, to express our outrage at the attacks that have occurred on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

The resolution that was just carried unanimously by the House had an action component to it. The government has already acted on each and every one of those action components. The Prime Minister and the foreign minister issued a strong statement. The foreign minister, I know, raised these issues in discussions at the highest levels at the United Nations when he was recently in New York. The immigration minister, I know, has had a number of discussions with the bishop and leaders of the Coptic community to ensure that there are appropriate understandings with regard to the circumstances in which Coptic Christians have found themselves.

The Australian government will continue to make the strongest representations that the Egyptian government provide equal rights and protection for all Egyptian citizens, regardless of their race or religion. This is a fundamental human right. As the federal member for Grayndler I can say that I have received strong representations, including from my local mayor, Morris Hanna—the Mayor of Marrickville—and from others in the community who have very strong ties.

Historically the first Coptic church in Australia was at Sydenham in my electorate. Indeed, my association with the bishop goes back many years, to the Marrickville District Hardcourt Tennis Club, when we were both very much younger. It is an association that goes back 35 years—that gives away our ages—in terms of our friendship and our dialogue.

I can say this on behalf of the government: we will not be shy about putting forward these principles in terms of human rights, which we regard as universal. We have not been shy up to now; we will continue with this course. I am very pleased that this is a position which unites everyone in this House of Representatives.

I congratulate the member for Hughes on his initiative in putting forward this motion that was unanimously agreed to and I assure the members of the community that this is an issue which continues to be discussed and acted upon at the highest level of the Australian government.