Jul 14, 2014

Private members’ business – Cyprus

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:40):

This Sunday, 20 July 2014, marks 40 years since the invasion of Cyprus.

Forty years later we still have no peaceful resolution. Cyprus is still divided, 37 per cent of the landmass is still occupied, over 200,000 people have been displaced and families’ lives have been torn apart.

But the hope of peace and justice lives on: here in this place; in the hearts and homes of 80,000 Cypriot Australians; written in the resolutions of the United Nations. In 1998 I said in this chamber:

What is clear is that the Cypriot people, regardless of their origin, do want a peaceful resolution to this crisis.

Nothing has changed. Peace is possible—I know that because I see it every day in my electorate of Grayndler.

My electorate is a microcosm of our great nation, an example of making multiculturalism work.

In Grayndler I see peace is possible: Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots live in harmony, side by side.

I see it in the actions of people like Michael Christodoulou, a tireless champion of peace and harmony, in the spirit in which the Cyprus Community Club in my electorate brings together our community to celebrate life in our multicultural community; in the sister-city relationship between Marrickville and Larnaca which we have had since 2005.

So today let this be a reminder to us and to the world that we have not forgotten Cyprus.

Let this bipartisan motion, moved by the member for Calwell and seconded by the member for Hindmarsh here in our national parliament, be a call for each of us to renew our hope in the future, to direct our energies to promote peace and justice and to call on the Australian government to support the implementation of United Nations resolutions.

I am proud to have been a longstanding advocate of justice for Cyprus. In 2012 I returned to Cyprus for the second time as a parliamentarian but my first as a minister in the government.

During my visit I had the honour of meeting some of our Australian Federal Police officers serving as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus. I was given a tour of the buffer zone by the commander of our force, Superintendent Peter Bond.

Australian police officers have served continuously as part of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus since 1964.

There are currently 15 serving in the force. I am proud that Australia is playing its part in the peace process in Cyprus. I acknowledge and thank them for their work.

I also met the Minister of Communications and Works, Efthemios Flourentzou; the Secretary-General of AKEL, Andros Kyprianou; the Mayor of Limassol, Mr Andreas Christou; the Mayor of Larnaca, Mr Andreas Louroutziatis; and His Beatitude Chrysostomos II, Archbishop of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus.

It was a great visit. However, amongst the warmth of the people, I was struck by the tragedy of that divided island.

Let me be clear about where Australia stands on the substance of the motion that is before us today.

Australia supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Cyprus. We recognise the republic as the only legitimate authority on the island.

Any solution must ensure that there is a single sovereignty in Cyprus; a single international personality; and a single citizenship, with independence and territorial integrity safeguarded. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots need to once again live side by side under the government of the Republic of Cyprus.

I am proud to support this motion today. In two weeks’ time I will again gather at the Cyprus Community Club in my electorate to commemorate the invasion.

Importantly, events at the Cyprus Community Club have brought together people of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot backgrounds to recognise the cultural benefit that comes from mutual respect and understanding.

I witnessed when I was in Cyprus the fact—as the member for Calwell has said—that the people of Cyprus as a whole are suffering from the fact that the island remains divided.

I look forward to going back there to a unified island under the circumstances in which that can occur.

I think this parliament as the Australian parliament has an important role to play through measures such as this motion today, but also in support of justice for Cyprus through the multilateral forums, including through the United Nations.

I commend the motion to the House.