Mr Peter Greste - Speech in Parliament

I join previous speakers in thanking the member for Ryan for bringing this important matter of private member's business before the House. I think it is critical at this time that the House comes together in a bipartisan way to make clear our view that journalism is not and cannot be a crime.I acknowledge also the wonderful work of Jane Prentice, the member for Ryan, in her capacity as a co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Amnesty—a capacity I share with her, the member for Denison and Senator Wright—for the work that she has done and the work that she has led in bringing together parliamentarians on all sides of this House and the other place to stand up for Peter Greste and his colleagues and to stand up for their human rights and the human rights of others in similar positions.

I acknowledge also her work in dealing with the family of Peter Greste and playing a critical role in building a bridge between their concerns and wider advocacy. I know that it will give her some enormous comfort and, no doubt, some satisfaction that we are here on a note that carries with it a tone of celebration, although I think we do need to qualify that celebration for reasons that I will go on to explore shortly.

It is very pleasing to be part of the debate that is characterised by an absence of rancour. I would like to think that this absence of rancour relates in no small part to the example set by Peter Greste. Through the more than 400 day he spent confined, he showed an extraordinary example of stoicism. He maintained the courage of his convictions and the satisfaction that he was imprisoned for something that was not only a crime that he did not commit but also not a crime. He showed his ongoing faith in the supporters he had here and in the work that he and his colleagues were doing and its importance. I think that is an example that we should continue to uphold once this debate is concluded.

It is also important to acknowledge the support for Peter Greste and his colleagues that existed in the Australian community beyond this place. I pay particular tribute to the extraordinary role his family, his parents and his brothers, played and the example they set. I stand here in awe of their example. I cannot think of the anxieties and fears that would have governed their lives over the past year and a bit. What is extraordinary to note is the hope that never left them and the hope that they gave to so many others. No doubt it was this hope that inspired thousands of Australians to join them, and to join us in this place, in standing up for Peter Greste, for his colleagues, and for the practice of journalism.

In the very limited amount of time available to me, I think it is important to make two wider reflections as we conclude this debate. The role of journalism is more important now than ever, particularly when we think about the extraordinary events that have been taking place in the Middle East, the place Peter Greste was reporting on. If we are to navigate the world in which we live today, standing up for press freedom is more important than ever. It was inspirational to hear the words spoken earlier today in this regard by my colleague, the member for Greenway. She set the moral standard that we should try to live up to. I conclude by saying: as we celebrate the circumstance of Peter Greste, and indeed the progress that has been made for his colleagues, let us also recall the uncertainty that bedevils his colleagues. Let us also recall those dozens of journalists who have been killed in the past year for doing their job; the 12 journalists who are still in jail in Egypt; and the 221 who are in jail today. Let us think about them and let us think about what we can do to advance their human rights, and the human rights of those who depend on them to tell their stories, to enable them to speak truth to power and to live in greater freedom and under real democracy.

Let us also reflect on Australia's role as an exemplar of human rights. In many respects, this debate is an easy one for members in this place to come together on and speak with one powerful voice. There are many questions of human rights, however, that raise greater challenges within this place. I hope that we—not only in this parliament but also across the Australian community—can be consistent in standing up for human rights in Australia and abroad, recognising that they are not divisible.


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