I rise today to express a number of concerns on behalf of the Vietnamese Community in Australia. This organisation, which represents the ex-patriot Vietnamese community, is deeply concerned about the recent tensions in the South China Sea, Vietnam’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the ongoing persecution of political activists in Vietnam and to even some in Australia. Mr Tri Vo, President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, and Mr Bon Van-Nguyen, President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia Victoria Chapter, are deeply concerned that the People’s Republic of China has heightened the risk of war in South-East Asia by its latest unilateral and provocative installation in mid-2014 of its oil rigs within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone as part of China’s unsubstantiated 9 dash line claim of more than 90 per cent of the Bien Dong, which is the East Sea—aka the South China Sea—by China.
The Vietnamese Community in Australia encourages the Australian government and all Asia-Pacific nations to request all claimants to settle their disputes through peaceful negotiations in accordance with international laws, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and support the negotiations between the PRC and ASEAN for a binding code of conduct to replace the non-binding 2002 Declaration of Conduct.
Over 10,000 members of the Vietnamese Community in Australia are concerned about China flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea around the pristine reef that is part of the disputed Spratly Islands chain claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. The Vietnamese Community in Australia is calling for restraint and for China to discontinue its plans of filling in the reef’s lagoon in order to create an island as a way of being able to fully claim the area in the future and use it for military purposes.
The Vietnamese Community in Australia also believes that conditions should be imposed on Vietnam before it can participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Trans-Pacific Partnership aims to enhance trade and investment among the 12 TPP partner countries to promote innovation, economic growth and development, and to support the creation and retention of jobs. The total GDP of TPP members is 37.5 per cent of global GDP and the total population is about 800 million people.
Vietnam will be one of the countries that will benefit the most from being a member of the TPP because it could export more to nations such as the United States of America. However, according to the Vietnamese Community in Australia, the Vietnamese authorities must do the following things before being a permanent partner of TPP. They must release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. They must ensure the right of the Vietnamese people to have the freedom to establish independent unions, and permit organisation of strikes if necessary. They must ensure the right of the Vietnamese people to have the freedom to establish independent organisations and associations to serve the interests of groups and individual and they must ensure the right of the Vietnamese people to freely practise their religious beliefs. These matters have been raised by the Vietnamese Community in Australia, and I commend them for their work on behalf of the Vietnamese community.