Iran: A Labor Government will change Australia’s policy

April 27, 2016 by Henry Benjamin
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The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References committee has heard that the U.S. has named 225 Iranian companies and/or individuals against which or whom sanctions remain…but the Australian number is only 91.

Peter Wertheim

Peter Wertheim      Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

Labor M.P. Michael Danby told the committee in Sydney that the Iranians had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear war head and capable of reaching cities as far off as Warsaw and Berlin as recently as April 18.

Speaking on the reduction of sanctions, Senator Glenn Sterle told J-Wire:”It’s a shocking decision. The government ‘s decision to  come to an arrangement to deal with a murderous regime whose human rights record is disgraceful and to give the impression they are creating business opportunities…well it’s all fairy floss.”

Danby said during the proceedings that “a Labor government would change the sanctions to get near the U.S.’s numbers through a change of policy”.

The hearing was before Senators David Fawcett [Liberal South Australia], Senator Chris Back [Liberal Western Australia] Senator Alex Gallacher [Labor South Australia] and Senator Glenn Sterle [Labor Western Australia].

Addressing the hearing by audio link up from Melbourne was Andrew Hudson who had made a submission on behalf of the Export Council of Australia who spoke of the opportunities available for Australia in Iran in

Michael Danby

Michael Danby  Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

the fields of car parts, mine safety and in geology transport.

Senator Fawcett spoke of Iran’s Human Rights record saying “We have to be empathetic to their own values and their own systems.”  He expressed concern that future business with Iran would create profits which could be used to finance terrorist organisations.

Representing The Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim reminded the commission in his submission: “A narrow focus on the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action [JCPOA],  eludes the fact that Iran’s unlawful nuclear activities were the principal, but by no means the only, rationale for Australia’s imposition of autonomous sanctions against Iran in the first place.”

JCPOA is popularly known as “The Iran Deal”.

Wertheim reminded the committee that when sanctions were imposed by Australia on Iran in 2008, the then Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said: “The Iranian President’s statements are unacceptable and do nothing to reassure the international community that Iran will act as a responsible international citizen”. Smith had referred to President Ahmadinejad’s declared antisemitism and questioning of the Holocaust.”

Wertheim said that further sanctions had been imposed on Iran in 2011 relating to money laundering and the financing of terrorism. On Iran’s Human Rights record Wertheim said: “Iran continues to carry out public executions at the rate of 2-3 people per day, more than half of which executions go unannounced by the regime.  Minors continue to be included among those who are executed.  The executions are often carried out in a conspicuously barbaric fashion that prolongs the death agony of the person being executed.”

Senator Glenn Sterle

Senator Glenn Sterle Photo: Henry Benjamin/J-Wire

He said that Australia could have conducted public consultations  on lifting sanctions before the January 2016 publication of the IAEA findings.

Senator Fawcett expressed his concern that the expansion of Iranian diplomatic activity in Australia through the introduction of consulates in Sydney and Melbourne could “magnify the threats” of terrorism. Senator Sterle asked Wertheim of the current Iranian leadership had condemned Ahmadinejad antisemitic comments . Wertheim answered by pointing out that yet again very recently the Iranians had held an international competition for cartoonists producing work denying or belittling the Holocaust.

Senator Gallacher told Wertheim that Iran would be “a difficult market” with the ECAJ leader responding that former deputy Prime Minister had described that description as being “considerably understated”.

Senator Sterle said he was “gobsmacked that there had been no public consultation” and asked for the Council’s view.

Wertheim replied that one of the government’s considerations at that time was the repatriation of around 9,000 Iranian nationals “who had sought asylum in Australia but were found not to be refugees.” Following statements made by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, Wertheim said that the “repatriation was unlikely to happen”.

Federal Labor member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby told the senators of the ICBM launch earlier this month mentioning that two ballistic missiles had been launched in early March bearing a message in Hebrew declaring “Israel must be wiped out”. Media reports state that Iran’s president Rouhani has decreed this week that this practice must stop.

Danby told the senators that Iran ranked 118th in a list of the world’s countries measuring trust in the areas of risks, bribes and corruption.

Answering a question from Senator Fawcett on why Australia was following the European line in retaining only 91 companies/organisations still sanctioned whereas the United Stated had 225 on its list Danby responded by saying there had been insufficient explanations from the Government. The Labor MP had been canvassing Foreign Minister Julie Bishop for some time to debate the issue of the Iranian sanctions in Federal Government…debate to which failed to materialise even though the Labor Opposition made four formal parliamentary requests for a substantive debate”

Senator Sterle said that “Australia has moved sideways” adding: “Missiles that can hit Warsaw or Berlin is something we should not stay silent about.”

The senators heard further submissions from the Baha’i community including testimony from a man whose mother will probably spend the rest of her life in an Iranian prison. Also addressing the senators was B’nai B’rith’s Joshua Koonin who further pursued the Human Rights issues.

The senators expressed concerned that the $150 billion expected to be generated from new business “could fund the Hezbollah” whose activities and known backing by the Iranians had been well documents in the submissions.

Journalist and former diplomat Rebecca Weisser told the senators about an Iranian physicist who was jailed for refusing to work on Iran;s nuclear program and expressed concern at the power head by Iran’s revolutionary guard…an army of over 100,000.

One senator told the hearing that “if you were thinking of putting money into Iran, hold back.”

Weiser expressed her concern that there was little difference between Iran and North Korea.

A representation from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade was last to face the Senators.

Greg Ralph, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Middle East and Africa Division told the senators that the Iranians had cut back on their nuclear capabilities as requested and that “to would take them a year to produce enough fissile material make a bomb and it has reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium to less than 300kgs”.

He added: “We are not under any illusions about the nature of the government we are dealing with.”

Outlining the intended areas of business as being agriculture, oil and gas equipment, wheat, sheep, water management, healthcare and education he said that “companies will have to go in with their eyes open.”

When questions by Senator Sterle about the why Australia had followed EU line Justine Braithwaite, Assistant Secretary, Sanctions, Treaties and Transnational Crimes Legal Branch said: ” The EU model is more compatible in sanctions”.

In answering Senator Back about the diplomatic activities in Iran, Ralph said that the Austrade office in Teheran would reopen later this year. It was established in 1968 but closed in 2010.

He said that in Australia “there are 30 or 40 companies queueing up at the door” to do business with Iran.

Senator Back asked the DFAT delegation about human rights asking “What can Australia do?”.

He was told that human rights were discussed at every opportunity and that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop had discussed them with her Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif both in Iran and in Canberra”.

Ralph told him: “We don’t pull our punches on human rights.”

When asked as to how DFAT would evaluate the appropriate time to engage in a snapback reimposing sanctions should Iran renege on the Iran deal, Braithwaite said: “We would follow the United Nations closely.”

The Committee has been instructed to have a draft report prepared next week. Australia has been implementing sanctions against Iran since 2006.










2 Responses to “Iran: A Labor Government will change Australia’s policy”
  1. Eleonora Mostert says:

    Has anyone sent a copy of this to the Media?? That’s probably why we never hear any of this… no one send anything to the Media, just keep it locally on J-wires??? If I were more computer savvy I’d send all relevant article to them until it came out of their noses to get the truth out there.

  2. Henry Herzog says:

    Can’t wait for Julie Bishop’s next speech at some Jewish function telling the audience what a great and loyal friend she is of Israel, with all those present applauding. But hey, business is business.

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