(Question No. 1825)
Senator Ludlam asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 3 May 2012:
(1) Is an Australian business delegation to Burma being organised by the department or by the Australian ambassador to Burma; if so:
(a) which Australian companies are invited to participate on the delegation;
(b) with whom will the delegation meet;
(c) on what dates will the delegation travel to Burma and to which locales within the country; and
(d) what amount has the Government budgeted to facilitate the delegation.
(2) What measures will be in place to ensure that:
(a) deals undertaken by Australian businesses are reversible to be consistent with the Government's position, that sanctions will return if democratic reforms do not progress; and
(b) Australian companies are not engaging in industries or projects in Burma that are linked to human rights abuses.
(3) Why is the Government normalising business relationships with Burma given the highly undemocratic nature of the constitution, ongoing military offensives against ethnic minorities in the north and east of the country and the large number of political prisoners who remain incarcerated.
Senator Bob Carr: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:
(2) (a) The Government's 16 April announcement to normalise trade ties with Burma involved discontinuing the policy of neither encouraging nor discouraging trade and investment with Burma. The Australian Government has never imposed general trade and investment sanctions on Burma. Rather, Australia maintains targeted autonomous sanctions consisting of financial sanctions and travel restrictions against a list of Burmese individuals.
(b) The Government has maintained the arms embargo against Burma which prohibits the supply, sale or transfer to Burma of arms and related materiel and the provision of related services.
Australian companies are responsible for ensuring they abide by the laws of the jurisdiction in which they operate as well as Australian laws that apply extraterritorially. The Australian Government expects that Australian companies will fulfil their responsibilities to comply with applicable laws and obligations when operating abroad.
The Australian Government also expects Australian companies to conduct their business overseas according to best practice principles. The Australian Government supports a number of best practice principles that encourage ethical and responsible corporate behaviour, for example:
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines)
OECD Risk Awareness Tool for Multinational Enterprises in Weak Governance Zones
UN Global Compact
These initiatives advocate principles aimed, explicitly or implicitly, at protecting human rights and the environment.
(3) The Government recognises that increased trade and investment will help enhance the prospects of ordinary Burmese who are among the poorest in our region. Stronger economic growth will help Burma consolidate its democratic gains, address poverty and lay the foundations for enduring reform.