Prime Minister Scott Morrison and federal opposition leader Bill Shorten are the target of a new petition urging Australia to take a raft of actions against the nation of Brunei over its anti-gay laws.
The new petition by just.equal, a national LGBTIQ+ rights group, calls on whomever wins government at the election on May 18 to keep the pressure on the South-East Asian nation, which caused international outrage this month with the introduction of the death penalty for homosexuality, adultery, blasphemy and apostasy.
The petition is demanding the withdrawal of Australia’s High Commissioner to Brunei; the expulsion of Brunei’s High Commissioner to Australia; a ban on Royal Brunei Airlines from Australian airspace; a moratorium on government use of commercial services provided by Brunei’s government; and a declaration that Brunei is in breach of the Commonwealth of Nations Charter and must have its membership of the Commonwealth suspended.
Just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome said Australia was in a unique position to influence Brunei and had a responsibility help the victims of Brunei’s “draconian” new laws.
“It’s not Australia’s responsibility alone to tackle these repressive new laws but Australia, more than most countries, has power and influence with Brunei,” said Mr Croome.
“Australia and Brunei are not only geographically close but have close defence, security, education and trade ties.
“We’re both members of the Commonwealth and we’re both parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, among other treaties and agreements.
“We want to see Australia take a lead and provide an example to governments across Asia and around the world, to send a strong message to Brunei that it must repeal these outrageous new laws.”
Brunei defends anti-gay laws
The European Parliament voted last week in favour of a resolution calling on authorities “to consider the adoption at EU level of restrictive measures related to serious human rights violations, including asset freezes and visa bans.”
In a letter to the EU in response, Bruneian officials attempted to defend the introduction of its new Penal Code.
“The criminalisation of adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage to individual Muslims, particularly women,” the letter says.
“The penal sentences of hadd – stoning to death and amputation – imposed for offences of theft, robbery, adultery and sodomy have an extremely high evidentiary threshold, requiring no less than two or four men of high moral standing and piety as witnesses, to the exclusion of every form of circumstantial evidence.”
Brunei said this was “coupled with a very high standard of proof of ‘no doubt at all’ for all aspects, which goes further than the common law standard of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’”.
The European Parliament’s resolution “strongly [condemns] the use of torture and cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment” in Brunei, warning that it “violates Brunei’s obligations under international human rights law.”
In the UK, the University of Aberdeen and Royal College of General Practitioners recently revoked honours given to the Sultan of Brunei, while several other institutions – including the hallowed Kings College, London and University of Oxford – have announced reviews of honours bestowed on the unelected dictator.
Earlier this month, a group of protesters rallied opposite the Brunei-owned Royal on the Park Hotel in Brisbane to oppose the laws, chanting “Shame Sultan, shame”, following overseas protests targeting the Sultan of Brunei’s hotels in Europe and North America.
The UN previously warned that Brunei’s new laws will “enshrine in legislation cruel and inhuman punishments that seriously breach international human rights law”.