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9 October 2020

Independent Senator Rex Patrick will move an amendment to the Federal Government’s new foreign relations legislation to ensure the activities of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) are consistent with Australia’s support for internationally recognised human rights and fundamental democratic freedoms.

Senator Patrick will seek to amend the Australian Foreign Relations (State and Territory) Arrangements Bill 2020 which is intended to ensure greater coordination of Australia’s international interactions through Federal oversight of arrangements made by state government and other entities. 

“Although the AOC is an independent incorporated organisation its activities play a prominent part in Australia’s international profile,” Senator Patrick said. 

“The Olympic Games are occasions of considerable international significance and political importance for host countries; and Australia’s participation should at all times be consistent with national values including fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Senator Patrick said the proposed amendment were prompted by the forthcoming 2022 Winter Olympic Games to be held in Beijing, China.

“Dictatorial and authoritarian regimes crave the spectacle and supposed legitimacy conferred by major sporting events, the Olympic Games especially."

“Chinese President Xi is looking forward to the 2022 Beijing Games as a massive propaganda spectacle that will whitewash gross human rights violations including genocidal policies directed at the Uyghur people of Western China, the suppression of fundamental freedoms across China including Hong Kong and the arbitrary detention of Australian citizens on bogus national security charges.”

Senator Patrick said that in these circumstances it would be morally wrong for Australia to give the Chinese Communist regime legitimacy through participation in the Beijing Winter Games. 

“We need a very clear Australian stance in support of fundamental human rights and freedoms," Senator Patrick said. “However, the Government indicated in the Senate that Olympic participation is a sole responsibility of the AOC, with the AOC saying they have nothing to do with politics.”

“We need to cut through this impasse and ensure Australia’s participation at the highest level of international sport is consistent with our national values of fair play, decency and honour.  Respect for human rights must be fundamental to our Olympic engagement.”

While the AOC is an independent organisation, Australia’s Olympic sporting achievements rest heavily on support from taxpayers, directly and indirectly, including through major investments by Sports Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport to support the development of elite athletes.

“My proposed amendment to the Foreign Relations Bill will ensure that the Australian Government has clear authority to oversee the activities of the AOC as far as they relate to Australia’s foreign relations including support for human rights." 

The amendment will bring the AOC into the scope of Australian entities covered by the provisions of the Bill; and will include the International Olympic Committee, National Olympic Committees in other countries, and Organising Committees for the Olympic Games within the definition of a Foreign Entity under the legislation. 

“If the Federal Government can oversee the international arrangements of state governments, local governments and universities, it should definitely be empowered to supervise the AOC” 

Senator Patrick also reiterated his call on the Government to confer with the AOC to bring about an Australian boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. 

“The Australian Government should move without delay so that Australia’s winter Olympic athletes know where they stand. Our athletes should not be used as stage props for a regime engaged in genocide."