Australia Tibet Council

Enabling everyone in Australia to be part of change in Tibet

An Aussie in support of Tibet

Monday, 04 December 2017

Rudrani ToothWhen Australia Tibet Council asked me to step up and talk to my local MP, I was relieved. Talk! Just try and stop me!

Like most Aussies it worries me that China has increasing sway and leverage over our political process and universities.  I am deeply concerned that arguably one of the most spiritually advanced cultures on the planet is being silenced and stealthily eradicated under my watch.

At sixty odd years of age I have potentially another twenty to thirty years to do something and while it is tempting to roll my eyes, flick my greying hair, feel disempowered and say what's the point, I can't. Tibet matters. It matters spiritually, ecologically and morally.

For me it is a matter of principle and conscience. I want my five Aussie grandchildren to inhabit a world where nobody turns their eyes from human rights violations, where they understand that it takes just one voice, theirs, to make a world of difference.

So, I prepared for my meeting with the honourable member for Fairfax. I googled his speeches in Parliament, swotted and turned a half-blind eye to his pro-business and anti environmental stances, pulled myself up to my indomitable granny height and planned my strategy. I would write a letter, not from any sense of outmoded decorum but because as an introvert I am painfully aware of my shortcomings. Give me a pen and I'm heroic, give me a podium and I run. The letter would remind and hold my MP accountable in his own words and be a public record of my demands for his action.

Ted O'Brien the MP for Fairfax was running late. I immediately warmed to his PA, Danielle but less so the blue-suited fortyish man sitting, a tad rigid, fingers twitching impatiently waiting for me to get to the point of my visit. I was there alone, perched on the edge of his tasteful two-seater lounge wondering how on earth to build a rapport. He struck me as far more a business man than the politician who so eloquently championed freedom of speech in his inaugural address in Parliament. More Teflon-coated than a caring politician, I quickly changed the focus from the Tibet Question to the China Issue and he was in. He abhorred the conduct of Senator Dastyari, and amidst much waving of arms made vociferous predictions of legal proceedings and new laws prohibiting foreign influence. He was passionate about defending Australian parliamentary process from foreign interests but far less keen to be led on China which seemingly remains imbued with warm-fuzzy memories of his many past business trips to Beijing.

My results with Ted were luke-warm at best.  Tibet is no-where on his radar and begrudgingly he agreed to look into the Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, asking me, did I know how many groups canvassed for his support? Err no. But how many of these groups have been named by Freedom House as the second worst place in the world for human rights violations? The question was lost on him. Springing out of his chair, he offered me his hand and well-rehearsed smile to signal the end of the meeting. A little crest-fallen I followed Danielle back to her office.

To my surprise, I learnt she has visited Tibet. In a quiet heart-felt tone Danielle shared her recent trip to the Tibet Autonomous Region and her horror at the coercive Chinese military presence in Lhasa. She pressed her contact details into my hand and pleaded to receive any pertinent information on Tibet that she can use to convince Ted. I cruised out of the Fairfax office happy I made a new friend and supporter and pleased I had the foresight to put my thoughts and requests in writing. There was so much more I wanted to say to Ted and didn't. Oh well, until next year when I will be sending another letter, chipping away at the inscrutable member for Fairfax.

Rudrani Tooth is a long-term Australian supporter of Tibet. She is part of a team of around 100 Australians and Tibetan-Australians who met their local MPs as part of ATC's initiative to connect supporters with their elected representatives in light of China’s growing influence in Australia. Together we have delivered our report Australia's Silence on Tibet to around 30 Members of Parliament.