Tuesday, 17 October 2023
I want to join with my parliamentary colleagues in condemning the actions of Hamas. The killing of more than 1,400 Israeli civilians by Hamas 10 days ago was not just an act of war; it was an act of terror. It was murder. The acts of those Hamas militants who breached the border were unspeakably and unimaginably evil and should be condemned absolutely. There can be no defence over the decision by Hamas to launch an unprovoked and barbaric attack intended to maximise the pain and suffering of civilians. Hamas is a terrorist organisation, and Israel has the right to defend itself against this threat. Israel has the fight to protect itself and protect its citizens by taking action against Hamas. Australia supports that right absolutely.
Israel and Australia share a special friendship. While we are separated by thousands of kilometres, we maintain a deep connection, primarily through the strength of the Australian Jewish community. That's why the pain and suffering felt by Jews the world over was so apparent to us here. Our friends—my friends—have been struck by a deep sense of angst and suffering, worried not just for their loved ones in Israel but for the future security and safety of the Jewish people. Not since the Holocaust have so many Jewish lives been lost in a single day. While I cannot truly understand how they must be feeling in the aftermath of this act of terrorism, I am sending my deepest and most heartfelt sympathies to their community.
Similarly, I am also thinking of the innocent Palestinians during this unfolding disaster. The loss of any civilian life in conflict like this is a tragedy, as is the suffering endured by people as a result of the developing humanitarian situation. We must be very clear that we are condemning Hamas, not the Palestinian people. Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. Half of the two million Palestinians living in Gaza are under 18, born into a conflict they did not choose and that is older than them by several decades.
In committing this act of terror, Hamas has not just killed 1,400 innocent Israeli civilians but also undermined the aspiration for peace, safety and prosperity for the people of Gaza. Hamas is the enemy of the Israeli and Palestinian people alike. It should be condemned as such. Their blatant disregard and contempt for the lives of Israelis and Palestinians is causing immense suffering and is standing in the way of the peace that all people in the region not only aspire to but, indeed, are entitled to.
In the face of this conflict, the Australian government is doing all that it can to assist Australians to return home if they wish to do so. Some repatriation flights have already been completed. The Australian Defence Force is continuing to communicate directly with those seeking to leave. I urge all Australians caught up in the conflict to register with Smartraveller if they have not already done so. Alternatively, they can call our consular emergency centre. The Australian government is also supporting the humanitarian effort, which will provide support and supplies to civilians.
As we see the pain and suffering unfold from afar, I know it feels much closer for many Australians. During this difficult time, it is important that we come together as Australians in our shared sadness about what is happening in the Middle East. It is undoubtedly having a significant impact here in our own country, particularly for those who have a deep cultural and religious connection to the region. We are a strong, multicultural nation, and we are immensely proud of that. It is important we continue to be thoughtful about the cohesion of our multicultural society. There are people in this country who hold strong and passionate views on this complex issue, but we cannot allow for antisemitism or Islamophobia to take hold in our communities in any way, shape or form. It has been very disturbing and immensely disappointing to see a rise in antisemitism in the last week. There is no place for racist vitriol in this country. I was extremely disturbed by the scenes outside the Sydney Opera House last Monday and other vile incidents that have occurred across Melbourne and elsewhere in the country. All this is counterproductive to the continued attempt to highlight the human tragedy at the centre of this conflict. It is absolutely essential that we maintain respect for each other as Australians as we continue to support those that are affected.
Australia is committed to the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution. Now more than ever we cannot waver in that support. The atrocities perpetrated in Israel 10 days ago by Hamas and the unfolding disaster since tragically demonstrate the need for peace and the immense human cost of not achieving it. We will continue to stand with Israelis and with Palestinians in this collective aspiration and condemn Hamas for denying it.