House debates

Tuesday, 17 October 2023



5:44 pm

Photo of Alicia PayneAlicia Payne (Canberra, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It's with a very heavy heart today that I reflect on what we've seen in the past weeks in Israel and Palestine. To date, it's estimated that 2,800 Palestinians and 1,400 Israeli civilians have been killed since Hamas launched their horrific terrorist attacks. That's 4,200 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters—all human beings, all with aspirations and life goals and all who now leave behind a family in mourning.

Australia has rightfully condemned the vile terrorist attacks by Hamas on Israel. The details of these atrocities are horrific. Israelis have the right to live in peace. The cause for a Jewish homeland is a just one, and the right for Israel to exist should never be denied as Hamas would have it.

My heart goes out to the families of the young people massacred at a music festival, the elderly people taken hostage, all of those affected by Hamas's heinous actions. The attack on the Sabbath last week was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the end of the Holocaust. These are acts of evil. These are heinous acts by a group that is hellbent on violence, not peace. And Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people. What Hamas has done in the past week has set back legitimate aspirations of Palestinians immeasurably.

Australia recognises Israel's inherent right to defend itself and its citizens, but it must be said that defence should not amount to the death of Palestinian civilians. We urge restraint so that more innocent human lives are not taken or destroyed. In this time of immense hurt and unimaginable suffering, we appeal for peace.

The lives of more than two million innocent Gazans are now under threat. The crimes of Hamas cannot and must not equate to the collective punishment of millions of innocent human beings. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating rapidly. Hospitals are running out of fuel to power their generators. Water has been cut off. Humanitarian aid has been blocked.

Australia calls for the safe and unimpeded access of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip through the establishment of a humanitarian corridor. We support the work of the United States and Egypt to that end. The Australian government has committed an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza, and we stand ready to provide further support. Our primary goal is for civilian lives both in Israel and Palestine to be protected. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has said:

… we are on the verge of the abyss in the Middle East

He called on Hamas to immediately release the people it is holding hostage and for Israel to allow for rapid unimpeded access for humanitarian aid. Guterres called on the world to unite in support of the fundamental principle of protecting civilians and find a lasting solution to this unending cycle of death and destruction.

As we look at the devastation from afar, we must remember the impact these events are having on communities here at home. My heart is with both the Jewish and the Palestinian communities, and with anyone who has loved ones in their homeland. I know that they are hurting, and I know that they are concerned for family and friends both at home and abroad in a way that most of us here in Australia cannot even imagine or understand. In the last week, I have spoken with people here in Canberra from the Jewish and the Palestinian communities. Both communities have expressed their concern for all people involved and their wish for peace.

I want to make it clear that the scenes we saw in Sydney a few days ago were utterly abhorrent. The chants that we heard were antisemitic and they have no place in this country, and I condemn them in the strongest terms. Tensions at the moment are high in our community. There can never be room for antisemitism or Islamophobia. Racism and bigotry must be stamped out in its entirety. To that end, I also want to call for respect in this place in the way that we, as members, are conducting ourselves in this house and to be mindful that this isn't about us. This is about people who are going through something that we, thankfully, cannot actually understand. We have not ever experienced, most of us, any deep devastation like that. And this is not about things that we say. We need to be mindful of the way we're conducting ourselves and the feelings of others at the moment. We must remember that we're all human beings. We must remember our humanity. My deepest hope is for peace for Israel and Palestine and for a two-state solution where both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security.


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