Thursday, 18 October 2018
Questions without Notice
Australian Embassy: Israel
I refer to the Prime Minister's previous answer. Who does the Prime Minister blame for this leak? Isn't this proof that the Prime Minister put votes in a by-election ahead of the national interest in the most cynically timed foreign policy—
Mr Pyne interjecting—
The question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to his previous answer. Who does the Prime Minister blame for the leak of the WhatsApp exchange between our foreign minister and the Indonesian foreign minister? Isn't this proof that the Prime Minister put votes in a by-election ahead of the national interest in the most cynically timed foreign policy decision in living memory? How is the Prime Minister fit to lead the nation when he acts in such a desperate and reckless way?
I'm sure the Prime Minister's prepared to answer the question, but it wasn't so much a question as a polemic from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Quite frankly, the issue that was raised at the beginning of the question has got nothing to do with the responsibilities of the Prime Minister. The rest of the question was simply a smear.
On the point of order, Mr Speaker, the first part of the question is a direct follow from the previous answer that we heard. The second half of the question goes directly to asking the Prime Minister how he makes these sorts of decisions.
I have no such suspicions as are imputed by the member for Sydney. What I can tell the House, though, is that Minister Payne and her Indonesian counterpart had a constructive discussion on 16 October regarding Australia's announcement. I continue to remain in contact with President Widodo. Minister Payne emphasised that there had been no change to Australia's commitment to the Middle East peace process and to a durable and resilient two-state solution that allowed Israel and a future Palestine state to exist side by side within internationally recognised borders. We are aware of Indonesia's views on the Middle East peace process. They are entitled to their views, and we will discuss those views with them, as I am anticipating doing as we go through the summit season. I can discuss the views that I have articulated on behalf of our government, which is a position which is held by our government, by our members, by our cabinet and by our National Security Committee.
That is our view when it comes to the state of Israel. That is our view when it comes to the Iran nuclear deal. I don't know what the Labor Party's view is, Mr Speaker, because when I read what the member for Melbourne Ports said when he was asked in May of this year, 'Do you think the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem?' the member for Melbourne Ports said: 'It's where the Israeli capital is. It's where the Knesset is. It's where all of the ministries are. Provided it doesn't preclude further negotiations when the Palestinians come to their senses.' That's the view of the member for Melbourne Ports. I suspect the member for Wills has a very similar view. I know the member for Sydney thinks Israel is a rogue state, Mr Speaker.
Mr Perrett interjecting—
That's what I know. I know the New South Wales Labor Party, with their good mates up there—Shaoquett Moselmane banned the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies from attending the Labor Union Multicultural Action Committee. So we have a New South Wales Labor Party which is behaving in an anti-Semitic way, Mr Speaker, and they want to pretend to the Australian people that they're supporters of Israel. Really? Really?
Honourable members interjecting—
Members on both sides.
Mr Dreyfus interjecting—
Mr Pyne interjecting—
The member for Isaacs will cease interjecting. The Leader of the House will cease interjecting. The member for Isaacs is about to leave. I'm trying to hear the Manager of Opposition Business. To the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: she should realise he's standing on his feet seeking to get the call. If you want to support people impeding him doing that, I'd be very surprised. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order.
Mr Speaker, some months ago, you made a ruling where, in response to a question from our side, you said that, even though technically the language was not viewed as unparliamentary, you wanted to have a particular standard of debate in this parliament. An accusation of anti-Semitism is extraordinary, and there is a reason why the reaction you just saw from the opposition occurred. I ask that the Prime Minister withdraw.
Before I address this matter, I'm going to agree with the Manager of Opposition Business that I did ask for the tenor of language to improve, for the temperature to lower. I think it's fair to say that this week there's been a degradation, and I'd say from both sides. I'm not sure the Manager of Opposition Business wants me to go into all of the 90-second statements and statements that have been made with respect to the Senate motion that's been a hot topic. But I think it would be very remiss of me and disingenuous of the Manager of Opposition Business to ignore where members of the government have been compared to the Ku Klux Klan, and I took no action. It is tough language, but it is a matter for the Prime Minister. I want the language on both sides to improve. The Prime Minister has concluded his answer.
Mr Speaker, on a point of order—and I ask you for the dignity of the House. Points of order must be raised at the moment, and had points of order been raised at the time—I don't know the specific references that you gave, but I don't discount for a minute that they were made—
Government members interjecting—
I'm not saying that they weren't made; I simply don't know the references that you refer to. But, had a point of order been called at the time, I suspect that person would have been asked to withdraw. A point of order has been taken right now, and, if we are going to have a standard here that allegations of anti-Semitism are going to be okay, then I'm not sure where this leads. I simply ask—
I am not going to detain the House on this matter other than to say I want the level of language to improve. I've participated, prior to being Speaker obviously, in a number of debates relating to Israel, and you do not want me to recount all the claims in those debates over many years. I've got a pretty good memory, and it's a topic I'm very familiar with; it is not in the interests of this question time for me to do that. I'm just going to say I want the standard of language to improve. That's what I'm saying.
Opposition members interjecting—