Tuesday, 17 October 2023
My focus right now, at this most difficult of times, is to do all I can to strengthen social cohesion in our country. I'm doing this, firstly, by listening; by working closely with multicultural and multifaith groups who are the most directly affected by the conflict. I am listening with intent to address concerns and to appreciate what directly affected communities need from government right now. Through these conversations, I've been hearing about the fear that exists within our Jewish communities—of mothers too scared to send their children to school, about the ongoing distress of communities about reporting illustrating the suffering faced by innocents in Israel. I've also heard about how Muslim and Arab communities are feeling scared and horrified at the conditions facing innocent people in Gaza as well as distress around aspects of the public discourse.
I've spoken in recent days to Jewish and Muslim community leaders. Many have reached out to me. From speaking right now, I will proceed to roundtables with Muslim community leaders first and then with Jewish community leaders. I don't presume that these roundtables will bring resolution. Rather, I see this as the start of a deep engagement to which I am committed and from which I hope I can play a part on behalf of the Australian government in bringing people together by keeping communities safe.
Like so many Australians, my heart broke when I saw the reports and videos coming out Israel of the barbaric actions of Hamas. Let us be clear, this is a human tragedy caused by Hamas. ISIS and Hamas are no different, targeting innocent people and families—women, men, children, the elderly, the young and the old—with no regard for human life. The coalition utterly condemns the unprovoked and abhorrent attack by the militant Hamas on Israel. Too many innocent people have lost their lives, Israeli and Palestinian. It was a deliberate act of violence intended to inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians.
The attack is a provocation. Israel has every right to defend itself in response and to deter future attacks and other acts of aggression, coercion and interference. Hamas is a recognised terrorist organisation consistently showing a blatant disregard for life—just like al-Qaeda, just like ISIS, just like Hezbollah. The merciless killing of more than 1,300 Jews by Hamas was barbaric. These sick acts have no place in our world.
I try to imagine if I woke up to the news that 260 kids who had been to a music concert in Australia had been driven into the desert and had been murdered. I cannot imagine that. I try to imagine that 199 Australians have been taken hostage and threatened with execution on the internet. I cannot imagine that. But this is the unthinkable reality for Israel. The evil acts of Hamas have sent shock waves around the world. Hamas terrorists committed mass murder on an atrocious scale. At the moment there are many Australians of Jewish faith who are going through a very difficult time, not just because they might have a loved one, a family member or someone they knew in Israel who's been affected by this atrocious terrorist act but also because it has an impact on families and communities here in Australia.
Children at some Jewish schools have been told to not wear their school uniforms. Children are not being allowed to walk home from school, their parents fearing violence and abuse. Children at school in our own country are being heavily guarded with guns. Security at synagogues and Jewish community centres has increased significantly. Antisemites are driving around the streets of Melbourne looking for Jews to hurt. Living Holocaust survivors have to listen to chants of 'Gas the Jews' and 'Kill the Jews'—in 2023 in Australia. Where is your moral compass when your first reaction to these atrocities is to protest and to celebrate in the cities of our great country? But it is happening, and it has no place in this world.
Whenever there is conflict in Israel, our Jewish communities in Australia feel the impact deeply. The lack of care for people who are hurting is inexcusable. This kind of hatred has no place in our society. And now is no time for equivocation: Israel must defend its territory, its way of life. Global support for Israel—its right to exist, its right to self-defence—is crucial, and we must call out antisemitism in all its forms. We stand with people of Jewish faith, both in Australia and abroad, as they experience what is another difficult and traumatic period in their lives. We must stand firmly against these acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and support Israel taking strong action to defend themselves. We must send the message that this can never happen again.
But we mustn't forget the Palestinians, and we must make clear that any condemning of this terrorist group is not a reflection on the world's view of the Palestinian people. Hamas aren't just the enemy of the Jewish people; they are the enemy of many good Palestinian people as well. We must be clear in our wording and in our conversations that Hamas is the enemy, not Palestine. And it is heartbreaking to hear reports of Hamas stopping innocent civilians from evacuating Gaza. Many Australians are in pain at the thought of their fellow human beings suffering, and this has occurred purely through the actions of Hamas. Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a Jewish member of my community, and his heart is breaking for the Jewish people, his friends and family at home, but his heart is also breaking for the Palestinian people, because he knows the struggle they are going through. He showed humanity in that conversation that many wouldn't. We must remember that this is not about the Palestinian people; it is about the actions of Hamas.
It is my wish that all Jewish Australians know that they are not alone. Australia mourns alongside you for what is the single biggest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust. We stand side by side with you in what is a deeply traumatic time. The coalition proudly supports Israel's right to do what is necessary, within the rules of war, to protect its people, its sovereignty and its borders. Like many Australians, I stand with Israel. We, as a nation, have to stand with Israel and the Australian Jewish community at this time of need because, after the horrors of the Holocaust, the world said to the Jewish people, 'Never again.' As I stand here today, I assure those people that the coalition stands in complete unity with Israel. We stand in unity with the Jewish people and with Israel.
One thing we learn and know in this role with the opportunities that we have is that words are important and our actions are important. That's why it was so disappointing and heartbreaking to see yesterday that seven members of this House took the decision to move a motion in which they wanted to remove one part of this motion in particular, paragraph 2. It's quite simple and straightforward. It reads:
(2) stands with Israel and recognises its inherent right to defend itself …
Seven members of this House wanted to have that removed from this motion. It is a shame and a disgrace and I condemn them for that. Their names are recorded in history for wanting to remove that from this. We need to stand with Israel and recognise that, much like we would expect Australia to defend itself if these actions had occurred on our land, Israel has the right to defend itself. I hope those seven members take some time to reflect on the pain and hurt that their actions yesterday caused many people in this country and across the world.
I rise to speak on the unfolding tragedy in the Middle East. We must condemn all forms of violence and the killing of innocent civilians on both sides, without exception. It is on the basis of a fundamental principle, respect for international humanitarian law. It is this principle which guides our promotion of peace and justice. It is this principle which underlines our condemnation of Hamas's attacks on innocent Israeli civilians. The death of every single one of the over 1,300 people is painful. It was a crime and it's tragic. But we must also mourn and condemn the loss of life of innocent Palestinians. The scale of the death and destruction in Gaza is painful and tragic.
We mustn't just imagine, like passive observers, what the unfolding catastrophe will bring but actively seek to see what we can do to put an end to the horror that is unfolding before us. If we don't try to immediately address it now, it is an issue which will force itself even further upon the international community. I want to today highlight what we face in the coming period if we do not put a halt to this unfolding tragedy. What is most tragic is that Israel's offensive has yet to even begin. If Israel's attacks so far have meant the deaths of over 2,800 innocent Palestinian civilians, over 1,000 of which were children, what will the beginning of this incursion bring? If 600,000 Palestinians are already displaced, 500,000 of whom are in UN shelters, what will the beginning bring? If tens of thousands of homes and dozens of medical centres and schools have already been destroyed, what will this beginning bring? If there's no food, water, electricity, fuel or medicines, what will this beginning bring?
This conflict has hit home for me—like other colleagues—but particularly in my electorate. I have constituents who have lost immediate family members in Gaza. The father of one of my constituents from Roxburgh Park in my electorate was killed, the extended family buried amidst the rubble and family homes destroyed. The death of my constituent's father was not within the rules of war. The death of my constituent's father was not legal. The deaths of my constituent's father and family members is a crime. They are not collateral damage. They are also hurting. My constituents deserve a voice, to be heard as equals, joined in solidarity and joined in grief. I also have a constituent trapped in Gaza, with a terrifying uncertainty as we look to try and get them safely back into Australia. Australia must do everything it can for the safe evacuation of Australians, and I thank the government and DFAT officials both overseas and in Australia for their tireless efforts and engagement with the families in this regard.
Australia is providing an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza. Australia will provide $3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross to fund urgent needs like restoring essential services and providing medical support to victims of the conflict. Through United Nations agencies, Australia will provide $7 million to deliver critical support, including emergency water, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as child protection.
My community is fearful. I have had people in the community say to me that they are afraid to speak out. We must continue to work with and give voice to our local communities across Australia with connections to the region. We mustn't stifle the legitimate, peaceful voices of the people seeking to engage with an issue that directly impacts them. They are our answer to ending the rhetoric of hate and division, of the scourge of antisemitism and Islamophobia, which has never had any place in this conflict and no place on our streets—or in the world, for that matter.
Our local communities and local organisations have direct connections to the area. The Australian Foundation for Palestinian Children, Olive Kids, a 100 per cent volunteer-led organisation, has helped thousands of children, primarily in Gaza. Olive Kids works with Al-Amal Institute—Arabic for 'hope'—an institute for orphans. The majority of the 400 children residing at the orphanage relying on Olive Kids, sponsored and supported by Australians. As Israeli strikes levelled entire neighbourhoods, the orphanage was severely damaged and its children evacuated, with 10 reported injured. The work of all NGOs in Gaza is now crippled. I acknowledge the work of Amin Abbas, for leading Olive Kids' efforts, and for his support for some of the world's most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable of places.
I've spoken on the principles of peace and justice, and of the fundamental legal principle of international humanitarian law. It is this principle that underlies our condemnation of Israel's attacks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel policy of the forcible displacement of an unknown civilian population, many of whom are already refugees, falls outside the rules and norms of international law. As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, expelling Palestinians into Egypt is a non-starter. How can it be otherwise? UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, whose organisation has already lost 14 staff members, says that UNRWA operations in the Gaza Strip on the verge of collapse. He says:
There is not one drop of water, not one grain of wheat, not a litre of fuel that has been allowed into the Gaza Strip for the last eight days.
He says that soon there will be no food or medicine. He also says:
Thousands of people have been killed, including children and women. Gaza is now even running out of body bags.
In fact, Gaza is being strangled and it seems that the world right now has lost its humanity.
He goes on to plead:
In fact, an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding under our eyes.
And already—and we should always remember that—before the war, Gaza was under a blockade for 16 years, and basically, more than 60 per cent of the population was already relying on international food assistance. It was already before the war a humanitarian welfare society
… … …
Every story coming out of Gaza is about survival, despair and loss.
… … …
Entire families are being ripped apart.
The bombing of homes, hospitals and civilian infrastructure in Gaza is not within the rules of war. Collective punishment is not within the rules of war. And we must never accept a situation where the lives of the people of Gaza are seen as collateral damage. Let's be clear: 'not within the rules of war' is doublespeak for illegal, doublespeak for crime. The indiscriminate targeting of an unarmed civilian population, 40 per cent of whom are under 15 years old, is not within the rules of war. The occupation of Palestine, the longest ongoing military occupation in modern history, and the siege and blockade of Gaza is illegal. And as US President Biden said, any move by Israel to reoccupy Gaza would be a big mistake.
Fifty thousand women in Gaza are pregnant; 5,500 are due to give birth in the coming weeks. With hospitals being given military orders to shut down and evacuate, the very same hospitals that have children attached to ventilators and are treating the endless influx of injured, what hope is there for the unborn? And if they survive childbirth, what will they be born into?
We cannot be unwavering and selective in our commitment to international law and the value we place on human life. I call on Australia and the international community to do whatever it can to put an end to the violence which threatens to engulf the whole region. It is time to redouble our efforts and push for a peace and justice that gives hope to all. In the decades that have passed since Oslo, we have seen Palestinians give their cause over to the international community in the hope that we can assist in helping them realise Palestinian statehood that would bring about a peace for both sides. We have failed them. Now more than ever this crisis unfolding before us is another warning bell that only self-determination for the Palestinian people and the establishment of a Palestinian state will guarantee a lasting peace for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the region. We've had quartets, summits, processes, roadmaps and accords—all of which have produced no outcomes, no peace and delivered no justice to the Palestinian people. If there continues to be the absence of bold moves by the international community, we will have enabled the triumph of violence and despair over hope, over peace and over justice.
The attacks on Israel by Hamas in recent days have shocked the world. It is the sort of barbarity that we had hoped was consigned to history, but sadly we have been reminded of what is still possible by those corrupted by political, racial and religious hatred. Israel stands as a beacon of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, and Australia stands as a true friend and supporter of the state of Israel in its moment of need.
We must remember Australia's pivotal role in the creation of the state of Israel. It was in 1947 and Australia was the first nation to vote in the UN for the partition resolution that led to the creation of Israel as a nation. And of course we must remember the important impact of Australia's Jewish population, the impact they've had in our country and our society, starting with the arrival of Jewish people to Australia as part of the First Fleet.
I want to express my steadfast support of Israel and unequivocally condemn Hamas and its allies for these appalling acts of terrorism. The terrorist actions of Hamas have no justification, no legitimacy and must be universally condemned. There is never any justification for terrorism. There is never any justification for massacring people enjoying a music festival, or kidnapping elderly women, children and entire families that are now being held as hostages. Those who have tried to justify these horrendous acts, or even celebrate them, over recent days should stand condemned by this house and by every Australian. Australians are horrified by this terror but unified in our support for Israel's efforts to defend itself and its people against such atrocities. These hostages must be recovered. Hamas's capacity to make war upon Israel must be completely extinguished. Israel must restore its ability to defend its citizens. We must stand with them as they work to restore peace to the region.
In doing so, we must call out extremist ideology within our own communities, those who sit in the comfort and freedom of our cities while fomenting religious and ethnic hatred. Those scenes that we saw and that have been talked about in this debate have no place in Australia. They don't represent us. They don't represent our values. They don't represent our commitment to and friendship with the people of Israel. The Australian people stand united with Israel as they work to overcome this existential threat.
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.
It is the stories of courage and bravery in the moment of crisis that stay with us. Itay and Hadar Berdychevsky of kibbutz Kfar Aza hid their 10-month-old twins in the safe room of their home before taking on Hamas with pistols—two parents with pistols against two dozen jihadis armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and belt-fed machine-guns. Itay and Hadar Berdychevsky managed to kill several marauders before perishing in a hail of bullets, but they fulfilled their mission. They stood their ground, they held the line, and when Israeli troops fought their way into Kfar Aza hours later, they found the Berdychevsky babies alive and well. Inbal Lieberman's act of bravery lifts our hearts too. She did her job as the security coordinator of kibbutz Nir Am. At the sound of gunfire, Inbal Lieberman opened the kibbutz armoury, activated volunteers and posted them in defensive positions. There were 25 Hamas terrorists killed on the fence, with no losses to her kibbutz. She fulfilled her mission. She stood her ground; she held the line. These stories are small slivers of light within an abyss of darkness.
October 7 was meant to be a quiet religious day for the Jewish people, the day of Simhath Torah or 'Rejoicing of the Torah'. It is a time for reading the Torah scrolls. It is a time for faith, family and community. It is a time for peace. But it was not a day of peace. It was a day shattered by barbaric, blood soaked violence. It was a day shattered in southern Israel by Hamas terrorists, who breached the Israeli border on paragliders, motorbikes and utility vehicles and then began a murderous rampage, wielding Kalashnikovs, grenades and rockets.
The violence visited on the innocent is hard for our ears to hear, but it must be spoken of; it must be entered into the public record. And it must be condemned—without qualification, without nuance or equivocation. The stories of violence are distressing: Jewish babies shot in their cribs; Jewish revellers at a music festival hunted down and shot at point-blank range; Jewish women frogmarched at gunpoint through the streets of Gaza, bloodied and humiliated, by their Hamas captors; Jewish families—fathers, mothers, and children—gunned down together and murdered in their homes; Jewish people burned alive as they hugged each other for the last time; Jewish children stolen from their parents, mocked and humiliated as they cried out for their mums.
The violence inflicted by Hamas terrorists upon the innocent residents of southern Israel was brutal and evil: 1,400 dead and 200 hostages, and many are still missing. And why? Well, it is simply because they were Jews who chose to live in the national homeland of the Jewish people. It didn't matter that they were simple farmers. It didn't matter that they were peace activists who volunteered to shuttle sick Palestinians from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment. It didn't matter that they were children, pregnant women, and the elderly. It didn't matter that they all lived within pre-1967 Israel borders. They were Jews, and to Hamas that was enough.
But none of this should come as a surprise. Hamas hates the Jewish people, and we must take them at their word. The Hamas charter not only makes an explicit call for the destruction of Israel; it also mandates the murder of every Jew on this Earth. And these terrorists film their mass-murder and torture spree and broadcast their depravity to the world on social media. In one infamous incident, they videoed the shooting murder of a 78-year-old grandmother on the victim's own mobile phone and posted the footage on her Facebook account. Their depravity knows no bounds. That is one case among thousands as to why Hamas is listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government. They are no different to the thugs of ISIS who unleashed their murderous darkness across Iraq, Syria and the Levant.
Yet now, even after the murder of so many innocent Jewish people, we see people unable to condemn what is clearly an evil act of murder. At a pro-Hamas rally in Sydney, New South Wales Greens MP Jenny Leong berated the decision to illuminate the Opera House with the blue and white of the Israeli flag as 'appalling'. Last week we saw ugly scenes at the Opera House of pro-Hamas crowds chanting 'Gas the Jews' and 'Eff the Jews'. And I, along with many other mainstream Australians, did not recognise my own country. Only yesterday in this place, after the fuller scale of the horror in Israel became painfully clearer, the Greens and two teal Independents put an amendment that accused Israel of war crimes. Their moral confusion and wilful ignorance is breathtaking. Jewish innocents—women and children—were violated and slaughtered by terrorists, and we have people in this place unable to condemn the violence without politicising it.
Good political leadership requires a strong moral compass: the ability to see the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, justice and injustice, to hold wrongdoers to account for their actions. And it's not always easy. We live in an imperfect world governed by imperfect people. But this is a precise moment that demands a precise moral judgement. This is not a time for moral relativism. This was murder. This was evil. And we must condemn it.
The days ahead will be dark as the Jewish dead are laid to rest and families mourn the brutality of their departure. The days ahead will be dark as Jewish parents long to be reunited with their kidnapped children again. The days ahead will be dark as more innocent people die, Jewish and Palestinian, as Israel exercises its right to self-defence—Israel's right to self-defence that I support unreservedly. The IDF will bring the sword to Hamas, but in defence of their people and homes, and the blood that will be shed is on Hamas. They brought this war. They shattered the peace. They murdered innocents. They used innocents among the Palestinians in their own territory to further their evil savagery.
I do pray, though, for a quick resolution. War is inherently violent. The violence will escalate, as it always does. There are innocent people on both sides who do not deserve the suffering that will come, that has already been visited on the Jewish and the Palestinian people. That is on Hamas. They started this. The deaths of little Palestinian children is on them, as are the lives of murdered Israeli children. My heart breaks for those children and for all of those, not of their choosing, caught up in this. And so I pray for a quick resolution to this war and I pray for a lasting peace, shalom over the Holy Land, a shalom that realises the hopes and dreams of both the Jewish and the Palestinian peoples. May that peace come quickly.
Hamas's cold-blooded killing of innocent men, women and children in Israel and the taking of hostages has rightfully been condemned by the Australian parliament and others throughout the world. I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the families of those killed, injured or being held as hostages. As the motion moved by the Prime Minister yesterday states, those hostages should be immediately and unconditionally released.
Life is the most precious thing we have. It is sacred. Every life matters, and a life taken can never be returned. The grief of those Israeli families who have been directly affected is something I can only begin to imagine. Their lives will be changed and their grief will never leave them. I don't know how I would react if it were one of my family members who was a victim of this terrible act, but I know that my life would never be the same again.
Violence and killing inevitably evokes retribution, including more violence and more killings, with civilians always becoming victims. We are seeing that right now in Gaza, with distressing scenes of innocent Palestinians, including children and medical workers providing medical aid, being killed. According to media reports, nearly 3,000 Palestinians have now been killed, and emergency relief and medical centres are fast running out of food, water and essential medical supplies. People in Gaza are pleading to the rest of the world for help to prevent an emerging humanitarian catastrophe. According to reports, even hospitals in Gaza are now being told to evacuate.
Moving more than one million people across a densely populated warzone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory is under siege, is extremely dangerous—and in some cases, simply not possible.
Hospitals in the south of Gaza are already at capacity and will not be able to accept thousands of new patients from the north.
The health system is on the brink of collapse. Morgues are overflowing; eleven healthcare staff have been killed while on duty; and there have been 34 attacks on health facilities in the past few days.
The entire territory faces a water crisis as infrastructure has been damaged and there is no electricity to power pumps and desalination plants.
He went on to say:
International humanitarian law and human rights law must be respected and upheld; civilians must be protected and also never used as shields.
I've spoken in this place on other occasions about the oppression of the Palestinian people. But the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hamas is not the answer and can never be condoned. It is inconceivable that Hamas would not have anticipated the response we have seen from Israel, including the loss of innocent Palestinian lives. Equally, Israel must show restraint and respect for international law in its responses. Right now, world leaders should be working to de-escalate the conflict. When I speak to people in my own community—and I did a lot of that over the weekend—they say they hold genuine grave fears about what is happening in Israel and Palestine, what that conflict may do to the rest of the world and how quickly it may spread if it continues in the way it is.
Events of recent days highlight, in my view, why it is so important to reach a permanent two-state resolution to the Israel-Palestine issue and end the uncertainty and insecurity that both Jewish and Palestinian people have lived with for the past 75 years. I expect that most of them—in fact, pretty much all of them—would not know a life other than a life of insecurity and uncertainty. I'd hate to think what it must be like for them each and every day, having to get up and not knowing what the day might bring.
This is a moment where global leadership and global intervention is needed. There is enough suffering throughout the world each and every day without adding to it the carnage and destruction of property that war brings—carnage and destruction that reverberates throughout the world. The refugee crisis that will emerge from this will have to be picked up by other countries around the world. The cost is a cost that could otherwise have been spent on doing a lot of good for humanity rather than simply trying to restore the lives of people who have been caught up in this conflict. The member for Calwell talked about some of that in her own comments when she talked about the thousands of evacuees and the work that is going into just trying to support and aid them at this critical time.
As we have been told, the real conflict has hardly even begun. I can only imagine, if it continues on the trajectory that it is on, that the demands on the rest of the world will be even greater. The only certainty of conflict is more human tragedy. It should be a global objective to try and restore peace throughout the world, because right now, throughout the world, not just in Palestine and Israel, there is already too much conflict, in so many places. Right now the world needs more peace talks. It needs leaders that are prepared to stand up and try and do whatever is humanly possible to restore peace throughout the world—in particular, to restore peace between Israel and Palestine.
I think it's really important to get on record what has happened in Israel. On Saturday 7 October, an act of pure evil occurred. In the early morning of 7 October, ideology won. People that want to wipe out Israel—and I'm talking here particularly about Hamas—have done something unjust and unacceptable. The terrorist attacks in Israel are a deliberate act of violence intended to inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians. What Hamas have done has not inflicted harm on the Israel Defense Forces; they have gone in to kill and maim innocent people. These attacks are the most lethal assault against Jews since the Holocaust.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke of the innocent young children and adolescents gunned down on that early morning in Israel on 7 October. We saw hostages being pulled by their hair, forced into the back of trucks and taken away to be held hostage and treated horribly. We saw the father of a young girl, crying and saying, 'I'm actually glad that she's dead—that she has not been taken hostage by Hamas.' The allegations of rape and ill treatment of innocent children, women and people of all ages, including young men and those festival-goers at that concert that were gunned down—some 1,400 deaths—are horrific. Stories of the treatment of babies are also disgraceful and heartbreaking.
Let's not mince our words: Israel is at war. That's what has happened. Israel is at war, and the attack by Hamas is a provocation. Israel has every right to defend itself in response and to deter future attacks and other acts of aggression, coercion and interference. Hamas is a recognised terrorist organisation consistently showing a blatant disregard for life. Global support for Israel, its right to exist and its right to self-defence and opposition to antisemitism in all forms is crucial.
This kind of violence is anti-Australian. It is completely disrespectful for pro-Palestine rallies to be occurring around Australia currently. What we saw in Sydney at the Opera House recently and the chants of 'Gas the Jews' are outrageous. I support the calls by the Leader of the Opposition that people like that, if they are not Australian citizens, should be deported by the Minister for Home Affairs. They would never be allowed to come into the country with those views, and if they're here on a temporary visa they should be gone. It's very sad that that has occurred in Australia.
I want to have a go at the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, APAN. The main group associated with the parliamentary friends of Palestine have not come out to condemn this attack. Nasser Mashni, the president of APAN, has not come out and condemned Hamas at all. As a parliament, we are this week standing in solidarity with the people of Israel and have moved a motion stating:
That the House—
(1) unequivocally condemns the attacks on Israel by Hamas, which are the heinous acts of terrorists, and have encompassed the targeting and murder of civilians, including women and children, the taking of hostages, and indiscriminate rocket fire—
some 5,000 rockets fired by terrorist groups into Israel—
(2) stands with Israel and recognises its inherent right to defend itself;
And yet President Nasser Mashni of APAN has not only failed to condemn Hamas but has publicly commented that Western governments who have stated Israel has a right to defence itself are aiding and abetting the brutal Israeli regime. These comments are divisive in nature, and they're offensive to our sovereign nation, our country, and the authority of this parliament. If that is the main group associated with the parliamentary friends of Palestine, it should be disbanded. When asked about Hamas on the Project, Nasser Mashni went on with the question to talk about how he condemns Israel—no condemning Hamas, nothing like that.
They were allowing pro-Palestinian Hamas lovers to freely comment on their social media pages, which clearly shows where they stand and is why I'm asking for that parliamentary friendship group to be disbanded. Here's a comment on the APAN Facebook page: 'We love you, Hamas.' 'We call on Hezbollah to open another front.' 'Syria must also play its part, and Saudi Arabia.' It goes on. People who are out celebrating the rape, the abduction, the slaughter of women and children are completely cold blooded. There are no excuses. This is terrorism. Those who are applauding the actions of Hamas, like the comment on the Facebook page—that was left up there and could still be there. It was left up there for 10 hours, despite APAN posting other posts after that. On their Facebook page is not one mention of terrorist attack on Israel. It is a disgrace. Our country needs to have a zero-tolerance policy for the rallies and actions that celebrate violent behaviour, and I support what the Leader of the Opposition said in relation to those visa holders.
The teals and the Greens have accused Israel of war crimes—some of the teals, I should say; two of them. Hamas terrorists have invaded Israel and have murdered thousands of innocent civilians, and what do we hear from the Leader of the Greens?
With a ground invasion of Gaza looming, it is disappointing to say the least that this motion moved by the government backs that invasion.
He goes on and on and on. These sorts of words from the Leader of the Greens give legs to extremist views like what we saw at the Opera House. That's what it does. The Greens are the ones that have extreme views, and they do not have a large moral compass as far as I am concerned.
How would you feel if 5,000 rockets were raining down on your country or if your teenage daughter was abducted, raped and murdered or if your baby was beheaded? How would you feel? This is an act of terrorism, and the Western world has rightly supported Israel. When you are at war, what happens? Look how many people have passed away in Ukraine and Russia. Israel have a right to defend themselves. They have a right to hunt down the terrorists in Gaza. We in this place support them.
I've reached out to the ambassador of the State of Israel, Mr Amir Maimon, and passed on my condolences for the terrorist attack that happened in his country. I am glad that he's met with the Prime Minister. He's also visited the coalition party room. However long it takes for Israel to defeat Hamas and hunt down every one of those terrorists, we should be supportive in this place and not mince our words. This was an unprovoked attack. Over a thousand people were absolutely slaughtered at a festival, including babies, women and men. No mercy was shown from these animals. The Israeli Defence Force have a right to take their time and completely eliminate this evil from Gaza. We stand with Israel and the Jewish community within Australia through this dark hour.
On the weekend, Hamas terrorists committed mass murder on a shocking scale. People at a music festival were gunned down. Babies were killed in their beds. Defenceless elderly people were murdered. Over 100 hostages were taken into Gaza. The scale of the attack was so large that it was the greatest loss of life among Jewish people since the Holocaust. This is a murderous, barbarous terrorist group whose objective was not just to kill Jewish people but to kill the peace process itself. Hamas has as its goal the destruction of the Israeli state. It wants to ensure that the peace process is derailed.
These shocking attacks are particularly hard for Australia. Australia has the largest per capita Holocaust survivor population outside Israel. The Jewish community has rich and deep links into Australia. It's a pleasure to have here in the chamber the member for Macnamara, who is such an articulate advocate and somebody who many of us on this side of parliament go to to better understand issues around the Middle East and around the Australian Israeli diaspora. For Jewish Australians, the branches of their family trees are heavy with loss and suffering, as the Prime Minister told the parliament. It's nearly 80 years since the close of the Holocaust, but the suffering that occurred is still so redolent in the memories of so many Jewish Australians. If the government has one message for Jewish Australians it is that it stands with you and Australians stand with you.
I understand that this is not just an attack on Israel. This is an attack on democracy itself. This is an attack on those of us who prize peace over war. As Penny Wong told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce last week, one of the many tragic consequences of Hamas's abhorrent attack has been that it has pushed the two-state solution further out of reach. That makes this a crime perpetrated not just against the Jewish people but also against the Palestinian people. All peace-loving people should abhor the attacks that took place. I join with others in this parliament who have spoken out against the abhorrent antisemitism that we have seen at some rallies in Australia.
There is no greater weapon against inhumanity than our own humanity. That is why Australia has announced that it is providing an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza. We are providing some $3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross to fund urgent needs like restoring essential services and providing medical support to victims of the conflict. Through United Nation's agencies we will provide $7 million to deliver critical support, including emergency water and nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services.
We understand that there are communities on all sides who are hurting now. I was pleased to hear from my friend Rabbi Dovid Slavin in Sydney when he wrote to me, 'This is the time for decent people of all backgrounds to stand together in the face of bloodthirsty terrorism.' I've also spoken to Mohammed Abujarbou, who is a leader in the ACT Muslim community, who reminds me that there are ACT residents whose families have been killed in Gaza over recent days. There, in just a single attack on a residential building in al-Zeitoun neighbourhood, 15 members of the same family, including seven children, were killed, in addition to their elderly grandparents. There are deaths on both sides of innocents—deaths of children; deaths of those simply seeking to go about their everyday lives.
Here in Australia it is critical that we support our multicultural society, that we reinforce the fact that the government will not stand with public displays of hate symbols. Our government introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill earlier this year in order to ensure that glorifying and praising acts of terrorism are criminal offences under Commonwealth law. We also want to work to strengthen our multicultural framework. Antisemitism and Islamophobia are equally abhorrent. We do not want to see either of them flourish in the current environment. Australia played a role in the foundation of the modern state of Israel in 1948, a moment of light after the darkness of the Holocaust. And over the ensuing decades we have welcomed many Jewish and Muslim migrants to Australia. They are equally welcome. It is so critical at this time that we reinforce the value of Australian multiculturalism.
It is critical too that, while we understand the extraordinary hurt that is being felt in Israel right now, the response is appropriate to the potential humanitarian suffering. It is a desirable goal to fully eradicate Hamas, but, as the Economist has argued, achieving that goal in an enclave of two million impoverished people with nowhere to flee will be impossible. The Economist warns that the comparison is potentially with the United States response after 9/11 and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. It points out that Hamas wants a ground war. Hamas wants Israel not to exercise self-restraint. But the street fighting that could ensue and the deaths of hostages that could follow might ensure that the operation loses international support and, ultimately, plays into the hands of those Hamas terrorists who are willing to let their own people die. This is the horror of the way in which Hamas operates. They are willing to invite an attack from Israel which would ultimately cost the lives of their own people.
It is critical that the Abraham Accords are built up, not undermined. It is possible to strengthen those accords between Israel and its Arab neighbours, including Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and potentially Saudi Arabia. These Arab neighbours stand for a new Middle East that is pragmatic and focused on economic development. Just as the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt that followed the 1973 wars set peace forward in the region, it is possible to have peace advanced in this process. But that is unlikely to occur through an attempted occupation of Gaza.
It is a challenging time, but it is critical that all involved in diplomacy ask the question: 'What did Hamas want to achieve out of this, and how do we ensure that those ends are not met?' Hamas wanted to destroy a two-state solution. Hamas wanted to draw regional actors into the conflict. Hamas wanted to destroy any prospect of an Israel- Saudi Arabia accord. As Thomas Friedman has argued in the New York Times, it is important to think about how we can pursue those peaceful goals. At a time when anger and sadness is running hot, it is important for Israel to exercise appropriate self-restraint. The eradication of Hamas will ultimately occur through stability and, one day, peace. This must be the endgame that all of us encourage Israel to pursue.
In closing, I stand with the Israeli people at this time of horrific attacks upon their territory. Australia has provided international support and flights out, and we will continue to support our friends in the region.
I rise to join speakers from across the parliament in condemnation of Hamas's attacks on Israel. It has been impossible to look at the visuals that have come through with the stories over the last couple of days without feeling incredible emotion. Indeed, that is the intent of what Hamas have done—to evoke emotion. Largely, what they want to drive is fear. That's what terrorists seek to do; to drive fear into the house not just of their opponents but also their opponents' allies and all good people around the world. We must find in ourselves the ability to feel another emotion, that being courage—the courage to stand with our friends, the courage to stand up for Western democracies, and the courage to be there in times of crisis.
I'll make a brief contribution about my own reflections. I spent a good many years in the Middle East, living and working throughout quite a few Middle Eastern countries, and during that time, as you would expect, I developed friendships right across that part of the world. I have Palestinian friends and colleagues I worked with, including people from Jordan. I remember escorting a young Israeli guy to Saudi Arabia, which I thought for me would never happen, but we sat in an office together and worked with the Saudis. What I found was this very complex world which from the outside we sometimes see in very simple division. In the quest for peace there is complexity. In the quest for peace there is compromise, there is negotiation, and there is the need to understand each other and work together. But at no point has Hamas engaged in the quest for peace.
This is an organisation devoted to bringing about the end of Israel. It has never sought compromise. It has never sought to understand or work together. So while peace may afford some complexity, in an act of terrorism there is this very clear simplicity. There is a great wrong that has been committed by Hamas and, very clearly, I stand 100 per cent beside Israel and the Israeli people. I am very happy to have communicated that to the ambassador, and that's a position I will continue to hold. It doesn't stop us from having hopes of one day aiding peace in the Middle East. We won't be prevented from doing that by standing very clear on our values. That won't prevent that. We certainly stand up and say: no, Hamas. This is wrong. There is right and wrong. What you've done is a terrible, terrible wrong. I commend the government on very clearly articulating their position, and I'm very happy that we were able to join with them.
I think there's an important element here too in that it's not just the legacy of Israel that encourages us to provide them support; there's also its future. Among democracies in the Western tradition, there are a vast array of different types, but we must always defend each other. We must work together. The freedom and the equality that is found and encouraged in Western democracies is something worth pursuing, worth fighting for, worth supporting, no matter how terrible the opponent, no matter the fear that they seek to strike in your heart, and I think it's important that we always stand very clearly for that.
I must say I was terribly disappointed to see the Greens and some of the teals use this occasion to make a statement that I don't think aligns with community values and I don't think aligns with where Australia stands. We've come to expect this from the Greens. We've come to expect these little bits of theatre, where they put themselves onto stands far greater than their competency or capacity would ever allow, pushing themselves into conversations they have no place in. I think it says a lot that those teals who went through talking on integrity, who tried to present themselves as community advocates, have come out with this extreme position they've taken. It's upon them to explain themselves to their electorates, but I hope it's very, very clearly held that those views have no place in common, decent Australia.
What will happen over the next days and weeks will no doubt be terrible, and supporting Israel is not to discount that there will be incredible harm done. I do think of my friends across the entire Middle East, the entire area, and the dangers that will be brought into their lives, but it is important for us to remind them and ourselves that this is the work of Hamas. This is what they have sought. The Middle East has been working hard to secure peace by any means in recent times, and we have seen relationships established that we never thought would be. Quite frankly, to see Saudi Arabia and Israel working together has been, I think, beneficial. But to see Iran continue to provoke demonstrates that there are those who do not see the same value in peace, who do not see the same value in democracies in the Western tradition.
Sadly, what's ahead of us will no doubt be as terrible as the events we have just witnessed. On a personal level, I don't know how I could ask the mothers, the fathers, the husbands and the wives of people who we have seen murdered, tortured and kidnapped—man to man, person to person—to show restraint. It's a terrible burden that has once again been thrown on the community. There is no chest-beating in our support of Israel. What's about to happen is a war in which there will be sadness and terrible impact. We must remember this is what Hamas have sought—this is what Hamas have created. We must stand against them, not just now but through the difficult days ahead, and remind ourselves that the freedoms and the equalities that we enjoy here and that Israel has been searching for and building within itself are worth standing for, and we must continue to do so resolutely.
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.
The events of 7 October will be etched in my memory forever, like they will for the rest of civilisation. What we saw is beyond belief. The depravity, the absolutely gory violence—the perverse violent nature of it—made me realise how far things have descended in the Middle East. We all know the existential survival situation that the state of Israel has had to face. When the state of Israel was created by all of us, by the United Nations, it was given a homeland because of pogrom after pogrom, and then the Nazi Holocaust was the final straw. The world decided they should have a place to call their own. Since then they've had several wars against them, usually unannounced. And this latest one made me realise how violent Hamas really is. They are acting like ISIL. They are brutal monsters to do that, to be killing people, flying in in gyrocopters, in bulldozers, and then running around in kibbutzes and at a youth festival, for goodness sake, hijacking people, taking them back into Gaza, holding them and torturing them and/or shooting them.
The stories and the verbatim reports I've seen from the US Secretary of State—stories about beheading—are true. Burning and beheading soldiers, children and defenceless people goes beyond the pale. Hamas should be condemned around the world. Those people who equivocate in that condemnation need to face up to the reality. If they don't condemn that, they are tacitly allowing it. You cannot go any lower than that. We see, too, that Hezbollah is to the north of Israel, trying to stir up another flashpoint. We know there are geopolitical actors behind both these organisations. But Israel has a right to exist, like any nation state, and has an obligation to protect its citizens. It is unfortunate that the only way they can do that, the only way they can get rid of Hamas, is to go into Gaza.
In Australia, our defence forces wear a uniform and are usually housed in our military bases, and the Army, Navy and Air Force defence systems are all clearly marked. But in the Middle East, Hamas and Hezbollah put a lot of their military equipment in civilian buildings, in the bottoms of schools, in educational facilities. They use human shields. They have threatened to assassinate each of the hostages they've taken if Israel sends more bombs to them.
I understand that the people of Gaza will be suffering. If they have the ways and means to get out of there—I can't see peace happening any time. I will just say that I personally condemn Hamas. I support Israel's right to exist. It's fundamental. We must not let this go unchallenged. We offer support. We feel for the Palestinian people who will bear the brunt of this. But they have to realise Hamas is doing this to them, to their own citizens. They have been misled by Hamas. Israel do not want to have permanent war. They want to have peace. Most people in the world get over conflict and come to a sensible resolution. But it's an interminable battle for survival. They thought they had it under control, but obviously we have to the north and the south support from other nations states. It is really interminable.
I wish to pass on my condolences to the many people of Jewish faith and Israeli citizenship who reside here in Australia and in my electorate of Lyne. It is a sad and horrifying day for everyone. I also have people in my electorate who have family in Palestine, and it's horrifying for them. That Hamas thinks this is going to end with some glorious victory just shows you how perverse and twisted they are. It's not Islamic to do that; it's just barbaric. That is the thing. These people are just evil, and evil begets evil. They have to be stopped.
So I would like to pass on my condolences to the people of Israel and say to the people of Palestine that, if you can move, please do, because it will be what it is. A war is a horrible thing. We hope for common sense and peace and that Hamas is toppled by the Palestinians themselves and that, likewise, Hezbollah, which appears to be trying to do a synchronous attack from the north, will be overthrown by their own citizens. I say to all those other nations that are standing behind Israel, 'Thank you.'
I start today by acknowledging and mourning those whose lives have been lost as part of the ongoing crisis in Gaza and Israel. We have already witnessed a devastating loss of life and the suffering of civilians on all sides. My heart hurts for the children fleeing their homes, their future and hopes ripped away from them in both Gaza and Israel. It deeply saddens and terrifies me that the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza is rapidly deteriorating. We are all watching and waiting with fear-filled hearts: what will happen next?
Already so many have suffered horrible losses from horrible acts. Enough must be enough. Millions of people in Gaza are now left in limbo, caught between the fighting, with limited access to food, water, power and medical care. Hamas is holding hostages. All of this is against the rule of law when it comes to conflict. Australia's consistent position has been to call for the observation of humanitarian law and the protection of civilian lives.
About half of Gaza's population is under the age of 18. Think about that. Half of the population are children. This is the reality of war and conflict—innocents dying, lives ruined and communities torn apart. The unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in front of our eyes is pushing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East to the verge of collapse. That agency has called for a suspension of hostilities to take place without any delay if we want to prevent the loss of more lives.
We cannot predict with certainty what will happen next, but I am deeply concerned for the people in Gaza. I join with others in calling for Israel to operate by the rules of international law. It's always the right thing for Australia to urge restraint and for the protection of civilian lives, and to criticise that call is just wrong. Thankfully, we, the Australian government, have announced an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance for much-needed essential supplies and support services, but that will mean little if unfettered revenge is unleashed on a civilian population already starved and isolated.
Constituents in my electorate of Cooper hold refugees and asylum seekers close to their hearts. We are a vibrant and multicultural community, including being home to one of the largest mosques in Melbourne, to thousands of Christians and to a small but caring and concerned Jewish community. We live in harmony, and all of us want that to continue. Many of them have been in touch with me, asking me to add my voice to the calls for restraint and expressing their commitment to living peacefully as neighbours here in Australia. They've been brought to tears by what they see and hear, and they all want the violence to stop.
The actions of Hamas were evil. Their abhorrent acts on innocent people must be condemned in the strongest of terms. As the Prime Minister said:
It was an act of terror—calculated, pitiless, brutality—compounded by a rain of rockets designed to kill and to terrify without mercy …
My thoughts and those of my community are with those who lost loved ones and who are now experiencing the tragedy of these acts—abhorrent acts that have advanced nothing in the name of resolution for Palestinian people who have long suffered. As my good ministerial colleague the member for Watson said yesterday:
There are legitimate aspirations for the Palestinian people. It's legitimate to want to live freely: free of occupation, free of endless checkpoints, free of a legal system which differs in the different ways that military courts do. All of that is further away now …
But the answer to the senseless killings of Hamas cannot be the collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The safety of civilians in Gaza must now be prioritised. The Australian government's guiding principle has always been the pursuit of a just and enduring peace, a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live within secure borders. For Australians trapped in the conflict, the government is communicating directly with citizens and their families. The government has now enabled six assisted department flights from Tel Aviv to London and Dubai, and we look forward to welcoming them all home safely. We acknowledge that Australians are in Gaza right now, trying to flee for their lives.
Amidst this conflict, we must also reflect on our own role when discussing this issue. As the Director-General of ASIO has reminded us, we need to safeguard social cohesion back home. We need to safeguard that harmony that I'm so lucky to have in my electorate of Cooper. We have to resist hate speech and acts. I welcome the motion moved by the Prime Minister and supported by the majority of the House, but, disappointingly, not all of the House. This moment cannot be about political pointscoring by anyone. As a government and parliament, we must constructively work together in a unified way to find meaningful solutions for peace and security at home and abroad and to give a unified message to our communities that we are fighting for harmony. We can't do anything and we can't be divided in a way that will incite any actions of hate and the targeting of individuals, of colleagues of ours here in this House, of friends of mine. This is unacceptable. Most importantly, we must use this opportunity to remember those who have lost their lives, and we have to work together to secure peace so the violence ends.
The horrific events in Israel might seem far removed from Australia, but they are a stark reminder that terrorism still exists, and our nation, Australia, must remain vigilant. The abhorrent attack, the despicable attack, the heinous attack, the horrifying and awful attack, the reprehensible attack by Hamas on Israel was clearly intended to inflict maximum harm on innocent civilians, and that has been achieved. There are more than 1,400 Israelis who have lost their lives. Almost 200 people are being held hostage by Hamas.
Hamas was officially listed as a terrorist organisation by the coalition government in March 2022 following a recommendation by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security in September 2021. I think it is important to remind people what this means and what these restrictions and Australian law require. In this country, it is an offence to be a member of a terrorist organisation. It is an offence to direct the activities of a terrorist organisations. It is an offence to recruit for a terrorist organisation. It is an offence to train or receive training from or participate in training with a terrorist organisation. It is offence to acquire funds for, from, or to a terrorist organisation and to provide support to a terrorist organisation. It is also an offence to associate with a listed terrorist organisation. The maximum penalty is up to 25 years in prison. Hamas is a listed terror organisation in this country and many others.
Thankfully, this war is not on our shores, but it is having an impact on many Australian citizens and those who have relatives and others who are directly impacted. I continue to hear calls for restraint, but can you imagine if it were 1,400 Australian citizens who were killed by weak men with guns, who kicked down the doors of their residents and murdered women and children and infants? Can you imagine the response that would be expected of the Australian government? I think some of the commentary, to be honest, has been ridiculous. It is not a matter of being pro-Israel or pro-Palestine; it is a matter of being antiterrorist and antiterrorism, and I think every Australian would support that position.
We have seen some changes with the Albanese government in terms of their counterterrorism framework, and I would urge them to be cautious. They have shifted the responsibility for the banning of terrorists to the Attorney-General—it was held by the Minister for Home Affairs. I'm concerned about what change and what impact that might have on our national security framework. This is a terrible time for those individuals directly affected. It's a terrible time for the world. It's a terrible time for the people we represent and for the Australian people. Like many, I saw the footage in Sydney. In the first couple of instances I took no notice because I simply did not think it was in this country—I thought it was somewhere else. The images of the protests in Sydney are not the nation I know, they are not the people I know, they are not the Australians I know. I think that we should all stand up against anyone that would go out and say such reprehensible things. Chants 'gas the Jews'—and others which I won't repeat in this place—have no place in this country. They do not. I urge the AFP and our other security organisations that if these are individuals who are here who are not Australian citizens then they need to be identified and they need to be moved on, and we need to take every opportunity to keep our people safe. I refer to a column by Aaron Patrick, titled 'For the first time Sydney's Jews fear to walk their streets'. I can't believe this is our country where a child is scared to wear their school uniform. This is a very challenging time for our nation. Some of it reflects poorly on all of us—the fact that it occurred and the fact it was allowed to occur—and it should not continue in this nation.
This will go on for some time in terms of the potential conflict and the conflict that is currently occurring in the Middle East. Australia needs to do its part, and to do it in a way which is respectful of the fact that 1,400 people have been murdered. It is an incredible, awful thing to have happened. Many Australians have relatives who are impacted, many Australians are terrified for their relatives and their loved ones, and a number have had the worst possible outcomes—not only Israeli citizens but also those from other countries around the world.
I won't speak for much longer. I know the member for Moreton will be very keen to make a contribution before the time ends. This is a position against terrorism. We are against terrorists and we should do everything we can to prevent them from causing harm to any citizen, including Australian citizens.
Moreton has three mosques in it and several others close by. There are people living in my electorate right now who are attending one of those mosques because the country they were born in no longer exists. It no longer exists because, overnight, politicians—acting in their own self-interest—decided that people of different faiths could no longer live together peacefully in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavian politicians decided that, despite those faiths having lived together for 45 generations.
Race, like ethnicity, is a social construct. Children don't understand it until adults teach it to them. I saw that in my own kids when they were growing up in my home suburb of Moorooka, where there's a large African diaspora. My children were completely colourblind to race and hopefully still are. Instilling hatred in people does nothing except undermine their ability to connect with other people as human beings, and it undermines their ability to be empathetic. Once you go down that path, it's a path to nowhere. All Palestinians and Israelis are entitled to a life free of violence and free of fear. All Israelis and Palestinians have a right to a future where they see their children thrive and prosper and to live in a world at peace with their neighbours where they are all equal, and hopefully where they are colourblind.
People in my community and across Australia are distraught at the stories they're hearing, the images they're seeing, the terms that are being repeated over and over again in parliament. They are shocked by the destruction and brutality that is happening, on both sides, particularly at Hamas's hands on 7 October and around that date and by the Israeli government response since.
Now, I don't claim to have an answer to any of this, but I do know that we cannot measure atrocities by a standard that we think is acceptable or think that the Hamas atrocities should somehow permit the suspension of international humanitarian law. These are the rules that were developed after World War II and the extreme horror of the Holocaust—something so significant in the creation of Israel and all those other extremes associated with World War II. It was the war that saw 15 million military personnel die. But, most significantly, 38 million civilians died. Thus international humanitarian law said that there are some moral absolutes: orders that can't be obeyed, that you cannot lawfully obey, even if coming from your superior officer—fog-of-war actions that can result in courtroom convictions in later times of peace. The world is watching and judging—literally judging.
I know that there are too many innocent people in Gaza who are now paying the price for those horrific actions of Hamas that I condemn outright. It is right that all of Australia condemns the actions of Hamas and their attacks on innocent civilians. I especially acknowledge that Hamas does not have the best interests of Palestinians in mind, even those in Gaza, the most densely populated place on Earth. So let's be clear about these actions and whose interests Hamas has acted in. As I've said, these actions were not in the interests of any Palestinians. They were designed to be brutal, to instil fear and create division, not just in the Middle East but across the world—even in multicultural communities like Australia. Like any form of terrorism, these actions were designed to make people in multicultural communities, like mine in Moreton, feel unsafe and fearful. They were designed to pit groups of people against each other and generate violent outrage, maybe in the hope that politicians would overnight decide that faith and races that have lived together peacefully for generations cannot now do so.
To suggest that Hamas's actions represent the Palestinian struggles demeans the Palestinians, their struggle for freedom and their human rights. Australia has unequivocally condemned the attacks by Hamas, including the indiscriminate rocket attacks fired on cities and civilians, and that horrific taking of hostages, as well as all that footage that the internet is now able to amplify through those horrible algorithms, and people are prepared to echo the terms surrounding it. Australia has consistently said—and legally said—that Israel must act within the rules of law, that every country must do so, and that Israel and others must ensure that they act to protect civilian lives. The collective punishment of the innocent civilian population of Gaza via cutting off power, water, food and medical supplies not only is cruel and against humanitarian law but also could inadvertently—I really fear this—become a recruitment drive for Hamas. The Geneva convention very specifically says, 'Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.' I'll go back to what I said before: we should not start to measure atrocities and accept that behaviour by what we think is worse or better than the other. We should remember that they are all atrocities, and all should be condemned as such. Peace does not get closer by killing more children.
The Palestinians and Jewish communities and their allies in Australia want to see an end to this conflict. All sensible politicians want to see an end to this conflict. They want to see an end to the death and destruction, and they want to see peace in a place that should not be so filled with violence and tragedy. Like Minister Wong and so many other Australian politicians, I call on Hamas to release all 199 hostages immediately as a gesture towards peace. I also call on the Israeli government to stop the blockade of water, food, power and medical supplies to Gaza. I'm reminded of this quote from Anne Lamott:
You can safely assume you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.
I know that the God that the Palestinians and the Jewish people in my community believe in is a peaceful God, and, God willing, peace will prevail in this situation.
I rise on this motion to suspend standing orders to discuss and pause in relation to the current events occurring in Israel and the attack by Hamas. I'm deeply saddened by the shocking and tragic loss of civilian lives in the recent Hamas attacks on Israel. I unequivocally condemn the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorist group Hamas on innocent civilians—young people enjoying freedom at a music festival. The accounts are horrific. My thoughts are with those killed and injured, those taken hostage and all affected by the ongoing hostilities. These are horrific events. It's a devastating setback for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people, and I urge the protection of all civilian lives and the de-escalation of the conflict. I strongly support the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians for statehood and the two-state solution, but Hamas is an acknowledged terrorist organisation, and those attacks were terrorist attacks.
This is a very distressing time for many Australians, especially those in the region and their friends and families here. I want to acknowledge and thank those constituents in Warringah who have contacted me with their concerns for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people caught up in horrific conflict. It's heartening to see the outpouring of concern for the many affected by this conflict. I thank the Jewish community who invited me last week to attend a ceremony to acknowledge and give solidarity to their community in their time of need. They were distressed by the antisemitic messaging that had been written in public places and that had been chanted by some during the protests in Sydney. It's important that they feel supported and able to go about their lives in our free, democratic country. There is no place in Australia for that kind of conduct.
To help protect the innocent lives at stake, particularly as the news unfolds, I encourage the government to advocate a safe corridor to ensure civilians can get out of harm's way. Acknowledging Israel's legitimate right to defend itself against Hamas, it is also critical that the international rules of law be observed. I strongly denounce the senseless killing and hostage-taking perpetrated by Hamas, and I call for the release of those hostages.
I also am concerned about the innocent Palestinian lives in Gaza. Innocent lives of men and women and children must never be used as shields in a war zone. It's a horror of terrorism and war that means that all too often it is innocent civilians who pay the price. I know that there are genuine concerns at this time from Australia and other countries that this conflict could escalate with other regional powers seeking to use the conflict to their own end. Calmer heads at the diplomatic and military levels must prevail to ensure this does not happen.
I supported the government's motion in the chamber yesterday as I felt it struck the right balance in what is a very complicated conflict with deep historical roots. Many are hurting from the ongoing news of these events and now, more than ever, it's important for Australia, as a multicultural society, to show love and respect for our diverse and peaceful nation. Antisemitism and Islamophobia have no place in our country, and I strongly condemn any who display such conduct. No Australian should ever feel fear to go about their lives, to go to school, to go into public places in the event that they might face such conduct. I know many in the Jewish community felt that way as a result of the chants and some of the antisemitic rhetoric that came from the protests in Sydney. That is wrong. At the same time, we have to acknowledge the Palestinian community within Australia are also hurting and worried about their relatives. And so that is where innocent civilians are too often caught up in the war zones and acts of terrorism.
I have been dismayed by the tone of some in parliament this week, and in the chamber yesterday in the context of this motion, using words and phrasing, turning up the volume on fear and division for what I consider base political objectives in a confected contest. We cannot let that be the record. We are a nation, and as leaders in this place we have a responsibility to ensure, as representatives of the Australian people, we moderate our language. The challenge for political leaders is to moderate language, to not whip up further civil unrest that leads to more instability and ultimately innocents being caught in the crossfire.
We must not repeat the vilification lest it encourage others to do so openly, and so I call on members in this place not to put on the record phrases and vilification as that then officially enables it because it has been put on the record. Mike Burgess, the head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, is clear: moderating your language is the right thing to do right now. All parties must consider the implications for social cohesion when making public statements. Let us stand united, spreading love, understanding and hope during these challenging times.
I applaud the government's initial response to provide an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance through trusted partners for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza. I also echo the support of the Australian government for the work the United States, Egypt and others are doing to open the Rafah crossing for humanitarian purposes. I understand that more than 1,400 previously registered Australians have now left Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I understand DFAT is in contact with a further number of registered Australians in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I note that the Australian government flew a significant number of people from Tel Aviv to Dubai overnight, including some 75 Australians and 96 people from Pacific nations and citizens of partner countries. I thank the government. I urge the government to maintain those efforts and ensure those pathways remain open. I know that six assisted departure flights from Tel Aviv to London and to Dubai, including the three RAF flights, have now operated to repatriate people out of Israel, with further government assistance being provided to assist Australians with onward travel.
Obviously the situation in Gaza is extremely challenging. The government has advised that DFAT is in direct contact with Australian families seeking to leave Gaza and Israel to provide updated advice on options to leave. We support the work of the US, Egypt and others to open the Rafah crossing. It's incredibly important that Australians with families in Israel or Gaza or territories that want to leave and need assistance with departure should register with DFAT or call the 24-hour consular emergency centre.
The government has noted that there have been a lot of spare seats on flights for two days in a row. I can understand that in the flexibility and uncertainty of the situation, but I urge those seeking to leave to take this opportunity. The situation remains fluid and challenging and so you don't know when that window of opportunity may close. Take the opportunity whilst it is there in a safe and secure way. It is really important.
Finally, I would like to thank again everyone who has written to me from Warringah expressing their deep concern in relation to the Israeli people and Palestinians caught in the conflict in Gaza. I echo their concerns. It's at these times that we must come together as a peaceful nation to provide other solutions to resolve these conflicts that do not involve such innocent lives being caught in the middle. But at all times terrorism activity must be called out, and the actions of Hamas are simply inexcusable.
It was a horrific series of attacks that the world watched unfold when Hamas terrorists struck innocent Israelis only10 days ago. Every one of those vile acts—the murder of civilians, women and children, the taking of hostages, including from a music festival, the door-to-door terror and rocket fire—is to be condemned, as this parliament has joined together to condemn it and the terrible loss of 1,400 lives in Israel. We've called on Hamas to release the hostages unconditionally.
The consequences of what Hamas has done and the inevitable response is having a profound effect on Palestinians living in Gaza as well as the West Bank. As I speak, the world is anticipating an Israeli offensive in Gaza with the stated aim of wiping out Hamas. But we do know the toll that will take on civilians. The IDF says 100,000 people remain in Gaza City. Already the Israeli retaliation means thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza have lost their lives. Thousands more are injured. Hundreds of thousands have fled south to try and escape what is expected to come. Every one of these civilian lives lost, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, or any other nationality, is to be mourned.
As the humanitarian situation deteriorates, Australia is supporting the work of the United Nations, the US and Egypt with Israel to find safe passage for Gaza civilians. Under international law, one inhumane act does not justify another. Collective punishment is not within the rules of war. As a nation, Australia consistently calls for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international law. We joined President Biden and other leaders in calling for Israel to operate by the rules of war. We have urged restraint in Israel's response, knowing that civilian lives are at stake.
I want to explain about Gaza. It's only 41 kilometres long and only six to 12 kilometres wide, a narrow strip that is really densely populated—more than two million people, half of whom are under 18. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, the only UN body with a mandate to provide relief and social services to Palestinian refugees, describes the current situation there as 'unprecedented'. UNRWA is supporting displaced people in their schools and buildings, rationing food and water, but there's no access to fuel in many areas for people to relocate. With little food, water or electricity, it is a dire humanitarian situation. Hospitals are not able to meet the demand. That is why we need to see an end to this blockade.
Let's be really clear: Hamas is a terrorist group and does not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate needs and aspirations. I am not the only one in this parliament to say that. Their aspirations are what most of us would consider human rights: the right to live in peace, the right to move around without checkpoints when you go to work or visit your grandchildren and the right to equal justice. Hamas's terrorism means that the only aspiration many Gazans can have right now is to survive. That is why Australia has engaged with countries in the Middle East and beyond at all levels in support of the protection of civilians and the containment of conflict. Innocent civilians on both sides are suffering as a result of this conflict. Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve justice and freedom. I feel a profound sadness for how far away the prospect of this is now.
I will pause there, Mr Deputy Speaker, knowing that I've got more to say.