House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024


Middle East

12:06 pm

Photo of Adam BandtAdam Bandt (Melbourne, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Melbourne from moving the following motion immediately—That the House:

(1) notes that since the House resolution of 16 October 2023 concerning Israel and Gaza, which supported the State of Israel's looming invasion of Gaza by stating that the House 'stands with Israel', the following have occurred:

(a) an appalling and increasing toll of deaths and injuries caused by the State of Israel's bombing and invasion of Gaza;

(b) a growing humanitarian catastrophe caused by the State of Israel's blockade, bombing and invasion of Gaza; and

(c) the State of Israel is the subject of recent International Court of Justice orders in South Africa's case regarding the prevention of genocide;

(2) therefore does not support the State of Israel's continued invasion of Gaza and calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire; and

(3) calls on the Australian Government to end its support for the State of Israel's invasion of Gaza.

This parliament must stop backing the invasion of Gaza. Labor must stop backing the invasion of Gaza. As we meet today, over 31,000 people in Gaza, mainly civilians, have been killed. That includes over 13,000 children. Thirteen thousand children have been killed since the Labor backed invasion of Gaza began. Estimates are that between one and two million people have been displaced out of a population of 2.2 million. Half of the homes have been destroyed in Gaza, meaning there is nowhere for people to go, and, of course, the borders remain shut so people cannot get out. Children are now starving. They are dehydrating. Women are giving birth without any kind of painkillers or other assistance. The health system is on the brink of collapse and, in parts of Gaza, has collapsed. A hundred thousand people plus are dead, wounded or missing.

Since this parliament met and Labor and Liberal backed the invasion, the population of Gaza have been herded south. They were told to move south by the Israeli military because they were told that the north was going to be bombed, and it has been bombed. It has been levelled. Now there are reports that the military is building a road from east to west to further partition Gaza in the way that it has done with parts of the West Bank, and there is nothing in the north for people to go back to. They've been herded into what has been described as the world's largest refugee camp, in Rafah, where there are over 1½ million people.

Now, since the Greens last tried to reverse Labor's support for this invasion, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said they are going to invade Rafah. Even as others offer plaintive pleas to please not do it, from people including our Prime Minister and the United States President, nonetheless Prime Minister Netanyahu comes out again and again and says: 'We're going to do it. We're going to keep doing it.' It is crystal clear now that this invasion that Labor continues to back is not only a humanitarian catastrophe but a war crime that is resulting in the mass slaughter of tens of thousands of children and civilians, and it is getting worse.

It is not just the unbelievably catastrophic death toll, which is a result of this invasion that everyone could see coming, but also the utter collapse of civil society and the health system within Gaza, which is leading to aid agencies warning of widespread famine and disease that is about to hit. They are telling us and everyone around the world that they cannot get the aid in that is needed. They cannot get it in, because it is being blockaded by the Israeli military and the Israeli government at the borders. Since we were last here in parliament, we have witnessed people who were lining up to get flour and the basics of life get killed when the Israeli military opened fire. They have been killed as they lined up to get the most basics of life. Children in Gaza are now eating so-called 'bread' made out of animal food. Mothers are fronting up to seek medical help with children dying in their arms because they are not getting enough to eat. And aid is getting stalled at the border as part of this invasion. The Israeli government, which Labor continues to back, is not even letting aid in.

When this issue first came before parliament, we said very clearly, 'You cannot back the invasion of 2.2 million people walled into an area half the size of the ACT—where 40 per cent of them are under the age of 15—without a humanitarian catastrophe and mass slaughter unfolding.' Tragically, what we said back in October is now happening day after day, and it is getting worse. This extreme right-wing war cabinet that Prime Minister Netanyahu has set up is not listening to the plaintive pleas and weasel words of governments like Australia, especially when the Labor government keeps backing military exports to Israel and refuses to join the majority of the world's countries in calling for a permanent and immediate ceasefire—not some humanitarian pause that means the Gazans can be fed before they get shot at again, but a full, immediate and permanent ceasefire. That is now what a majority of the Australian people want.

What we have seen is that the pressure from the Australian people is working. It has meant that the government has reversed its shameful decision to cut funding to UNRWA, the body that is delivering aid to people. Our Labor government shamefully cut their funding, and public pressure has reversed that decision that never should have been taken in the first place. It is time now to listen to what the people of this country and people right around the world are saying. It is time to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and to stop backing the invasion.

Last time this debate happened, we saw some utter furphies and red herrings put up by the government and others. They said, 'Well, you can't support this motion because it doesn't mention the hostages and it doesn't mention the other attacks on civilians that happened on 7 October.' Let's be crystal clear about this: this parliament has already made its view clear about that. There is unanimous agreement to call for the immediate release of the hostages, and there has been unanimous condemnation of attacks on civilians. Everyone has done that. That is not a reason not to vote for this motion, because that will stand on the parliament's record and enjoy the unanimous support of people here.

What this motion is about is one thing and one thing only: whether you now, knowing that over 30,000 people have been killed and 100,000 people have been killed, are missing or are injured, still continue to back the invasion of Gaza. That is what this motion is about, and this is a moment for everyone in this parliament, knowing what has unfolded since 7 October and seeing the devastating toll it is taking on civilians, to decide whether you still back the invasion or not. Even if you have a different view to what I do and to what the Greens do about this being the time to start putting sanctions on this extreme war cabinet of Prime Minister Netanyahu's and to stop arming Israel, even if you have different views about those things and even if you think the invasion was justified back then, there is no justification for continuing to back the slaughter of thousands of people who are walled in to an area half the size of Canberra with nowhere to go.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu says, 'I'm going to invade Rafah no matter what you say,' now is the time to say, unequivocally, 'We're going to stop backing the invasion.' This is the time for every member of parliament to make their vote count. Everyone in this country will be watching. Which members of parliament have the courage to line up and say, 'It is time to stop the invasion, and it is time for a full, permanent and immediate ceasefire'?

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

12:16 pm

Photo of Max Chandler-MatherMax Chandler-Mather (Griffith, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. What will it take for this Labor government to drop its support for Israel? What will it take for this Labor government to drop its support for the disastrous and genocidal invasion of Gaza? What will it take for Australia to start standing up to the United States and Israel and actually take actions to stop the genocide unfolding in Gaza? Apparently, over 31,000 Palestinians being murdered in Gaza is not enough. Apparently, Israel bombing Palestinian schools, hospitals, homes and bakeries isn't enough. Apparently, Israel deliberately—and this is key; this is not some natural phenomenon—engineering a famine that may well end up killing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians is not enough for this Labor government to drop its support for the invasion of Gaza and drop its support for the State of Israel.

So there have been no sanctions or actions to stop Israel's genocide. In fact, all Labor has done is support Israel by allowing weapons to be exported to the country and refuse to even support South Africa's ICJ case at the International Court of Justice. What this government has done while there is an engineered famine in Gaza is suspend and cut aid funding for 48 days to Palestine. That's what they did—no sanctions for Israel but sanctions for Palestinians. That is truly remarkable. This was in a period, by the way, when the International Court of Justice found there was a plausible case for genocide in Gaza, and what did this Labor government do? It stopped aid funding to Palestinians. By the way, 80 per cent of all the world's critical famine is in Gaza. That's what the Labor government did. Not only that but they temporarily suspended the visas of Palestinians fleeing this conflict and this genocide. But apparently there are no sanctions for Israel.

We know about the critical famine. This parliament knows—everyone in this parliament knows—of the 31,000 people murdered, 13,000 of whom are children. Sometimes these numbers are hard to comprehend. The horror of it is hard to comprehend. But, to give some perspective on just how horrific this is, the average number of kids in an Australian school is 420. That means that 30 schools worth of Palestinian children have been killed. Think about the futures that these kids could have had—the loves, the relationships and the connections to their parents—all snuffed out.

This parliament can't even bring itself to oppose the invasion of Gaza and the genocide happening right now in Gaza, being carried out by the State of Israel with, by the way, weapons manufactured in Australia and exported to Israel. The UNICEF chief has said, and the headline is, 'Gaza babies "don't even have the energy to cry"'. There is an effort in this parliament, right now, from the major parties to turn away from this horror, to try to pretend like it's not happening and there's nothing you can do. But you know full well that if this parliament was able to take sanctions on Russia justifiably then we can take sanctions against Israel. In future generations, we'll ask every parliamentarian in this House, 'What did you do when this was happening?'

Let's talk about what's happening. This is from the article: one in three babies under the age of two in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition according to UNICEF. Catherine Russell, the executive director of the UN's children agency described with US broadcaster CBS:

…essentially, the body starts to consume itself because it has nothing else and it's a painful, painful death for children. I've been in wards of children who are suffering from … malnutrition, the whole ward is … quiet…the babies have don't even have the energy to cry.

This is what's happening right now in Gaza. There are babies and children in the arms of their parents, if they haven't already been killed by the State of Israel, who are dying slow, quiet, painful deaths. Do not pretend like you don't know this isn't happening. In 10, 20, 30 years time, every member of this House will have to ask themselves, 'What was every member of this parliament doing?' What did you do? And don't turn around and think you can lie to people in the future and say, 'We were doing everything that we could.' We know that you weren't, and the Australian public knows that as well. Think about that for a moment. We need a permanent and immediate ceasefire, a ban of weapons sales to Israel, and to join South Africa's case at the ICJ. That's the bare minimum when such a horror is taking place on our watch.

12:21 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise this morning against this motion because I stand with Israel. I stand with Israel. I stand with Israel. Who, of the Greens who have just spoken, has travelled to Israel since 7 October? We had, in 15 minutes of speeches from two members, one reference to 7 October, one momentary, five-second reference—just one.

Photo of Max Chandler-MatherMax Chandler-Mather (Griffith, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

How many kids does that justify?

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

You've had your go. I let you speak. You let me speak. You might learn something. There was one reference. Now, I'll tell anybody that's listening: do you want to know how to stop this war today? This war could be over today, the suffering of so many people could finish today, if Hamas unconditionally surrender and return the remaining 134 hostages.

I personally believe that every life is sacred. It doesn't matter whether you're black, brindle, Christian, Jew, Palestinian.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Fisher will be heard in silence.

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It doesn't matter. I believe every life is sacred. But on 7 October we saw the most despicable, violent attack against innocent civilians in southern Israel. We saw 1,200 deaths of Jewish people. Hamas terrorists flew, tunnelled under, smashed through fences to rape, to torture, to kill and to take hostages because of the race of people living in Israel—and it has to be said they weren't just Jews that Hamas killed and raped and tortured. There were 1,200 deaths.

On 7 October, 14,492 people were injured. I'll say that number again, because it's not one that's used very often. You don't hear about it very often: 14,492. According to the National Insurance Institute report, 52,571 people were injured as a result after 7 October. Two hundred and sixty four hostages were taken and 134 hostages remain. The Greens don't talk about that. The Greens don't talk about the atrocities that took place.

I travelled to Israel in December of last year. I was briefed. It is seared into my brain: a 42-minute video where I saw over 100 Jews slaughtered at the hands of Hamas terrorists. I saw the body cam of those deaths and the appalling attacks on children and women. Israel did not want this war. They did not start this war. Hamas terrorists knew what they were doing on 7 October. It would be like me walking up to a beehive and shaking the beehive and not expecting to be attacked. Hamas knew exactly what they were doing. This was a strategy many months, if not years, in the planning. They knew what they were doing.

When I watched that video, as the deputy chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, I think it was a life changing moment for me. We saw videos of terrorists trying to behead innocent Israeli civilians. Where were the Greens talking about this? Where were the Greens talking about the rape of women and children? Where were they? You don't hear the Greens talking about those atrocities. They made one reference, today, to 7 October—one reference out of 15 minutes of speeches.

This war could end today if Hamas unconditionally surrendered and handed back the 134 hostages. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that very thing. This war could end. But Hamas don't want to do that. Since 7 October, and for years prior to that, they have used infrastructure in Gaza as a means to protect their own terrorists. They have used Palestinians as human shields. They've used hospitals and schools. There is no doubt about that. It is irrefutable that Hamas are using Palestinian civilians as human shields. And they are doing that because they know that they will garner support from the international community. The reality is that, under international law, Israel has a right to defend itself.

Just after 7 October, only about a week after 7 October, we saw a Hamas leader come out and say, 'Hamas will continue to attack Israel.' They will continue and continue and continue until Israel and everybody in it is driven into the sea. 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free'; that is their catch phrase. That's what they say. Hamas have continually threatened the annihilation of Israel and everybody living in it. When you have that existential threat, what is a government to do? What would we do as the government of Australia if we were put in that same situation? I have been on the ground. I have seen the sites of the atrocities. I have been on the ground and I've talked to family members. I've talked to people who have lost loved ones. From everybody I have spoken to on the streets in Israel, they are in a state of national grief. Everybody knows someone who has lost someone, or who knows a hostage or who has a family member who has been or is a hostage.

Israel is a small country of only nine million people, and the state of grief in Israel is palpable. I would encourage those members of the Greens political party to visit Israel and see the pain that has been caused as a result of the atrocities that occurred on 7 October. But they won't. They don't want to do it. They don't want to talk about the appalling, atrocious attacks. They don't want to talk about the innocent lives lost in Israel, starting on 7 October. Why won't they talk about what started this war?

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The time for the debate has expired under the standing orders. The question is that the motion moved by Mr Bandt be agreed to.