House debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024


Middle East

4:53 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House endorses the Government's position to support the recognition of the State of Palestine as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace.

The Australian government makes foreign policy for our nation. The Australian government recognises states. But I move this motion today on behalf of the Australian government because the Greens and others are deliberately misleading the Australian public about the government's position on recognising a Palestinian state. The Albanese government has been clear that we will recognise Palestine as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace. We want to see a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. No Australian government has ever expressed such strong support for a Palestinian state. This is reflected in what we tried to put to the Senate last week. We are doing more than just lecturing and condemning people; we are working with countries around the world that want a just and enduring peace in the region.

In the recent vote at the UN General Assembly, 143 countries, including Australia, expressed an aspiration for Palestinian membership of the UN. Australia and a number of other countries, including, Germany, the UK and Canada, have shifted our position so that recognition of a Palestinian state is no longer seen as being the end point of negotiations. To help realise a Palestinian state, we have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to look at what role Australia can play in supporting reform of the Palestinian Authority so that it can deliver on the needs of the Palestinian people.

The conflict in the Middle East has spanned our entire lifetime. The fact is that the Albanese government is working with the international community to create momentum for a lasting peace in the form of a two-state solution—a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. The foreign minister has been clear in what we want to see in progressing a two-state solution and recognition of a Palestinian state. Firstly, we see no role for Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organisation. Secondly, a Palestinian state cannot be in a position to threaten Israel's security. Thirdly, we want to see a reformed Palestinian governing authority that is committed to peace, that disavows violence and is ready to engage in a meaningful political process.

There needs to be serious progress on security and governance reforms and the final status of core issues such as Jerusalem, and the borders of a future Palestinian state should be determined through direct negotiations. But we emphasise that there is no long-term security for Israel unless it is recognised by the countries in its region. The normalisation agenda that was being pursued before October 7 cannot proceed without progress on a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia has said that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised. We also know that recognising a Palestinian state undermines Hamas and undermines Iran—and Iran's other destructive proxies in the region. Peacemaking is hard. It requires real leadership by serious people. It requires those of us who are not central players in this conflict to support those who are in the hard work of progressing a two-state solution to this conflict. We know that this is the only way to break the cycle of violence.

I note that some members of the Greens are walking away from a two-state solution. Presumably, that is because some members of the Greens think that there should be no State of Israel, just as some in the opposition think there should be no state of Palestine. We even saw Senator Sharma, who should know better, hosting an event in Parliament House for extremists who are campaigning against a two-state solution. These fringe views in the Greens and the opposition condemn both Palestinians and Jews in the Middle East to endless war and suffering. They also seek to position Australia outside the international community that is building momentum on Palestinian recognition and a two-state solution. Presumably, this is why they joined together to reject Labor's amendment in the Senate recently. What matters in the region is the actions of governments, not political games in parliaments on the other side of the world.

While Australia is not a central player, we have a respected voice and we are using it to advocate for a ceasefire, for the protection of civilians, for increased humanitarian assistance and for the release of hostages. When I travel to the region and speak to representatives of countries that have influence in the region, they are completely oblivious to these political stunts. My counterparts in those countries don't raise Senate motions with me, let alone failed Senate motions. Instead, they welcome the constructive role that the Australian government has been playing since October 7.

Since the start of this conflict, I have used the Australian government's respected voice to make our case in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. What the people I have met with in these countries care about are the substantive actions of our government. I can tell you that our actions are respected as constructive contributions to minimising the human suffering from this conflict and for promoting a peace process and a two-state solution. We are using our voice in international institutions and forums.

It is more than six months since Australia voted with 152 countries for a ceasefire at the United Nations. In May Australia supported expanded Palestinian rights to participate in UN forums and the General Assembly's aspiration for eventual Palestinian membership of the United Nations, consistent with a two-state solution. We have also joined with our partners to amplify our voice at prime ministerial level alongside Canada and New Zealand in December and February, alongside the UK defence and foreign ministers in March and alongside foreign ministers from the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and other partners in a letter to Foreign Minister Katz in May, opposing Israel's operation in Rafah. We have pushed for safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access and contributed to the international humanitarian response: committing $72.5 million to address urgent needs arising from the conflict in Gaza and the protracted refugee crisis; delivering ADF aerial delivery parachutes for use in humanitarian assistance airdrops by Jordan and the UAE; supporting the UN humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator's work on aid coordination and deconfliction in Gaza; and we have pressed the Netanyahu government directly, publicly and privately.

The foreign minister has written to her counterpart, including following the shocking and unacceptable strikes in Rafah. Australia's ambassador has made representations to senior Israeli officials on numerous occasions. Our senior officials have made representations to Israel's ambassador in Canberra. We have used our voices in dozens of engagements with foreign counterparts, including those with influence in the region. We have been consistent and clear in our call for international law and international humanitarian law to be upheld, including the protection of civilians.

We've been calling for restraint from the very start. We've been securing the passage of a parliamentary motion calling for the protection of civilian lives and observance of international law in October 2023. We've been clear in our respect and support for the independence of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. We will deny anyone identified as an extremist settler a visa to travel to Australia. This is what Labor governments achieve.

Since coming to office, and well before the current conflict started, the Albanese government has taken steps to support a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace. We have affirmed that settlements are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace. We have adopted the language of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, consistent with the approach taken by key partners. We reversed the Morrison government's decision to recognise West Jerusalem as a capital of Israel, reaffirming Australia's longstanding and bipartisan position that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.

We doubled the Australian government's core funding to UNRWA, from $10 million to $20 million, and we've called out unilateral actions that undermine the prospects of peace in a two-state solution, including terrorism, violence and incitement, settlement activity, settler violence, demolitions and displacement. We've done that because Labor governs for all Australians. We're a party of progress, not a party of protest. We listen to all Australians and we represent all Australians. We don't talk for some Australians; we don't simply represent some Australians. We represent everyone. We seek to bring Australians together in challenging times, not to divide them in pursuit of short-term political gain.

Our foreign policy begins with our identity, it begins with who we are. Australia is a country where half of us were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas. We're a diverse and pluralist society, a society where necessarily, understandably we will disagree, but we're a society, we're a nation where we will continue get along. We will need to live together, side-by-side, with people who have different views to us in our workplaces, in our sporting clubs, in our schools and in our communities. We need to be able to disagree respectfully and retain our cohesion as a nation. That takes leadership, and that's what this government is providing here, at home and in the region where this conflict is occurring.

In this motion I invite the chamber to join with the government in this effort, to join in providing the leadership that we need for peace building in the Middle East and for social cohesion here at home.

5:03 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

On 7 October, 1,200 innocent men, women and children were murdered at the hands of the murderous terrorist organisation Hamas in Israel. Israel is the only multiparty democracy in the Middle East. It is a longstanding ally and security partner of Australia, and this country has consistently voted with a range of like-minded nations in the United Nations on a range of matters in relation to Israel, recognising the fundamental democratic values that the state of Israel embodies and recognising that it is very important to send a clear message to those who are supporting and encouraging murderous terrorist activities.

What we have seen from the government just now is a motion that has been moved with no notice to the opposition. The assistant minister has scuttled into this place to move this motion without bothering to give any notice to the side of the House, showing contempt for the millions of people who are represented by those of us on this side of the House on a matter of such extraordinary sensitivity in our community, at a time when there is, across our community and across our nation, a significant component of our population that feels unsafe. What we have seen is a conspicuous failure of leadership by this weak Prime Minister and by this weak government, and we have seen that consistent pattern repeated by the assistant minister. If this was something they were proud of, they would have notified the opposition, but they have not bothered to do that. You have to ask, 'What is going on here?'

What is going on here, very clearly, is a government that has abandoned longstanding principles on the basis of short-term political considerations. I say to the government, to every member of this House and to every Australian: if we have just seen a murderous terrorist attack with 1,200 innocent men, women and children killed and some 200 people taken hostage, some of whom are still kept in the tunnels under Gaza, all of us want to see a secure and lasting peace, and the way that peace is to be achieved is in the hands of the murderous terrorist thugs who control Gaza. It is in the hands of the murderous terrorist organisation Hamas. What we have just seen from this government, from this weak Prime Minister, is a decision to reward terrorism and to reward terrorists. That is what we have just seen from this weak government and this weak prime minister.

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

Order! The Manager of Opposition Business will pause. The Assistant Minister for Financial Services?

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I ask that the member withdraw.

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

There is far too much noise for me to hear what the Manager of Opposition Business was saying, so I am going to ask him to assist the House and withdraw so the debate can continue.

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw. I make the point that when a nation of Australia's standing makes a decision as to what we do globally, it sends a signal, and the signal that this government is sending and the signal that this House of Representatives is being asked to endorse is that we are rewarding terrorism, we are rewarding the lawless, murderous, terrorist organisation Hamas. This is what this government is proposing, and this side of the House believes that should be acknowledged.

Honourable members interjecting

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

Order! Members on my right, I want this debate to be done respectfully. People are interjecting outside of their seats. If you want to interject, you may return to your seat. Do not interject if you are not in your seat. If you do so, you will not be here for the vote. I give the call to the Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth.

5:09 pm

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

On 11 June this year I represented our Foreign minister at the Urgent Humanitarian Response to Gaza Conference in Jordan. The conference was convened by King Abdullah II of Jordan, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt, and Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General. There were three themes to that conference, the first being the need and the scale of humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza. There was a call from the international community to commit to more humanitarian aid, and I was honoured at that forum to announce the Australian government was committing another $10 million to the World Food Programme, bringing our level of aid to the region up to $72½ million.

The second theme was the distribution and the need for the unimpeded flow of aid into Gaza and, again, for the international community to continue to demand that the Israeli government comply by its obligations under international humanitarian law to enable the safe passage of aid through the most effective land routes into Gaza to the people who need it most. The third theme was the psychosocial recovery and the restoration of human dignity to the people of Gaza.

We talk a lot of politics in this place and there is a lot of politicking happening around this issue. Just yesterday, I watched as the member for Griffith came in here and gave a 90-second statement on Gaza and then sat down and laughed. He laughed. But the political noise happening here is so vastly disconnected from the conversations in the region, conversations led by countries at the forefront, led by aid agencies and individuals on the ground in Gaza.

The key message that I took away from my time in Jordan, where I met with leaders from across the world who were present there, was the great appreciation for what this Australian government has done to make a real difference, a material difference, to the people of Gaza. From our UN votes to our aid contributions, there was an acknowledgement that Australia is punching above its weight in our commitment and our support for peace.

I have been proud and honoured to represent my country at a number of international fora, both before and during my time in this parliament. I have represented Australia at the Whitehouse and as a UN expert advisor in places like Kenya and Vienna. I have sat in those rooms with leaders from around the world and spoken on behalf of my country on our position from an academic perspective. But I have never been more proud to serve and represent this Australian government at an international forum than I was in Jordan.

Today, we put forward a motion that reaffirms our commitment to peace and, through this motion, we send a very clear message to those people in Gaza and in the occupied territories that we support their aspirations for self-determination, that we support their aspirations for a just and enduring peace. As the assistant minister said, recognition of Palestine won't come about by votes in here or in the Senate, but what we are doing today is important. That message that we send is important but it is no less important than what we have done as a government, as a collective, to continue to make that difference to the children, to the women, to the innocent men, to the innocent people in Gaza and in the occupied territories who have suffered for way too long and who aspire only for a life of peace and for an enduring and sustainable peace.

5:14 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before the election senior Labor officials wrote in the Australian Jewish News that there was no difference between the Labor Party and the coalition on policies relating to Israel and on policies relating to the Jewish community. There were op-eds written by the Attorney-General and by the member for Macnamara.

But we have seen since the election there has been a greater gulf between the position of the Labor Party and the coalition in relation to Israel and the Jewish community, and we saw this before 7 October. We saw this in relation to changing the capital of Israel—a decision that was bungled, without consultation of the Jewish community in Australia and without proper warning to the government of Israel. I happened to be in Israel a couple of weeks after, and in meeting after meeting we were asked to explain why this had happened and how it had happened in this way.

We saw it in relation to the return of funding to UNRA. UNRA is the UN organisation whose headquarters in Gaza, sadly, had been used as a major communications facility for Hamas, and some of its employees had been involved in the 7 October terrorist attacks. It had been a negative actor in the Middle East even before that time.

We've seen it in changes to votes in the United Nations in relation to the position of Palestine and in relation to the position of Israel, and we're now seeing it in relation to the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

We on this side of the House support the idea of a two-state solution—a state of Israel and a state of Palestine living side by side. But the question is about the timing of the preconditions that need to exist before a Palestinian state should be recognised by Australia. The Australian foreign policy tradition is that we don't recognise states that haven't yet come into existence. It might interest the House to know that we didn't recognise the State of Israel, when it came into existence, until it proved that it could defend itself, almost nine months later. We make the recognition after the fact, not before the fact. It's important that we don't recognise a state that hasn't come into existence, particularly when many of the actors in that state do not believe that Israel has a right to exist. That has always been a precondition for the recognition of a Palestinian state in terms of Australian foreign policy.

But you cannot consider this motion without considering the context and the timing of the change in the government's position in relation to the recognition of a Palestinian state. This was not something they brought in before 7 October. This is a matter that they have pursued since 7 October. The events of 7 October were so dreadful—the largest number of Jewish people murdered in a single day since the Holocaust. And it was not just murder but sadistic murder and the rape of children, the rape of women, the beheading of people and the capture of babies and Holocaust survivors. There are still more than a hundred hostages who were taken by Hamas who have not been returned and are somewhere in Gaza today. To recognise a Palestinian state after that event sends all the wrong signals internationally. It says to people—a bit like the University of Sydney said—that, the more you push, the more violent you are and the less you want to come to the table and make peace, the more you will be rewarded. I think that's a terrible precedent.

If we think about the world on 6 October, Israel had been going round making peace with its neighbours. The Abraham accords were a game changer. Relations between Israel and its neighbours had never been better, and the Saudi deal was so close. The Hamas terrorists wanted to interrupt and degrade that because they felt that their cause would be forgotten if Israel and Saudi Arabia normalised relations. The events on 7 October have been a complete disrupter.

I think it's really important that we as Australia stand with a like-minded liberal democracy, which is Israel. I look forward to a like-minded liberal democracy in the state of Palestine at some point in the future. But that requires the Palestinian people to make the decision that the people of Israel have a right to exist and that there deserves to be a Jewish homeland in the land of Israel as well as a homeland for the Palestinian people. Until they recognise Israel's right to exist, which so many of the leading actors do not, the prospect of a Palestinian state is not something that we as Australians should be considering, and it's not something that underpins the fundamental values of Western democracy that Australia has always stood for.

5:19 pm

Photo of Peter KhalilPeter Khalil (Wills, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've supported the cause for Palestinian self-determination and statehood for decades—a goal, a vision, of a two-state solution within a just and enduring peace. My family has fought for that for decades. My father, my grandfather and my uncles fought in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 in the Egyptian army. In my electorate of Wills I have assisted families to get their loved ones out of Gaza and here to Australia, and I've engaged with the Palestinian and Muslim communities in my electorate for years. During this conflict I've listened to their pain and their loss, and I've reflected that back in my work within the Labor Party, a party of government that can shape policies that can actually achieve material outcomes on the ground, working with the international community. That is why it is so disappointing, so disgusting, that there are elected representatives in the Greens political party that would use this tragedy, which has spanned more than seven decades, for base political purposes.

When they accuse the Labor government of being complicit in genocide, it is not only vile; it is false. What we are responsible for—to cut through all the misinformation and disinformation and the peddling of lies—is condemnation of the loss of all innocent civilian lies, the Israeli lives on 7 October and the Palestinian lives during the course of the war. What we are responsible for is taking a principled position to use our diplomatic efforts to end the war and return the hostages. What we are responsible for is voting for a ceasefire at the United Nations. What we are responsible for is increasing humanitarian aid, over $70 million to help alleviate human suffering. What we are responsible for and have done is work with the international community to end this conflict.

I have no doubt all of us in this place want this conflict to end. All of us here want an end to human suffering, an end to the almost endless cycle of violence that has spanned decades and decades. But to use this conflict and this tragedy for short-term political gain is below contempt. As a government, we have done and are doing the material work to end this conflict, to reach a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace. I, as a backbencher, have engaged with ambassadors whose countries are involved directly in the negotiation for a ceasefire. I've engaged with our Prime Minister, our foreign minister, our colleagues on the frontbench on the policies around Palestinian recognition and statehood. And I've advocated for a substantive and constructive contribution that Australia should make in support of Palestinian statehood and a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security. That is real work. These are real outcomes. That is work that we do for peace, a world where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security.

That world doesn't come or cannot ever materialise from stunt motions by minor parties in the Senate. That doesn't come or cannot come from spreading misinformation in order to whip up anger, scorn and division based on lies. As elected representatives, we have an obligation to unite Australians and to protect the harmonious multicultural society we have built up here over decades. Australians don't want these conflicts and violence to be on our streets. Australians want a government that provides humanitarian support for those in need and that does its job on the international stage towards the goal of peace.

This motion that we have brought before the House clearly states our government's position—that we support the recognition of a state of Palestine as part of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace process. That is our clear and principled position. It forms the basis for all the actual work that we do as members of parliament and as ministers to support that peace process. And we do that on the international stage because it is our responsibility and obligation as a good international citizen. That is a principled position that we can all stand firmly behind. It is the material work that we have done and that we will continue to do day after day.

5:23 pm

Photo of Zoe DanielZoe Daniel (Goldstein, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

With what remains of the hospitals full of limbless children, malnutrition setting in and Gaza in ruins, it's a humanitarian catastrophe. This is not an opinion or politics; this is reality. It's also a fact that the terrorist group Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages in captivity. Their families have endured months of hell, and the impact of October 7 has given rise to real and deep seated fear among Jewish people across the world, including here in Australia, with a huge spike in antisemitic abuse. This is also not opinion or politics; this is reality. The twin pain of these two groups of people co-exists. One does not cancel out the other. Shouting at each other in this place does not cancel out the pain either but it does inflame and is dangerous, and we have to get back to reason.

This is not a political conversation—or it should not be. And for no-one in this place should it be about votes. To be clear: me standing here saying this, given the community that I represent, reflects zero political advantage. But I must say this: I would strongly argue that just as the Australian government exerts pressure on Hamas for Israeli hostages to be released in this terrible war, the same pressure must be brought on the Netanyahu government to end its offensive. It is self-evident that the fundamental rule to protect civilians is not being followed; this is undeniable. In seeking to dismantle Hamas in response to 7 October, the government of Israel must not risk dismantling its standing in the world. The only reasonable course of action is ceasefire and negotiations for immediate and sustained peace. The challenge, given the historic intractability of this conflict, is to focus on the now. Any conversation about this must be underpinned with the understanding that conflict between these two parties is longstanding. Many have come before us attempting to solve it and have failed. Protests are understandable, but they won't fix it—nor will hurling abuse.

In recent months we've seen inflammatory motions designed to wedge for political reasons rather than to promote a reasoned debate. But I ask today: if not peace negotiations in line with this motion, then what? Really, what? Worsening war? A widening regional conflict? World War III? I will not sit here and not speak up only to have to send Australia's sons and daughters—my own 17-year-old son, perhaps—to war next year or the year after. I will not sit without speaking, because that is the serious precipice on which we stand.

I strongly support Palestinian statehood under the auspices of a peace process leading to a two-state solution. In that, this moment is an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority, for example, to step up and show that it can reinvent itself to lead. To be clear, my concern is also for Israel and its people. A safe and secure future of the Israelis and the Palestinians is intertwined. Israel will not be truly safe until Palestine is also free. If only we could all have that clear-headed conversation about how we get there, rather than hurling abuse at each other inside and outside this chamber.

As I stand here today, I sense a pivotal moment in our history as a nation and as a world. Such times are deserving of reasoned, careful words and actions. Life and death must not be weaponised for political gain within the people's House or outside it. I support reason. I offer what I've just said with empathy to those in my own community who are struggling with deep anxiety and fear. But I have my eyes fixed on the future—that is, peace for two groups of people. This must be the aspiration of us all. A two-state solution is the only way through. I support this motion.

5:29 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

As a long-term activist and supporter of the Palestinian people, I rise to speak in support of this important motion. It's so important that it fills me with emotion.

This motion calls for the need to recognise the state of Palestine. It does so crucially as part of an enduring peace process and a two-state solution. This motion cannot be more urgent, and the context of peace and the two-state solution couldn't be more important. The death and destruction in Gaza must end. I know my electorate and the broader community are desperate for that to happen.

I am under no illusion that this motion will do that. It can't. But it illustrates what this Labor government has held as its position on Palestine for many years. It reflects our party platform. It puts a line in the sand once and for all, putting to rest untruths, misrepresentation and, quite frankly, lies bandied about by many in this House. This is a motion that looks towards the future—a different future. It's a motion that reflects a credible and genuine path to ending this conflict, one that seeks to secure a lasting and enduring peace for Palestinian people and all people in the region of the Middle East. What we are witnessing in Gaza right now is horrific. The widespread human suffering is completely unacceptable. The Albanese Labor government has been clear: this cannot continue.

For the past nine months, we've seen destruction, terror, killing and murder, and we absolutely grieve every single death, Palestinian and Israeli. This government, the Albanese Labor government, has been clear: the suffering must end. The Netanyahu government must stop its assault on Rafah. The flow of aid must be facilitated. A ceasefire must be negotiated. It's incumbent on us to ensure what we say in this House is not a risk to any of that happening, which is why we put this motion. The member for Gellibrand, the assistant minister, outlined so eloquently the hard work happening by this government. We are working towards peace. That is what governments do. But history has shown us that, if this war, this assault, were to end today, the peace may well be short lived. We've seen it before. In 2021, 2014, 2012, 2008, 2005, 2001, 1987—the list goes on and on. And it does so in this House, in this chamber, by a party of government that says we have to see an enduring peace, and that is why this motion is important. As a government, we have a responsibility to ensure whatever we do does not in any way have a negative impact on the complex situation in the Middle East. We need to be thoughtful and careful but also compassionate and caring.

Yes, the hostages must be released, and we condemn what happened—the attacks by Hamas on October 7. I cannot imagine what people living in this complex and unstable region have endured over the decades with this ongoing relentless and persistent threat of conflict. Children have spent their childhoods, people their whole lives, with regular conflict, losing members of their family, their livelihoods, their homelands, in decades of suffering. Three generations of Palestinians now live in refugee camps in Lebanon. The recent fighting has left innocent people dead and the Palestinian people displaced and disempowered—fighting that has left them not only homeless but stateless. It was the Nakba that uprooted millions of Palestinians from their homes, communities and lives, and there has been a cycle of violence and an inability to find meaningful, peaceful solutions.

So, as we face this present moment, this war in Gaza, we recognise the historical context and the need to take real action, thoughtful action, to create a better future, one that crucially includes a Palestinian state lying in peace beside a state of Israel, with genuine, meaningful peace across the region. The Labor Party believes that the suffering, the fighting and the displacement has gone on too long. We don't just scream and shout about this; we are a party of government. We want to get this done. We know that simply moving motions in the House or in the Senate, shouting in press conferences or singling out your political opponents won't do anything for the Palestinian people. The Australian government recognises a two-state solution, and we are working towards it.

5:34 pm

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

It's unfortunate that members of this House on this side were not given an opportunity to put forward amendments to this motion as my colleagues were in the Senate. The members of the coalition would have agreed to this motion if we were allowed to put the following amendments:

i. recognition by Palestinian representatives and the Palestinian Authority of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state—

And, when I'm putting these, I'm saying that these are preconditions to what we would have agreed to in relation to this motion—

ii. that there is no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state;

iii. reform of the Palestinian Authority is achieved, including major security and governance reforms;

iv. agreed processes to resolve final status issues including agreed state borders and rights of return; and

v. appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security within recognised borders.

As I said, it's unfortunate that members of this House were not afforded the same respect or the same ability to do what our colleagues did in the Senate, in other place.

In December of last year, along with the member for Macnamara and a couple of our other colleagues, I travelled to Israel and we saw first-hand the atrocities of what took place on 7 October. It is fair to say that that was a long-lasting—in fact, life-changing—experience for me. I stand here as the member for Fisher. I estimate that I would have probably no more than 100 Jewish people in my electorate. If you look at this purely from a political perspective, I've no skin in the game. But this is not something which we should be looking at as a political, skin-in-the-game issue. There's a what's right and there's a what's wrong.

Aside from those five preconditions that I just read out, everybody talks about how there must be a ceasefire. Why is no-one ever talking about how Hamas should surrender and return the hostages? Why doesn't this motion talk about a surrender of Hamas and talk about the return of the around 120 hostages that are still being held by Hamas today, eight months later? Can you imagine living in a tunnel and being held captive for eight months away from your friends and your family? They don't know whether you're alive.

This war was started on 7 October and this war could finish today if Hamas surrendered and returned those near-120 hostages. Why are we not talking about that? Why are we not talking about the suffering of the tens of thousands of Israelis that have also been displaced along the northern borders? The media never talk about that. There are tens of thousands of Israelis displaced who are living in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem because it's not safe for them to live in border areas because of the rocket attacks from Gaza, from the West Bank and from Lebanon. It's as though the media don't want to talk about those things, yet tens of thousands of Israelis are suffering that displacement.

This war could be over today if the people who started this war surrendered and returned the hostages to their families. If those members opposite want to make those amendments, I'm sure my— (Time expired)

5:39 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I first of all want to say that the member for Chifley was down to speak, and he's given me his speaking spot. I really appreciate it. I really appreciate his generosity in this moment. I don't think it's worth dismissing that a Muslim member of this place gave his speaking spot to a Jewish member of this place so that I could contribute to this debate. I want to thank my friend for his generosity in this moment.

I dream of peace. I dream of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It has been something that has haunted my family for generations. We have seen year after year and war after war completely destroy and damage people and communities, and for what? We still in 2024 are facing an intractable conflict between two peoples, most of whom just want to live in peace and in dignity. And we see that here in Australia. I know that most people here in our wonderful country just want to see more peaceful days ahead. In this country, our hearts break.

I think that's something that we all can hold onto. There is a shared humanity that we must all uphold. It is okay to look at the violence that is facing the Palestinian people and feel a deep sense of loss and sadness at that and to want that to end today. And it is okay to see the absolutely devastating scenes that we saw on October 7, a day that saw the largest loss of Jewish life on any day since the Holocaust. My heart breaks for both, and I say that as a Jewish Australian who desperately wants to see this war come to an end.

There are so many intractable parts of this conflict. I have a degree in this conflict, and I still don't quite know how to fix it. I know that there are players who are desperate to end the peace process and to try and disturb any efforts towards peace. I know that trees take years and years and years to grow and can be cut down in a second, and that is what the Middle East has demonstrated over and over again. We have seen people try to grow a tree, to try and build this sense of togetherness and unity between two peoples, and yet time and time again it has been cut down in an instant of violence, and it has been cut down by politics where you either have players like Hamas or players that have taken over the far right of Israeli politics that are desperate to demonise the other people.

It is sad because it means that in this place we see a conflict continuing in 2024. I desperately want to see an end to the violence. I desperately want to see the people of Gaza being able to rebuild their lives in dignity and in peace, to move freely, to have freedom of speech and to have a future for their children. What human doesn't want that for another human? I desperately want to see my family and friends in Israel live within safe and secure borders, not worried about who might interrupt them in their own home. I don't think that's too high a bar to set. I don't think that we in Australia can dream of anything more than peace between the two peoples.

This motion before the House is the bare minimum. It says that we support the recognition of a Palestinian state as part of a peace process. That peace process is something that I hold onto and that I have held onto my entire life. That peace process says that we are all people, above all, and that there has to be a way through this. There has to be a way through this conflict. I wish that we could pull a lever here in Australia and it would all end today, but we have seen time and time again that that is not the case. What we can also control is how we engage and more moments like what the member for Chifley just did, where he doesn't seek to enforce his views but actually gives the opportunity for someone else to speak. In this moment, it's me, and I really appreciate it.

We need to see people in Australia looking and having conversations, not just sitting on your phone and reinforcing your own views. Reach across and have a discussion with someone who may not agree with you, because this conflict is not a licence to divide our community. This conflict is about people. It is about two peoples who deserve to live in dignity and peace, because that is what we want in the region. That is what we want for the people of Israel, and that is what we want for the Palestinian people.

I'll finish where I started. I dream of peace. I dream of peace between two peoples, and I hope desperately to see it one day.

5:44 pm

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

Some 146 countries have already recognised the state of Palestine but this Labor government refuses. How is it fair that this government recognises Israel but refuses to immediately recognise Palestine? These are weasel words from this government—crocodile tears—while right now we know there have been 37,000 Palestinians murdered by Israel—37,000! What does this government do? It has not taken a single action against Israel to pressure it to stop the genocide in Gaza.

Under the Genocide Convention—to which Australia is a signatory—this Labor government have a responsibility to take actions to punish genocide. They could end the two-way arms trade with Israel this government are carrying out but they refuse. They could cancel the Elbit Systems contract—that is, the Israeli weapons company blacklisted by countries in Europe for carrying out war crimes. Under this government, a $917 million contract was signed with Elbit Systems. This government could cancel that contract but it refuses.

The Australian government could follow the Netherlands and ban the export of F-35 parts because they could go into Israeli jets that carry out war crimes. The F-35 parts that go into Israeli jets are currently screeching over the heads of Palestinian men, women and children. It could sanction Israel. Why is it this government could sanction Russia for the war crimes carried out by Russia but refuses to sanction Israel? They could expel the Israeli ambassador. Let's be very clear about this. If the government were true to their word and cared about the Palestinian people they would take actions against Israel to stop the genocide and the invasion. That is what they would do.

Let's be very, very clear about this. Every time Israel carry out a massacre, every time Israel kills Palestinian men, women and children and look around the world it does not receive a single sanction to stop. They are emboldened and they keep acting.

As part of a peace process, this motion is a joke. What peace process? Israel is carrying out a genocide in Gaza. It is not a peace process. Why is it 146 countries could find it in their hearts to recognise Palestine right now? Why is it the Australian government refuses? And how is it that when a Labor senator, Senator Payman, who had the principles and the courage to cross the floor to vote with the Greens to immediately recognise Palestine, faces more sanctions than Labor has dished out against Israel? That is remarkable.

I think what today is about is that Senator Payman has demonstrated the political cowardice in this place from Labor members. How is it that Senator Payman had the courage to cross the floor and vote to immediately recognise Palestine but no member of Labor in this place has the guts to do that? That is what people will remember in 10 or 20 years time when asked the question: what did members in this please do when Israel was carrying out a massacre in Gaza?

Let's be clear about this. The UN has found that Israel is carrying out war crimes. The UN has put Israel on a blacklist of countries that kill children, in this case Palestinian children.

The government all of a sudden apparently care. They are not doing anything about politics and say this is above politics. If it was above politics they would take material action right now to put pressure on Israel to stop.

Let's talk about some facts. These are things that Israel has done to Palestine and Gaza. Ask yourselves, as Labor members in this place, why is it that our government has taken no actions to pressure Israel to stop?

There are a million Palestinians at risk of death by starvation by the end of July. There is a critical lack of milk and baby formula and nutritional supplements for children and for pregnant and breastfeeding women. And what did this government do? For 48 days they paused funding to UNRWA, which was providing aid to Palestine. It is remarkable that this government have taken more actions against a Labor senator who voted to immediately recognise Palestine. They have taken more actions against Palestinians by temporarily pausing Palestinian visas and by pausing aid funding to Palestine when Israel has been known to carry out an engineered famine in Gaza, killing tens of thousands of Palestinians with bombs and famine. There are currently Palestinian children right now dying in their parents' arms, losing the energy to breathe because they have run out of food to eat. And what do you all do? What do this Labor government do? They can recognise Israel but they can't immediately recognise Palestine. You can't end the two-way arms trade. You can't cancel the Elbit Systems contract. You can't sanction Israel. You should all be deeply ashamed.

5:49 pm

Photo of Allegra SpenderAllegra Spender (Wentworth, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I think everyone in this House feels desperately sad about what is happening in the Middle East. It is truly tragic, the horrific attack of October 7 is unspeakable and will remain in the Jewish community and around the world the greatest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust. At the same time, every single one of us and I think everyone in our country feels the pain of watching the Palestinian people in Gaza—the women, children and families—who have been absolutely devastated by this war. It is an absolute tragedy. Like many people in this room, I hope, I have always supported a two-state solution. Like the member for Macnamara, I have always dreamt, to be honest, of a situation where the Palestinian people, the Israeli people and the Jewish people live side by side in self-determination and in separate states. That is what I seek now and what I will continue to seek.

But what I am concerned about in this motion and in every motion that we have had on this issue in the House is that we are not actually achieving anything in terms of the difference it will make to the people in the conflict right now, when we all desperately want the UN-endorsed Security Council's peace resolution and for parties to come to that agreement. That is what I am seeking right now, that's what I care about, and I'm concerned this motion does nothing to that. All it does is tear our community even further apart. I share the member for Fisher's view that I wish we had found a motion that could unite the parliament more, because it does no good to our country to have motions where the majority of the parliament is sitting on either side on something which is tearing our community apart. It is tearing my community apart. They feel very, very strongly and are desperately concerned. I am concerned that this just inflames tension without adding anything to what we are really all seeking, which is actually a long and standing peace.

I want to speak for my community, who are desperately saddened and appalled by what has happened overseas but are also extremely concerned about what is happening here. Once again, I just worry that we continue to inflame this in this place. We do not unite or move forward, and I do not support what the Greens have been saying at all throughout this time, but I think there was an opportunity for the rest of the parliament to unite on something that was appropriate.

5:52 pm

Photo of Aaron VioliAaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I do rise with a heavy heart, but I want to pay tribute to the member for Macnamara and also the member for Chifley. That was one of the most powerful moments I've had in my two years in this place. It actually summed up this situation at a global level. This is not about Jewish people and people of Islamic faith. It is a much more complicated issue than that. The passion that the member for Macnamara spoke with and the journey he has gone through as an individual—the unfair attacks on him are a disgrace. I want to pay tribute to him for that contribution. I also acknowledge the member for Cowan. It's clear that this is a complicated, challenging issue that has so many layers and affects so many people. In that moment, we saw a powerful demonstration of what this place can see.

But unfortunately, straight after that moment, we saw one of the most disgraceful things I've seen in this House. The member for Griffith had a choice in that moment, after that powerful speech from the member for Macnamara, to reach into his humanity and realise that this is not about politics; this is about the challenges that people are going through in the Middle East. It is about the challenges that people are going through here in Australia. It is about members of parliament and their staff having their offices vandalised and destroyed. And that is being stoked by those in the Greens. He had a choice. You could have spoken with humanity and recognised the amazing moment that we saw. But you went straight to politics. And you will have to reflect on that. This is not an easy, black-and-white situation. It is complex, it is challenging—

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

The member will conclude his remarks. The question is the motion be agreed to.

A division having been called and the bills being rung—

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

Mr Speaker, the member for Melbourne, the Leader of the Australian Greens, is sick and the member for Brisbane is away for family reasons, but they wanted it to be known that they would be voting with us if they were here. I'm not sure if we can record that?

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

I think it's recorded now. The question is that the motion be agreed to.

6:04 pm

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move the following motion forthwith:

In noting the agreement of the House to the motion moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier today, the House is of the opinion that recognition must only take place once the following preconditions have been met:

(a) recognition by Palestinian representatives and the Palestinian Authority of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state;

(b) that there is no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state;

(c) reform of the Palestinian authority is achieved, including major security and governance reforms;

(d) agreed processes to resolve final status issues including agreed state borders and rights of return; and

(e) appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security within recognised borders.

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

Is leave granted?

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

The parliament has dealt with this matter. Leave is not granted.

Photo of Paul FletcherPaul Fletcher (Bradfield, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Bradfield from moving the following motion forthwith:

In noting the agreement of the House to the motion moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier today, the House is of the opinion that recognition must only take place once the following preconditions have been met:

(a) recognition by Palestinian representatives and the Palestinian Authority of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state;

(b) that there is no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state;

(c) reform of the Palestinian authority is achieved, including major security and governance reforms;

(d) agreed processes to resolve final status issues including agreed state borders and rights of return; and

(e) appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security within recognised borders.

Mr Speaker, the reason that standing orders must be suspended to allow this motion to be dealt with immediately is as a consequence of the motion that was just moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, because it is very important to establish the appropriate conditions that would need to be met before the state of Palestine should be recognised. Now, you may ask why the opposition feels it's necessary to move this now rather than, as an alternative, engaging with the government in a constructive way in relation to a motion that it proposes to move and nominating the conditions that we consider would be necessary before the motion could be supported. If you were to ask that, I would certainly agree that that would have been a sensible process to engage in and the opposition would certainly have been ready to engage in such a negotiation and discussion process on the merits.

Unfortunately, and for reasons which it must be said are, frankly, mystifying, the government did not attempt to engage in any way with the opposition in relation to the terms of the motion that the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs came into this place to move. There was no attempt to engage in advance on the terms of that motion and no attempt to arrive at what would have been a highly desirable state of affairs, where there was agreement reached across as many members of this parliament as possible on a matter which is undoubtedly one that is provoking great anxiety within the Australian community and which has been the source of much contention and ill feeling. It is a great shame that the government did not seek in any way to engage with the opposition on this matter and seek to arrive at a position which could have been mutually supported, and such an outcome would have been highly desirable in terms of maintaining social harmony and cohesion in our nation, which, of course, is one of the world's most successful multicultural, multiracial, multi-ethnic, multireligious nations. That success is something in which we can all take pride, but it is a success that is not achieved without being continually worked at—worked at, it must be said, by both major parties of government. It is, I think, quite regrettable that the government has conducted itself in the way that it has in relation to the motion that has been moved. It has missed an opportunity to arrive at an aligned position. I can't be confident that an aligned position could have, ultimately, been reached. I can't be confident of that, but what I can be confident of is that if the government makes zero attempt on a matter of such sensitivity and such importance to engage with the opposition in relation to whether an aligned position can be arrived at, that is no way to be conducting itself at a time when these issues are of enormous sensitivity within our community. I think this has been a deeply regrettable missed opportunity.

The opposition believes it is very important that this House should have the opportunity to state very clearly what we believe needs to be satisfied in terms of preconditions in advance of any recognition of a Palestinian state occurring. We believe that's important from first principles, and if I can reference the eloquent remarks from the member for Berowra earlier today, we believe that becomes only more important given the reality that this position, which the government is proposing will be taken by Australia internationally, is a position being taken after the appalling terrorist attacks of October 7, which saw some 1,200 innocent men, women and children killed, and some 200 people dragged away as hostages, some of whom, sadly, subsequently have died and others of whom remain imprisoned in the tunnels under the Gaza Strip. It is impossible to be discussing this issue without a recognition of the events which have preceded it. It is, therefore, deeply regrettable that the government made no attempt to engage with the opposition in relation to the basis on which a motion of this nature could—at least potentially—have obtained the support of both of the major parties of government.

I direct the House to the terms of the procedural motion which the government moved, establishing the terms under which the debate on the motion moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs was held, because those terms did not admit of amendments. They did not allow for a process in which this House could have worked towards a form of a motion which—again, at least potentially, as I cannot say with certainty—had the scope for receiving the support of both major parties of government. I won't speak for anybody else in this parliament, but what is clear is that the way the government conducted itself from the outset was evidently done in a way that showed no appetite for reaching agreement between the two major parties of government on this matter—which is, of course, enormously important when it comes to the position that Australia as a nation takes in international forums. It's also enormously important in terms of the leadership which this parliament is able to demonstrate to the broader community at a time when we have seen troubling instances of social disharmony arising out of different perspectives as to what is occurring in the Middle East. It is a time when we have seen—as this parliament has rightly condemned—the appalling spectacle of war memorials being vandalised, showing remarkable, extraordinary disrespect to all of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation over more than 100 years. It's at a time when we have seen events occurring on university campuses which mean, sadly, that Jewish students have indicated that they do not feel safe, and other students have expressed concern that their lectures have been interrupted by political activists seeking to press them to take a particular position on the events in the Middle East. We of course saw the extremely troubling events on the forecourt of the Opera House only a few short days after the 7 October terrorist attack, when we saw people saying terrible things about the Jewish people. We saw a real sense of breakdown in public order and troubling instances of Jewish Australians being advised by the police not to be out in public.

These are enormously important issues; this is urgent, and so therefore I moved the motion which I have just articulated.

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

Is the motion seconded?

6:16 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. In fact, I think there has probably not been a more important suspension of standing orders motion that I have spoken on than this one. It is so important that we immediately correct what has gone on in the House with the previous motion. What we have now is a very untidy circumstance, where we have one motion that has been passed in this House that recognises a Palestinian state without conditions, and we have another motion that was passed in the Senate which reflects the work of my friend the Manager of Opposition Business in adding these amendments. I would jealously defend the rights of this House, but we need to think about who is putting this motion together in the Senate.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate is the foreign minister. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is the shadow foreign minister. Together, they worked on this motion and put together a series of conditions which reflect, more or less, a traditional Australian foreign policy position on Israel-Palestine. Without these conditions we're seeing what I spoke about in the previous debate, which is a growing gulf between the government and the opposition in relation to Israel and in relation to the Jewish community. As a Jewish Australian I decry that.

I would like to see a bipartisan position in relation to Israel and Palestine. The position that we on this side of the House have held on these issues has reflected the longstanding tradition of bipartisanship on these issues. Fundamentally, that is that you can't have a Palestinian state without Palestinians recognising Israel's right to exist, and that is the first condition that's in this motion put forward by my friend the Manager of Opposition Business. This motion clarifies that there should be no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state. This motion also acknowledges the realities on the ground; people might like the idea of a Palestinian state, but we have a Palestinian authority in the West Bank that has not had an election for decades. And we know that if an election were held there, Hamas would win that election, so we would have the same issues there. The basic conditions of a stable state are not able to be met, and that's why it's important that we have points in the amendment that relate to the reform of the Palestinian Authority being achieved, including major security and governance reforms. It's important that we have agreed processes to resolve final status issues, including state borders and rights of return; these should be spelled out as a clear condition of Australian foreign policy. And there should be appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security between recognised borders.

This very same motion, the motion put forward by my friend the Manager of Opposition Business, was put forward only last Tuesday in the Senate. It beggars belief that the foreign minister's own assistant minister didn't come to the House, if they wanted to move this motion, and have as the starting point the same motion that was handed out in the Senate. This speaks to me of a motion that was dreamed up on the back of an envelope five minutes before the assistant minister came into the House. I think on an issue of such sensitivity, that is a great shame.

I think that the tensions in the community at this point on these issues are completely unprecedented. The antisemitism that I have seen and, indeed, the failure of people in authority to do anything about antisemitism have created a massive sense of abandonment among Jewish Australians. I have to say that I have been very disappointed this government hasn't taken up the offer of a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campuses. There's also no evidence that this government has provided any directions to the Australian Federal Police to take a tougher line on antisemitism. There was lots of talk about doxxing laws as a result of the doxxing of Jewish artists and creatives. We've seen nothing on that. There has been lots of talk from this government about an envoy on antisemitism. Again, months have passed, and we've seen nothing. There's been talk about strengthening laws, and, again and again, we've seen nothing. We just get motions and empty words.

I think the motion that was just passed, without these clear conditions, undermines social cohesion in this country. It undermines an attempt to get bipartisanship on this issue, and that's why I say to those opposite that it is actually worthwhile thinking about supporting this motion—if nothing else, to bring the House into line with the Senate, the place where the two principal spokespeople for foreign policy for the government and the opposition sat and hammered out these words only a week ago.

6:21 pm

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the debate be adjourned.

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

The question is that the debate be adjourned.