Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Matters of Urgency

State of Israel

4:07 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Trade) Share this | Hansard source

This motion from Senator Birmingham seeks to:

… reaffirm the importance of consultation and careful consideration when dealing with complex and sensitive foreign affairs matters …

It's like Attila the Hun complaining about human rights abuses!

My question is: where was Senator Birmingham's motion when the Morrison government announced an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 in a Sunday morning television interview without having done the diplomatic legwork to lock in support? Where was Senator Birmingham's motion when Mr Dutton, with Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison, stood around on live television joking about water lapping around the feet of Pacific islanders? Where was Senator Birmingham's motion last year, when the former Prime Minister blindsided our friends the French with his AUKUS announcement? And, indeed, where was Senator Birmingham's motion in 2018, when the Morrison government broke with the vast majority of the international community to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

The decision by the Morrison government to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel broke with a position that had been held by every Australian government since 1948. If ever there was a moment for careful consideration, it was then. There was nothing hasty, careless or surprising about Senator Wong's announcement last week.

When the Morrison government announced its position in 2018, Senator Wong made our position very clear. The position hasn't changed. The Australian government remains committed to a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state can coexist in peace and security within internationally recognised borders. This is a position that hasn't changed since the Gorton government established that position following the Six-Day War in 1967. The position was maintained by Prime Ministers Fraser, Hawke, Howard, Gillard and Turnbull. There's been only one Prime Minister who's departed from that bipartisan and correct foreign policy approach, and that's Mr Morrison. And why did he do that? For base political reasons. It was a cynical political ploy, a desperate and failed attempt. It's one thing to go through a sordid announcement about a position that is designed only for domestic political purposes and then win; it's an entirely separate thing to do that and then have it blow up in your face and lose, which is what Mr Morrison did—abject failure. Even cynics would be embarrassed by Mr Morrison's cynicism on this question.

This is a challenging foreign policy question. It should be dealt with by adults. There are competing interests and rights, issues of social justice and a series of historical wrongs, and there's violence. The prospect of peace and justice don't seem to be getting stronger; they seem to be getting more remote every year. It requires consistency, responsibility, careful evaluation of the merits and acting carefully in the national interest and the interest of peace with our allies and partners in a way that is consistent with our national interest. What has the coalition approach been, Mr Morrison's approach? It has been to seek domestic political advantage rather than to do the right thing. It's been a political tactic to play with the hopes and aspirations of the State of Israel, of the Palestinians and their various supporters and of people who are interested in the issue in Australia. Well, the adults are in charge again now. The traditional bipartisan position has been reasserted.

Senator Wong has expressed her regret. She said the timing of the announcement on Simhath Torah was deeply regrettable. That'll be another feature of this government: when something goes wrong, we will take responsibility, not run away from it and pretend it was our plan all along. We'll just take responsibility. That's what Senator Wong has done. That's what we will continue to do. The adults are back in charge, and we will not use this issue for base political advantage. (Time expired)


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