Senate debates

Friday, 17 November 2023

Questions without Notice

Middle East

2:44 pm

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

Senator Van, you raise a very important issue in our country at moment. As Senator Wong, the Prime Minister and many others have already acknowledged, this is a deeply distressing time for many in Australia. That includes members of our Jewish community, who lost loved ones in the abhorrent attacks by Hamas on 7 October. It also includes members of our Palestinian community, who have lost loved ones in the conflict that has followed. Of course, it also includes many others across our community who feel very deeply about this issue. The thing that the government has been saying over and over again throughout the last few weeks is that as Australians, whoever we are, whatever part of the community we come from, we must maintain respect for each other and for each other's humanity. All Australians, no matter what their religion or what their racial background—whoever they are—have a right to be safe and feel safe, and no-one in this country should be fearful because of who they are or because of their faith. Everyone must be able to worship and to practice their faith without fear, intimidation or interference. There is no place for prejudice, no place for antisemitism and no place for Islamophobia in Australia.

Australians are rightly distressed by the events that are unfolding in the Middle East, and I know many members of the government, many members of the opposition and probably you, Senator Van, have met with leaders of Australian Palestinian, Muslim and Jewish communities from all around the country in an attempt to try to bring people together. We need to remember that as political leaders we do have a responsibility to unite the country in difficult moments like the one that we're going through now, rather than inflame tensions by seeking political advantage, backing in one side and not another, or making selective comments. All that does is drive our community apart rather than bring people together, which is exactly what we should be doing right now. We are very concerned about the level of social cohesion, and we look forward to working with all senators who have an interest in this.


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