Tuesday, 20 June 2017
I hope Senator McGrath will stand and give us one of his insulting little contributions, and I am assuming that it would involve the fact that this is a complex foreign policy matter—and I understand that it is. Australia is complicit in the horrific war that has been engaged in by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen at the moment, in which more than 10,000 civilians have already been killed. The motion references the fact that in January of this year an expert panel reported to the UN Security Council that it was almost certain that the Saudi-led coalition had violated international humanitarian law and that some airstrikes may amount to war crimes. I would like to know why Minister Christopher Pyne is conducting arms deals with this regime on behalf of the Australian people. We can establish no information at all about why he is doing that, or what kind of material is being transferred to Saudi Arabia. The motion calls on the government to immediately suspend military exports to Saudi Arabia, and I will have more to say about this later tonight.
Labor denied formality to this motion as it is a foreign policy motion that deals with matters that are complex and contested. We believe it is not suitable for determination by the Senate without the opportunity for proper debate. Labor is deeply concerned by the Saudi Arabian-Yemeni conflict, including reports of attacks on civilian schools and hospitals. Labor condemns all violence and urges both parties to de-escalate the conflict and resume negotiations consistent with UN Security Council resolution 2216.
In addition to the conflict situation, Labor is also deeply concerned by both the famine and the recent cholera outbreak in Yemen. The World Food Program reports that 17 million Yemenis, or 60 per cent of the population, are food insecure and that the level of hunger and hardship faced by the current population is unprecedented in Yemen. The cholera epidemic is also of unprecedented proportions and is rapidly spreading, with the UN estimating that 130,000 people have been infected and almost 1,000 people have died since April.