Senate debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Middle East

5:00 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Wong to my question without notice today on UNRWA funding.

This was a useless and terrible response. After 48 days, and under intense and sustained pressure from the community and the Greens, the Labor government has been forced under pressure to reverse its disgraceful suspension of UNRWA funding, a decision that should never have been made in the first place. It is clear that Minister Wong suspended funding for UNRWA without any evidence of Israel's claim. In a world where Palestinian lives mattered to the Labor Party, this would be a political scandal for a sitting minister. Yet, predictably, there has not even been an acknowledgement of the gross negligence and no apology from the Labor Party. Is this how low the standard is for the Labor government's decision-making when it comes to Palestine? Labor's decision to suspend UNRWA funding did not just compound starvation and suffering for Palestinians; it also aided Israel in its tactic to distract the world one day after the ICJ ruling that found that Israel is plausibly committing genocide and ordered Israel to take all measures to ensure aid reaches Palestinians in Gaza.

The Labor government is now providing cover for Israel's atrocity. The Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and other international organisations have said Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war. Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam's Middle East and North Africa regional director, has said: 'Gaza's stocking descent into starvation was so predictable as to be premeditated, an ongoing war crime by the government of Israel.' The UN has warned of famine. They say malnutrition among children is spreading fast and reaching devastating and unprecedented levels in the Gaza Strip due to the wide-reaching impact of the war and ongoing restrictions on aid delivery. At least 23 children in northern Gaza have died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks, adding to the over 13,000 children already slaughtered by Israel. That's 13,000 hopes and dreams and families shattered for ever.

As the minister announced resumption of UNRWA funding, there was also an announcement that Australia would send over aerial delivery parachutes so they can assist in aid drops to Palestinians who are being starved. Well, how ironic, how hypocritical and how pathetic. The Australian government could today make a decision to end their support for Israel's genocide, could stop arming Israel, could today sanction Netanyahu and his war cabinet and could today publicly start putting pressure on Israel to stop the massacre and to open all land corridors for the rapid delivery of humanitarian aid. Yet what we have here? 140 parachutes. For shame!

The ICJ ordered Israel to take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance. Yet, in brazen and criminal violation of this ruling, Israel continues to block and impede access to aid in Gaza. The UN has repeatedly asked the world to act and for Israel to allow aid into all parts of Gaza. Having killed over 31,000 Palestinians, Israel is now starving children to death, and their genocide is leading to mass hunger and famine.

Yet the Labor government continues to support Israel's genocide in Gaza. The Labor government, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong, history will remember you as enablers of genocide who suspended funding to people most in need who are being starved by Israel. Is this how you want to be remembered? Weasel words, meaningless words, weak words is all Labor has to offer. Imploring Israel to allow aid in will not achieve anything. Force Israel to allow aid in. Stop arming Israel. Stop aiding and abetting their war crimes. Place sanctions on Israel. You have the power, and you are using it to support and protect Israel's actions in Gaza. History will remember you for this and history will judge you harshly for this. People will not forgive, and they will not forget. People will keep talking about Palestine until Palestine is free.

Question negatived.