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AGAINST – Business — Rearrangement

Julian Leeser

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent:

(1) private Members' business order of the day No. 32 relating to the Commission of Inquiry into Antisemitism at Australian Universities Bill 2024 being called on immediately;

(2) debate on the second reading of the bill continuing for a period of no longer than one hour, with the time for each speech limited to 10 minutes;

(3) questions then being immediately put on any amendments moved to the motion for the second reading and on the second reading of the bill;

(4) if required, a consideration in detail stage of the bill, with any detail amendments to be moved together, with:

(a) one question to be put on all government amendments;

(b) one question to be put on all opposition amendments; and

(c) separate questions then to be put on any sets of amendments moved by crossbench Members; and

(d) one question to be put that the bill [as amended] be agreed to.

(5) when the bill has been agreed to, the question being put immediately on the third reading of the bill; and

(6) any variation to this arrangement being made only on a motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent:

(1) private Members' business order of the day No. 32 relating to the Commission of Inquiry into Antisemitism at Australian Universities Bill 2024 being called on immediately;

(2) debate on the second reading of the bill continuing for a period of no longer than one hour, with the time for each speech limited to 10 minutes;

(3) questions then being immediately put on any amendments moved to the motion for the second reading and on the second reading of the bill;

(4) if required, a consideration in detail stage of the bill, with any detail amendments to be moved together, with:

(a) one question to be put on all government amendments;

(b) one question to be put on all opposition amendments; and

(c) separate questions then to be put on any sets of amendments moved by crossbench Members; and

(d) one question to be put that the bill [as amended] be agreed to.

(5) when the bill has been agreed to, the question being put immediately on the third reading of the bill; and

(6) any variation to this arrangement being made only on a motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business.

I'm moving this motion to suspend standing orders because we cannot wait another day and watch the level of antisemitism continue to build on our campuses unanswered. We need to put an inquiry in place before second semester begins at the end of July.

There should be nothing surprising to anyone about this bill. I've been talking about a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus since November last year. On 3 May, I announced I'd be preparing this bill. I released terms of reference three weeks later. On 16 May, the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Henderson, along with several non-Green crossbenchers in the House and the other place wrote to the Prime Minister calling on the government to establish a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus. Other crossbenchers also wrote separately to the Prime Minister asking that a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus be established. On Monday 3 June, I introduced the private member's bill for a judicial inquiry that I now seek leave to have debated.

Antisemitism on campus is not new. The problem of campus antisemitism before 7 October was identified by the Australian Jewish student survey. It included that 64 per cent of Australian Jewish university students experienced antisemitism on campus and 19 per cent stayed away because of antisemitism. The massive increase in campus antisemitism since 7 October has included Jewish students being spat at and taunted with swastikas; the office of Jewish staff members being urinated on; academics saying that Jews don't deserve cultural safety; academics denying that the rapes on 7 October even occurred; the failure of university leaders to deal properly with antisemitism, including dealing with encampments; vice-chancellors implying that hate-fuelled protests are just the price that Jewish students have to pay for free speech; and a collective statement from 39 university chancellors which was so weak it didn't even mention the words 'Jew' or 'antisemitism'.

If this motion is successful, we will debate a bill with provides for the establishment of a commission of inquiry with royal commission powers, led by a current or former judge, to inquire into antisemitism on university campuses. This inquiry would examine incidents of antisemitic activity both before and after 7 October. It will consider whether the response of university leaders, regulators, representative organisations and others have been adequate. Jewish communal organisations support this bill for a judicial inquiry, and they reject the general antiracism inquiry by the Human Rights Commission. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which is the federal representative body of the Jewish community in Australia, has said they wholeheartedly endorse my bill. They have said:

A judicial inquiry, as originally called for in May by Mr Leeser, would allow Jewish students and staff to give evidence in a closed hearing, without having to fear reprisals from the fanatical fringe of anti-Israel or Jew-hating students, or victimisation from anti-Israel and antisemitic faculty members. There would be no opportunity for political grandstanding by any party, and the sole focus would be on getting to the truth.

Unfortunately, the government's plan is not to have a standalone judicial inquiry to deal with antisemitism on campus but to have a general antiracism inquiry running for two years, dealing with racism against First Nations people, antisemitism and Islamophobia. Can I say, as a Jewish Australian, I am so sick and tired of this government, the Human Rights Commission, universities and other bodies in Australia being unable to say antisemitism without saying Islamophobia in the same breath. To fail to singularly identify and call out the particularity of antisemitism and, indeed, the largest increase in antisemitism in our history in and of itself is antisemitic. It creates a dangerous narrative for our social harmony that suggests a Jewish-Muslim conflict here in Australia, when so much of the antisemitism is actually propagated by the militant socialist left.

Islamophobia is a bad thing, and it should be called out. It must be called out and properly dealt with. After the 11 September terrorist attacks in 2001, there was heightened Islamophobia in this country. No-one was saying at that time that we couldn't mention Islamophobia without mentioning antisemitism in the same breath. The level and scale of antisemitism at the moment is unprecedented in the history of this country—a country which has had Jews here since the First Fleet and which uniquely in this world has been one of the few countries where there has been no formal discrimination against Jews. But we have to tell the truth. There's only one community which has been subjected to those vile Opera House protests, where radicals and jihadists sought to do harm to that community, and that's the Jewish community. There is only one community that has had its artists and creatives doxxed, and that's the Jewish community. There is only one community subjected to the hate filled drive-throughs in its suburbs, and that's the Jewish Community. There is only one community on campus that's having its students spat at and taunted and its staff offices urinated on with the Vice-Chancellor standing by, saying, 'That's just the price you have to pay for free speech,' and that's the Jewish community.

Jewish Australians are so sick and tired of the moral equivalence, particularly because so many Jewish Australians are always at the forefront, pushing back against bigotry against other groups. Yet, at our time of need, we feel abandoned. Martin Luther King said, 'In the end we remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.' You can't blame the Jewish community for having no confidence in the Human Rights Commission, given the commission's record. Remember, the commission was the body designed to prevent racism and stand for social harmony, but for more than six months they have said nothing about the largest increase in antisemitism in the history of this country.

At Senate estimates, the president of the commission repeatedly refused to call out antisemitism and condemn Hamas. The new Race Discrimination Commissioner, the person who would be running the government's inquiry, could not condemn the phrase 'from the river to the sea'—a phrase rightly condemned by the Prime Minister and rightly condemned in a bipartisan motion in the other place. The Race Discrimination Commissioner said that he'd have to see the context. There is systemic racism against Jews at the commission as evidenced by the statements and action of their staff and contractors. This includes the head of Hugh consulting, who was engaged to prepare antiracism material but was involved in the doxxing of 600 Jewish creatives and publicly urged her followers to, 'let these effing Zionists know no effing peace.' The commission's lawyer publicly stated that Jewish people are not entitled to cultural safety and suggested the 7 October terrorist attacks could make sense. Referring to Jewish people, another staff member wrote, 'What are they without Zionism? If we take that away—their violence, their toxicity, their racism—what's left of them as a people?'

Then there was the call by commission staff in relation to the terrorist attacks 'to acknowledge Israel's occupation of Palestine as the source of the violence and embed an acknowledgement of Israel's apartheid, occupation and genocide in all communications regarding this matter' from the commission.

This is why Peter Wertheim from the ECAJ has said, 'Sadly, the Jewish community cannot have confidence in an inquiry to be conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission.' He continued:

The AHRC's record of public statements and action in the face of the unprecedented surge of antisemitism that has occurred in Australia, especially since 7 October 2023, has been conspicuously deficient. The recent record of some of the people associated with the Commission has also featured a shocking level of bias.

Yesterday the Prime Minister had fine words to say about the need to deal with antisemitism—words that I hope every member of this House could support. He said, 'There is no place for antisemitism in our communities, at our universities or outside electorate offices. No-one should be targeted for who they are. The targeting of people because they are Jewish is completely unacceptable.' Today, this is the opportunity for all members to give effect to his words by supporting this urgency motion and supporting passage of this bill.

At their best, universities are life-changing places where people get an education and improve their opportunities in life. It's where the next generation of leaders is formed. That's why it's so important antisemitism doesn't take hold. It's why it's so important students are taught about the evils of antisemitism, that it's important to always reject antisemitism however it manifests and that it's not okay to be a bystander. If we're not teaching this to the next generation, then we're setting ourselves up for a society based on conspiracy, not fact, on 'othering', not personal responsibility, and on social discord, not social harmony. What happens on campus today sets the tone for the Australia of tomorrow.

As the Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly said, this is a time for moral courage and moral clarity. We cannot have a situation in this country where Jewish staff and students are being given a message on campus that says, 'You are not welcome here.' It is time that this parliament said, 'Enough.' It is time to support this motion and bring this bill on for debate, and establish a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus, to deal properly with a problem that was festering since before 7 October and has got manifestly worse since that time. I commend this motion to all members of the House.

Milton Dick

Is the motion seconded?

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 9:31 AM on 2024-06-06
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 69
Total number of "no" votes: 58
Total number of abstentions: 24

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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