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AGAINST – Business — Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders

Julian Leeser

I move:

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

(1) private Members' business order of the day No. 22 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;

(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.

Standing orders must be suspended in order to urgently consider the private member's bill to establish a judicial inquiry into antisemitism at Australian universities. The Prime Minister must stop his attempts to shut down debate on this issue of antisemitism, as the government has done repeatedly and as recently as this morning, with coalition attempts to condemn the desecration of our sacred war memorials that were daubed with anti-Semitic slogans. This is the third time I have sought to bring on debate on this bill. It's been a week since the last time I sought to have the House consider this bill and almost a month since I first introduced it. That is long enough for the Prime Minister have thought about it and considered it. It's time he acted and allowed debate on this issue.

Semester 2 is now less than a month away. The antisemitism which has been rife on campus for years before 7 October and has only escalated since that time cannot be allowed to continue. Since I first introduced this bill to the House, antisemitism in Australian universities has become worse. Just last week, I met with Jewish university staff and Jewish university students who implored me to continue this fight. Every day, non-Jewish university administrators, academics and even university council members contact me and tell me to keep going with this bill, and we have to keep going. We have Jewish academics leaving the sector. We have Jewish students leaving their courses. These aren't isolated incidents, and they're not without precedent. We know that what happens on campus today affects the culture of Australia tomorrow.

I think one of the worst things we have seen is the University of Sydney's appeasement of the extremist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. This should ring alarm bells for the Prime Minister, for the defence minister, for the education minister, for the Attorney-General and, indeed, for every member of this House. Australian universities will play a critical role in delivering AUKUS. At a time when we need our best and brightest minds to develop the research capabilities Australia needs for our defence and security alliances, Sydney university has forfeited its right to participate. Sydney university's capitulation to extremist groups is so alarming. The idea that groups linked to Hizb ut-Tahrir will now have a seat at the table, running the ruler over Sydney university's defence contracts, beggars belief.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is a group that has been listed as a terrorist organisation in the United Kingdom and in Germany and banned in many Muslim countries. In doing deals like this, Australian universities are risking our security and our international relationships. Sydney university's actions have been condemned by a coalition of Jewish groups, including the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australian Academic Alliance Against Antisemitism and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. In a joint letter to Sydney university, the Jewish group said:

Based on our interactions to date, we have lost confidence in the capacity of the University to provide for the physical, cultural and psycho-social safety of Jewish students and staff members. This is not just our view. We have been made aware that several academic staff, some of them leaders in their fields and employees of long standing, have already notified the University of their decision to leave the institution. We have also been informed that a number of Jewish students are now considering shifting to other Universities.

We have also rejected the University's offer, extended to us after an agreement had been reached behind our backs, to participate in the proposed process to review the University's investment and research activities. The process is in our view a sham and we will have nothing to do with it. We encourage all individuals and groups of standing likewise not to engage with or lend credibility to such a fundamentally flawed process.

We continue to explore all options to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff at the University of Sydney and stand ready to provide support and assistance to Jewish students and staff at the University, as well as those who now wish to leave the University.

The bullying behaviour of Hizb ut-Tahrir and the encampments is all part of a broader movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel—an antisemitic movement that seeks to judge and treat Israel by different standards than any other nation. A movement that had died in Australia that has been given new life by the inaction of vice-chancellors, and now it's spreading to other areas of Australian society because of that inaction.

With council elections only weeks away, Sydney city council and Sydney's lord mayor, Clover Moore, are looking for relevance. Instead of focusing on delivering the services a council is responsible for, the lord mayor has embarked on a foray into foreign policy, with a BDS campaign against Israel. The lord mayor has looked at Sydney university's weakness and capitulation to extremist organisations. She's looked to Canberra and seen the complete lack of leadership coming from this government. Now, empowered, she too can join the antisemitic BDS crusade.

The apathy towards antisemitism in Australia is startling, and it's having a damaging impact right across our country. Last weekend, not far from here, memorials dedicated to honouring the lives and service of Australians at war were vandalised with antisemitic slogans like 'from the river to the sea'. If you fail to address this issue in hotbeds like universities, the consequences in other areas of our society are inevitable. A judicial inquiry is the only way we can get to the bottom of the scourge of antisemitism infecting our universities. It's the only way witnesses will feel safe enough to divulge their experiences, free from retribution. It's the only way that university chancellors and vice-chancellors will be cross-examined and held to account for their failure to act at universities. It's the only way we will receive findings and recommendations to deal with an issue that's been plaguing the sector for years.

Rather than having a standalone judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus, the government's current policy is to have a general antiracism inquiry conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Australia's Jewish community has no confidence in the Australian Human Rights Commission, with antisemitism rife among its staff, and its commissioners turning a blind eye to the antisemitism infecting our country. This House should have no confidence in the Human Rights Commission. An organisation riddled with an apparent disregard for the human rights of Jewish Australians is no place for an inquiry of this kind.

It is interesting to me that the only commissioner of the Human Rights Commission that has made any speech condemning antisemitism since 7 October is Lorraine Finlay, the one commissioner whose appointment was repeatedly attacked by this Attorney-General, while his hand-picked Race Discrimination Commissioner cannot bring himself to admit that 'from the river to the sea' is a violent phrase. Where is the Attorney-General, the minister responsible for the benighted organisation which is the Australian Human Rights Commission? He's said practically nothing about the rampant antisemitism on our campuses or the systemic racism against Jews which exists at the Human Rights Commission.

Enough is enough. Antisemitism on our campuses is out of control, and we are now only weeks away from the resumption of classes for semester two. That's why standing orders need to be suspended so that this House can consider the bill so that all members of this House will have the opportunity to stand with Australia's Jewish community and stand against antisemitism on campus.

We know universities are ground zero for antisemitism and we are now seeing it filter into other aspects of life. We have seen it in the horrific terrorist attacks on the offices of members of parliament, in particular the member for Macnamara's electorate office. We are seeing a situation across the board where MPs and their staff are unsafe in their offices. This is not normal. This is not okay. This complete breakdown of law and order seems to be accepted by some, encouraged as it is even by some members of this House, especially the Australian Greens.

I ask the Prime Minister and all those opposite: What will it take? What else needs to happen for them to be convinced that antisemitism in Australian universities is rife and has the potential for devastating consequences? What will it take to convince them that antisemitism in Australian universities deserves a proper inquiry conducted by an independent jurist rather than the kangaroo court that is the Human Rights Commission? I also ask those opposite: do they want to be the ones regretting not having taken a stand when they could have?

This is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to show leadership and send a message to Australia's Jewish community that he's actually serious about dealing with antisemitism in the way that the Jewish community has demanded: with a standalone judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus.

Throughout last year, the Prime Minister repeatedly quoted the Jewish sage Hillel when he said the words: 'If not us, then who? If not now, then when?' Let me ask the Prime Minister the same question about the judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus: if not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Sharon Claydon

Is the motion seconded?

Andrew Wallace

I second the motion. There was a recent university survey done by the Social Research Centre that showed 64 per cent of Australian Jewish university students have experienced antisemitism at university—64 per cent. Over half of all Jewish students, 57 per cent, have hidden their identity at university to avoid antisemitism. Three-quarters, 76 per cent, of Jewish students would be more confident about making complaints if their university adopted a definition of what antisemitism is.

We have seen some of the most grotesque actions by those who would seek to bring the Jewish community down, not just in Australia but across the world. In particular, the ground zero of where we've seen it is at these so-called place of enlightenment. We've seen it at these so-called places of enlightenment not just in Australia but across the world, the Western world.

But let's just concentrate on Australia where we, in this place, can make a difference. The member for Berowra has moved this motion on three occasions, and, on each occasion, the government has effectively gagged this motion. I say that is atrocious. That is appalling. This is an opportunity for the government to show leadership. This is an opportunity for the government to demonstrate that it supports the more than 100,000 Jews living in Australia.

I was at a function in Sydney a couple of weekends ago and I met a young gentleman in his early 30s. I didn't know him from a bar of soap. He came up to me, he hugged me and he said his name. He said, 'I just want you to know: thank you for what you're doing in relation to Israel.' He started to tell me about how his grandparents were survivors of the Holocaust. He said, 'I just want you to know this is the first time in my life where, as a Jew, I have felt unsafe in Australia.' He told me, 'I am seriously, seriously considering moving my family to Israel.' This guy was very intelligent. He was telling me that he is thinking about moving to Israel. I had another gentleman, who is a principal of a school, speak to me. Guess what? He has probably already moved now. He was telling me that he and his wife are moving back to Israel because they felt safer living in Israel—in a war zone—than living in Australia.

How could we have got this so wrong? In our universities, the places of so-called enlightenment, people like Mark Scott, vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, are saying, 'This is a matter of free speech.' How could we have got this so wrong? It reminds me of the Greens saying, 'Well, it's okay to deface our war memorials because that's a matter of free speech.' What is happening to this country?

Last night I spoke about how the far left are now so aggressively hating on the Jewish community and the far right are so aggressively—and have been for many years—hating on the Jewish community. We've got the far left and the far right coming up around the back and meeting. We are losing our way in this country, and we are losing our way because of the lack of leadership in this country. This country needs a leader who will stand up and say: 'Enough is enough. This is unacceptable.' Jews, no matter where they are—whether they're at university, at work, at schools or on the playgrounds—have just as much right to an education and to live life as every other Australian.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 4:42 PM on 2024-07-03
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 73
Total number of "no" votes: 65
Total number of abstentions: 13

Adapted from information made available by

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