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AGAINST – Motions — Middle East

Adam Bandt

I seek leave to move the following motion:

That this House recognise the State of Palestine.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the member for Melbourne moving the following motion:

That this House recognise the State of Palestine.

Recognition of Palestine is long overdue; 143 countries have already done it. Three more—Norway, Spain and Ireland—joined overnight, and today Australia must stand with them in recognising the State of Palestine. This is not just a symbolic move; it is a critical step towards peace and towards ending the slaughter that we are seeing with the invasion of Gaza right now. It is a concrete step towards peace and, as the Prime Minister of Norway said last week, 'There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.'

It is critical that we debate this now, just as other countries have interrupted what they were doing to recognise Palestine now, because the scale and of the slaughter and the genocide that we are witnessing is now topping 36,000 people—36,000 civilians who have been slaughtered. A health system has been destroyed. There are mass graves in hospitals, aid has been blocked and children are now dying because they do not have enough to eat or drink. We are seeing, right now, human-engineered famine that is taking a toll on a civilian population that amounts to collective punishment of these people. And it is time for countries, including Australia, to step in and do something. Just as other countries have made it a priority to recognise the State of Palestine, so should this government today, right now, by backing this motion.

The Greens know that recognition alone won't stop the invasion or end the occupation. We want to see the government take some real, concrete steps to put pressure on this extreme war cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu that is subject to orders to stop genocide. We want to see an end to the two-way trade, the military trade, with Israel. We want to see sanctions imposed on this extreme war cabinet and we want to see the ambassador expelled until this slaughter ends.

Even if you disagree with all of those measures and are unwilling to take those steps to bring about some practical pressure on this extreme war cabinet of Benjamin Netanyahu, you can still support this motion because this motion says very simply, 'This House will recognise the State of Palestine,' and join the majority of other countries around the world that do the same. Labor promised people before the election that it would do this. Labor promised people that it would do the exact words in this motion. So now at stake is also something that needs to be resolved today, namely: whether, when it comes to the push for peace, people can believe that Labor will do what they say.

I notice in the last couple of days that Labor has said that they support a two-state solution. You can't support a two-state solution if you recognise only one side of it. What is becoming crystal clear is that Labor's words are just a fig leaf for saying that something might happen in the future while they back now the destruction of the conditions that would allow a Palestinian state to survive and thrive. Labor's empty words are a hope that something might be done in the future, while Labor backs to the hilt a genocidal war that is destroying the possibility of a state of Palestine. Instead what has happened, despite them taking to the election a promise to say that they would recognise Palestine, Labor has stood with the extreme Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu, together with its ministers, who've dehumanised the Palestinians and called for the erasure of their territory.

Labor has stood by as settlements have been built, with over 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, in what is meant to be Palestinian territory and part of a Palestinian state. Labor has stood by as checkpoints have been built and roads that Palestinians aren't able to use have been constructed that divide their country into Bandustans, where they are unable to exercise effective self-government. Meanwhile, Labor has backed the invasion in Gaza that has seen a health system destroyed, a human engineered famine and the majority of people's homes in that region be razed to the ground. Labor has backed every single step that has been taken by this extreme Netanyahu government to destroy the conditions of a two-state solution. I say to Labor here, now, 'This is urgent, because if you really believe what you are saying about recognising the State of Palestine, then you would stop backing the invasion, you would recognise Palestine now and you would take steps against this extreme Israeli government that is conducting a genocide, instead of backing them to the hilt.'

Recognition—what this motion is about is recognition and recognition only. This isn't just a political question; it is a deeply moral question as well, because the people of Palestine have endured displacement and suffering for far too long. This motion is about saying, 'The values that we hold dear, the right to live in freedom and exercise self-determination and to wake up every day thinking about how am I going to make my life better rather than how am I going to avoid another bomb that is going to fall on me.' Those simple values about wanting to live in peace and security. This is about saying those values should be enjoyed equally by everyone around the world. Those values of peace and security and self-determination should be enjoyed equally by Palestinians and Israelis alike. This is about saying, as a matter of morality, 'We will not stand by as others' rights to self-determination and to live in peace and security and freedom are destroyed.'

There will come a time when people look back at this horrific invasion and ask, 'How did we let it happen?' And when they do, they will look at what was said in this chamber, they will look at how every member of this chamber voted and they will look at the actions that took place. There will be no hiding. The history books will not lie. At the moment, what they will see is every Labor and Liberal member voting together to support the invasion, against the calls of the United Nations and humanitarian groups around the world. They will see Labor and Liberal continuing to say that this is about Israel's right to defend itself, when everyone is saying those actions have now exceeded and gone far beyond that and are amounting to collective punishment of civilians. They will see Labor defunding UNWRA—critical funding to Palestinians—right when it was needed most, and they will see Labor doing little more than offering stern words, even after Israel's military attacked Rafah, having been ordered by the International Court of Justice not to.

Even after the International Court of Justice said, 'Don't invade Rafah,' all that Labor can do is offer hand-wringing tweets, continue the trade with Israel and continue to act as if nothing happened. Well, genocide and war crimes happen when the perpetrators think there are going to be no consequences, when they think governments around the world will stand by, do nothing and continue to actively back their invasion. Hand-wringing tweets from this government are no longer good enough. It is time for the government to take action, and it can start by recognising the state of Palestine.

The best time to have stopped this horrific invasion was eight months ago, but the next best time is now. There is a reason other countries around the world, right now, today, are shifting their positions to recognise the state of Palestine. Australia should join them. Labor promised at the election that they would do that and, if they believe even a 10th of what they say, they should vote for this motion so that this House, today, recognises the state of Palestine.

Max Chandler-Mather

At the very least, this government should recognise the state of Palestine. Really, the question is: what is the red line for Labor when it comes to Israel's genocide in Gaza? How many kids does Israel have to burn alive before Labor will literally take any action against Israel? What will it take for it to stop giving public money to Israeli weapons companies? What will it take for it to stop sending arms and ammunition to Israel?

To get the human consequences of this action, here's just one moment from the Rafah massacre, as quoted in CNN:

A video filmed for CNN in the hospital courtyard shows several body bags laid on the ground with dozens of anguished people including men, women and children crowded around their late loved ones.

People are seen crouching over the body bags, with some caressing their loved one's lifeless bodies. At least one baby's head can be seen sticking out of a bag, as the woman beside it shouts: "My whole family has perished."

…   …   …

Lifting the baby boy's body to the camera, Mahmoud Abu Taha cries out, "this is who they are targeting. This is their objective. This is the generation they're looking for. This is the safe Rafah they talk about."

…   …   …

Another eyewitness says a five-day-old boy named Ghaith Abu Rayya was killed in the airstrike. The footage shows him opening a small body bag to reveal the infant's head, saying his body has been dismembered.

"We are all alone. Nobody cares about us," he cries.

He is seen opening another body bag next to Ghaith's, sobbing, and saying, "my beloved Ramy," who he says is Ghaith's 33-year-old father.

This is just one moment for the 35,000 people—Palestinians—that have been murdered in Palestine by the Israeli government.

But what's most remarkable about the reactions from members on either side in this House is the lack of responsibility. In response to the speech of the member for Melbourne, the Leader of the Australian Greens, we sat here and heard: 'Oh, no. The government doesn't back the invasion of Gaza. No. No. We don't do any of that.' Well, take some responsibility. You are the government. You signed a $917 million weapons contract with Elbit Systems in February this year. The CEO of Elbit Systems, the blacklisted Israeli weapons company, has said recently, 'We have seen increased interest in our weapons recently because they're in operational use in Gaza'—as in killing Palestinians.

In February this year, you allowed for $1.5 million worth of arms and ammunition to be sent to Israel. And you say, 'Oh, no. That didn't happen'! It's from the government's own data. There are other country that can expel ambassadors when countries engage in genocide, but, no, there's nothing here. Those are actions that this government could take. You could recognise the state of Palestine, and you sit here and pretend that you have no power. Let's be real about this: every time Israel massacre civilians and burn children alive, they look around the world and wait for the consequences—and none come from governments like Australia. That's why they know they can get away with it.

As the member for Melbourne said, history will remember people in this place and what they did. They'll ask, 'What did you do when there was a massacre and a genocide going on in Gaza, when mothers and fathers held the lifeless bodies of their children in their hands who had starved to death because they had run out of energy to breathe as a result of Israel's engineered famine?' They'll ask: 'What did you do? What did you do in this place?' It's remarkable—I'm sure we're going to hear some members in this place get up after this and talk about social cohesion, and they're going to say words like, 'We want to oppose the invasion of Rafah.' Well, sending weapons to Israel, sending money—

Tim Watts

That's a lie!

Max Chandler-Mather

A lie! Here we go; a Labor member in this place says it's a lie. Go to your own government's website. What is the $1.5 million to Israel in arms ammunition? This is the most remarkable thing. At the very least, stand up and take responsibility. At the very least, stand up and take responsibility for the death and destruction that you are complicit in.

Milton Dick

Order! The member for Griffith will cease using the word 'you'. I am not part of this debate. You shall direct your remarks through the chair under the standing orders.

Max Chandler-Mather

Thank you, Speaker—members of this place who are from the Labor Party, who are complicit in this genocide in Gaza. It is genuinely remarkable. There is more passion in this place from members of the Labor Party about defending their own reputation than there is in this place about the murder of 35,000 Palestinians. Let's be real about this. You know what's affecting social cohesion? An Australian government sending arms and weapons and ammunition, and trading in arms with a country carrying out a genocide that sees people starved to death, lose the energy to breathe and burnt alive, and mothers and fathers losing their children.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 9:31 AM on 2024-05-29
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 5
Total number of "no" votes: 80
Total number of abstentions: 66

Adapted from information made available by

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