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AGAINST – Motions — Middle East

Paul Fletcher

I seek leave to move the following motion forthwith:

In noting the agreement of the House to the motion moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier today, the House is of the opinion that recognition must only take place once the following preconditions have been met:

(a) recognition by Palestinian representatives and the Palestinian Authority of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state;

(b) that there is no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state;

(c) reform of the Palestinian authority is achieved, including major security and governance reforms;

(d) agreed processes to resolve final status issues including agreed state borders and rights of return; and

(e) appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security within recognised borders.

Milton Dick

Is leave granted?

Patrick Gorman

The parliament has dealt with this matter. Leave is not granted.

Paul Fletcher

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Bradfield from moving the following motion forthwith:

In noting the agreement of the House to the motion moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier today, the House is of the opinion that recognition must only take place once the following preconditions have been met:

(a) recognition by Palestinian representatives and the Palestinian Authority of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state;

(b) that there is no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state;

(c) reform of the Palestinian authority is achieved, including major security and governance reforms;

(d) agreed processes to resolve final status issues including agreed state borders and rights of return; and

(e) appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security within recognised borders.

Mr Speaker, the reason that standing orders must be suspended to allow this motion to be dealt with immediately is as a consequence of the motion that was just moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, because it is very important to establish the appropriate conditions that would need to be met before the state of Palestine should be recognised. Now, you may ask why the opposition feels it's necessary to move this now rather than, as an alternative, engaging with the government in a constructive way in relation to a motion that it proposes to move and nominating the conditions that we consider would be necessary before the motion could be supported. If you were to ask that, I would certainly agree that that would have been a sensible process to engage in and the opposition would certainly have been ready to engage in such a negotiation and discussion process on the merits.

Unfortunately, and for reasons which it must be said are, frankly, mystifying, the government did not attempt to engage in any way with the opposition in relation to the terms of the motion that the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs came into this place to move. There was no attempt to engage in advance on the terms of that motion and no attempt to arrive at what would have been a highly desirable state of affairs, where there was agreement reached across as many members of this parliament as possible on a matter which is undoubtedly one that is provoking great anxiety within the Australian community and which has been the source of much contention and ill feeling. It is a great shame that the government did not seek in any way to engage with the opposition on this matter and seek to arrive at a position which could have been mutually supported, and such an outcome would have been highly desirable in terms of maintaining social harmony and cohesion in our nation, which, of course, is one of the world's most successful multicultural, multiracial, multi-ethnic, multireligious nations. That success is something in which we can all take pride, but it is a success that is not achieved without being continually worked at—worked at, it must be said, by both major parties of government. It is, I think, quite regrettable that the government has conducted itself in the way that it has in relation to the motion that has been moved. It has missed an opportunity to arrive at an aligned position. I can't be confident that an aligned position could have, ultimately, been reached. I can't be confident of that, but what I can be confident of is that if the government makes zero attempt on a matter of such sensitivity and such importance to engage with the opposition in relation to whether an aligned position can be arrived at, that is no way to be conducting itself at a time when these issues are of enormous sensitivity within our community. I think this has been a deeply regrettable missed opportunity.

The opposition believes it is very important that this House should have the opportunity to state very clearly what we believe needs to be satisfied in terms of preconditions in advance of any recognition of a Palestinian state occurring. We believe that's important from first principles, and if I can reference the eloquent remarks from the member for Berowra earlier today, we believe that becomes only more important given the reality that this position, which the government is proposing will be taken by Australia internationally, is a position being taken after the appalling terrorist attacks of October 7, which saw some 1,200 innocent men, women and children killed, and some 200 people dragged away as hostages, some of whom, sadly, subsequently have died and others of whom remain imprisoned in the tunnels under the Gaza Strip. It is impossible to be discussing this issue without a recognition of the events which have preceded it. It is, therefore, deeply regrettable that the government made no attempt to engage with the opposition in relation to the basis on which a motion of this nature could—at least potentially—have obtained the support of both of the major parties of government.

I direct the House to the terms of the procedural motion which the government moved, establishing the terms under which the debate on the motion moved by the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs was held, because those terms did not admit of amendments. They did not allow for a process in which this House could have worked towards a form of a motion which—again, at least potentially, as I cannot say with certainty—had the scope for receiving the support of both major parties of government. I won't speak for anybody else in this parliament, but what is clear is that the way the government conducted itself from the outset was evidently done in a way that showed no appetite for reaching agreement between the two major parties of government on this matter—which is, of course, enormously important when it comes to the position that Australia as a nation takes in international forums. It's also enormously important in terms of the leadership which this parliament is able to demonstrate to the broader community at a time when we have seen troubling instances of social disharmony arising out of different perspectives as to what is occurring in the Middle East. It is a time when we have seen—as this parliament has rightly condemned—the appalling spectacle of war memorials being vandalised, showing remarkable, extraordinary disrespect to all of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation over more than 100 years. It's at a time when we have seen events occurring on university campuses which mean, sadly, that Jewish students have indicated that they do not feel safe, and other students have expressed concern that their lectures have been interrupted by political activists seeking to press them to take a particular position on the events in the Middle East. We of course saw the extremely troubling events on the forecourt of the Opera House only a few short days after the 7 October terrorist attack, when we saw people saying terrible things about the Jewish people. We saw a real sense of breakdown in public order and troubling instances of Jewish Australians being advised by the police not to be out in public.

These are enormously important issues; this is urgent, and so therefore I moved the motion which I have just articulated.

Milton Dick

Is the motion seconded?

Julian Leeser

I second the motion. In fact, I think there has probably not been a more important suspension of standing orders motion that I have spoken on than this one. It is so important that we immediately correct what has gone on in the House with the previous motion. What we have now is a very untidy circumstance, where we have one motion that has been passed in this House that recognises a Palestinian state without conditions, and we have another motion that was passed in the Senate which reflects the work of my friend the Manager of Opposition Business in adding these amendments. I would jealously defend the rights of this House, but we need to think about who is putting this motion together in the Senate.

The Leader of the Government in the Senate is the foreign minister. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is the shadow foreign minister. Together, they worked on this motion and put together a series of conditions which reflect, more or less, a traditional Australian foreign policy position on Israel-Palestine. Without these conditions we're seeing what I spoke about in the previous debate, which is a growing gulf between the government and the opposition in relation to Israel and in relation to the Jewish community. As a Jewish Australian I decry that.

I would like to see a bipartisan position in relation to Israel and Palestine. The position that we on this side of the House have held on these issues has reflected the longstanding tradition of bipartisanship on these issues. Fundamentally, that is that you can't have a Palestinian state without Palestinians recognising Israel's right to exist, and that is the first condition that's in this motion put forward by my friend the Manager of Opposition Business. This motion clarifies that there should be no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state. This motion also acknowledges the realities on the ground; people might like the idea of a Palestinian state, but we have a Palestinian authority in the West Bank that has not had an election for decades. And we know that if an election were held there, Hamas would win that election, so we would have the same issues there. The basic conditions of a stable state are not able to be met, and that's why it's important that we have points in the amendment that relate to the reform of the Palestinian Authority being achieved, including major security and governance reforms. It's important that we have agreed processes to resolve final status issues, including state borders and rights of return; these should be spelled out as a clear condition of Australian foreign policy. And there should be appropriate security guarantees between parties to ensure peace and security between recognised borders.

This very same motion, the motion put forward by my friend the Manager of Opposition Business, was put forward only last Tuesday in the Senate. It beggars belief that the foreign minister's own assistant minister didn't come to the House, if they wanted to move this motion, and have as the starting point the same motion that was handed out in the Senate. This speaks to me of a motion that was dreamed up on the back of an envelope five minutes before the assistant minister came into the House. I think on an issue of such sensitivity, that is a great shame.

I think that the tensions in the community at this point on these issues are completely unprecedented. The antisemitism that I have seen and, indeed, the failure of people in authority to do anything about antisemitism have created a massive sense of abandonment among Jewish Australians. I have to say that I have been very disappointed this government hasn't taken up the offer of a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campuses. There's also no evidence that this government has provided any directions to the Australian Federal Police to take a tougher line on antisemitism. There was lots of talk about doxxing laws as a result of the doxxing of Jewish artists and creatives. We've seen nothing on that. There has been lots of talk from this government about an envoy on antisemitism. Again, months have passed, and we've seen nothing. There's been talk about strengthening laws, and, again and again, we've seen nothing. We just get motions and empty words.

I think the motion that was just passed, without these clear conditions, undermines social cohesion in this country. It undermines an attempt to get bipartisanship on this issue, and that's why I say to those opposite that it is actually worthwhile thinking about supporting this motion—if nothing else, to bring the House into line with the Senate, the place where the two principal spokespeople for foreign policy for the government and the opposition sat and hammered out these words only a week ago.

Patrick Gorman

I move:

That the debate be adjourned.

Milton Dick

The question is that the debate be adjourned.

Summary

Date and time: 6:25 PM on 2024-07-03
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 74
Total number of "no" votes: 60
Total number of abstentions: 17

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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