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AGAINST – Motions — Middle East

Tim Watts

I move:

That this House endorses the Government's position to support the recognition of the State of Palestine as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace.

The Australian government makes foreign policy for our nation. The Australian government recognises states. But I move this motion today on behalf of the Australian government because the Greens and others are deliberately misleading the Australian public about the government's position on recognising a Palestinian state. The Albanese government has been clear that we will recognise Palestine as part of a peace process in support of a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace. We want to see a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. No Australian government has ever expressed such strong support for a Palestinian state. This is reflected in what we tried to put to the Senate last week. We are doing more than just lecturing and condemning people; we are working with countries around the world that want a just and enduring peace in the region.

In the recent vote at the UN General Assembly, 143 countries, including Australia, expressed an aspiration for Palestinian membership of the UN. Australia and a number of other countries, including, Germany, the UK and Canada, have shifted our position so that recognition of a Palestinian state is no longer seen as being the end point of negotiations. To help realise a Palestinian state, we have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to look at what role Australia can play in supporting reform of the Palestinian Authority so that it can deliver on the needs of the Palestinian people.

The conflict in the Middle East has spanned our entire lifetime. The fact is that the Albanese government is working with the international community to create momentum for a lasting peace in the form of a two-state solution—a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. The foreign minister has been clear in what we want to see in progressing a two-state solution and recognition of a Palestinian state. Firstly, we see no role for Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist organisation. Secondly, a Palestinian state cannot be in a position to threaten Israel's security. Thirdly, we want to see a reformed Palestinian governing authority that is committed to peace, that disavows violence and is ready to engage in a meaningful political process.

There needs to be serious progress on security and governance reforms and the final status of core issues such as Jerusalem, and the borders of a future Palestinian state should be determined through direct negotiations. But we emphasise that there is no long-term security for Israel unless it is recognised by the countries in its region. The normalisation agenda that was being pursued before October 7 cannot proceed without progress on a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia has said that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognised. We also know that recognising a Palestinian state undermines Hamas and undermines Iran—and Iran's other destructive proxies in the region. Peacemaking is hard. It requires real leadership by serious people. It requires those of us who are not central players in this conflict to support those who are in the hard work of progressing a two-state solution to this conflict. We know that this is the only way to break the cycle of violence.

I note that some members of the Greens are walking away from a two-state solution. Presumably, that is because some members of the Greens think that there should be no State of Israel, just as some in the opposition think there should be no state of Palestine. We even saw Senator Sharma, who should know better, hosting an event in Parliament House for extremists who are campaigning against a two-state solution. These fringe views in the Greens and the opposition condemn both Palestinians and Jews in the Middle East to endless war and suffering. They also seek to position Australia outside the international community that is building momentum on Palestinian recognition and a two-state solution. Presumably, this is why they joined together to reject Labor's amendment in the Senate recently. What matters in the region is the actions of governments, not political games in parliaments on the other side of the world.

While Australia is not a central player, we have a respected voice and we are using it to advocate for a ceasefire, for the protection of civilians, for increased humanitarian assistance and for the release of hostages. When I travel to the region and speak to representatives of countries that have influence in the region, they are completely oblivious to these political stunts. My counterparts in those countries don't raise Senate motions with me, let alone failed Senate motions. Instead, they welcome the constructive role that the Australian government has been playing since October 7.

Since the start of this conflict, I have used the Australian government's respected voice to make our case in Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. What the people I have met with in these countries care about are the substantive actions of our government. I can tell you that our actions are respected as constructive contributions to minimising the human suffering from this conflict and for promoting a peace process and a two-state solution. We are using our voice in international institutions and forums.

It is more than six months since Australia voted with 152 countries for a ceasefire at the United Nations. In May Australia supported expanded Palestinian rights to participate in UN forums and the General Assembly's aspiration for eventual Palestinian membership of the United Nations, consistent with a two-state solution. We have also joined with our partners to amplify our voice at prime ministerial level alongside Canada and New Zealand in December and February, alongside the UK defence and foreign ministers in March and alongside foreign ministers from the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and other partners in a letter to Foreign Minister Katz in May, opposing Israel's operation in Rafah. We have pushed for safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access and contributed to the international humanitarian response: committing $72.5 million to address urgent needs arising from the conflict in Gaza and the protracted refugee crisis; delivering ADF aerial delivery parachutes for use in humanitarian assistance airdrops by Jordan and the UAE; supporting the UN humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator's work on aid coordination and deconfliction in Gaza; and we have pressed the Netanyahu government directly, publicly and privately.

The foreign minister has written to her counterpart, including following the shocking and unacceptable strikes in Rafah. Australia's ambassador has made representations to senior Israeli officials on numerous occasions. Our senior officials have made representations to Israel's ambassador in Canberra. We have used our voices in dozens of engagements with foreign counterparts, including those with influence in the region. We have been consistent and clear in our call for international law and international humanitarian law to be upheld, including the protection of civilians.

We've been calling for restraint from the very start. We've been securing the passage of a parliamentary motion calling for the protection of civilian lives and observance of international law in October 2023. We've been clear in our respect and support for the independence of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. We will deny anyone identified as an extremist settler a visa to travel to Australia. This is what Labor governments achieve.

Since coming to office, and well before the current conflict started, the Albanese government has taken steps to support a two-state solution and a just and enduring peace. We have affirmed that settlements are illegal under international law and a significant obstacle to peace. We have adopted the language of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, consistent with the approach taken by key partners. We reversed the Morrison government's decision to recognise West Jerusalem as a capital of Israel, reaffirming Australia's longstanding and bipartisan position that Jerusalem is a final status issue to be resolved through negotiations.

We doubled the Australian government's core funding to UNRWA, from $10 million to $20 million, and we've called out unilateral actions that undermine the prospects of peace in a two-state solution, including terrorism, violence and incitement, settlement activity, settler violence, demolitions and displacement. We've done that because Labor governs for all Australians. We're a party of progress, not a party of protest. We listen to all Australians and we represent all Australians. We don't talk for some Australians; we don't simply represent some Australians. We represent everyone. We seek to bring Australians together in challenging times, not to divide them in pursuit of short-term political gain.

Our foreign policy begins with our identity, it begins with who we are. Australia is a country where half of us were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas. We're a diverse and pluralist society, a society where necessarily, understandably we will disagree, but we're a society, we're a nation where we will continue get along. We will need to live together, side-by-side, with people who have different views to us in our workplaces, in our sporting clubs, in our schools and in our communities. We need to be able to disagree respectfully and retain our cohesion as a nation. That takes leadership, and that's what this government is providing here, at home and in the region where this conflict is occurring.

In this motion I invite the chamber to join with the government in this effort, to join in providing the leadership that we need for peace building in the Middle East and for social cohesion here at home.

Paul Fletcher

On 7 October, 1,200 innocent men, women and children were murdered at the hands of the murderous terrorist organisation Hamas in Israel. Israel is the only multiparty democracy in the Middle East. It is a longstanding ally and security partner of Australia, and this country has consistently voted with a range of like-minded nations in the United Nations on a range of matters in relation to Israel, recognising the fundamental democratic values that the state of Israel embodies and recognising that it is very important to send a clear message to those who are supporting and encouraging murderous terrorist activities.

What we have seen from the government just now is a motion that has been moved with no notice to the opposition. The assistant minister has scuttled into this place to move this motion without bothering to give any notice to the side of the House, showing contempt for the millions of people who are represented by those of us on this side of the House on a matter of such extraordinary sensitivity in our community, at a time when there is, across our community and across our nation, a significant component of our population that feels unsafe. What we have seen is a conspicuous failure of leadership by this weak Prime Minister and by this weak government, and we have seen that consistent pattern repeated by the assistant minister. If this was something they were proud of, they would have notified the opposition, but they have not bothered to do that. You have to ask, 'What is going on here?'

What is going on here, very clearly, is a government that has abandoned longstanding principles on the basis of short-term political considerations. I say to the government, to every member of this House and to every Australian: if we have just seen a murderous terrorist attack with 1,200 innocent men, women and children killed and some 200 people taken hostage, some of whom are still kept in the tunnels under Gaza, all of us want to see a secure and lasting peace, and the way that peace is to be achieved is in the hands of the murderous terrorist thugs who control Gaza. It is in the hands of the murderous terrorist organisation Hamas. What we have just seen from this government, from this weak Prime Minister, is a decision to reward terrorism and to reward terrorists. That is what we have just seen from this weak government and this weak prime minister.

Milton Dick

Order! The Manager of Opposition Business will pause. The Assistant Minister for Financial Services?

Stephen Jones

I ask that the member withdraw.

Milton Dick

There is far too much noise for me to hear what the Manager of Opposition Business was saying, so I am going to ask him to assist the House and withdraw so the debate can continue.

Paul Fletcher

I withdraw. I make the point that when a nation of Australia's standing makes a decision as to what we do globally, it sends a signal, and the signal that this government is sending and the signal that this House of Representatives is being asked to endorse is that we are rewarding terrorism, we are rewarding the lawless, murderous, terrorist organisation Hamas. This is what this government is proposing, and this side of the House believes that should be acknowledged.

Honourable members interjecting—

Milton Dick

Order! Members on my right, I want this debate to be done respectfully. People are interjecting outside of their seats. If you want to interject, you may return to your seat. Do not interject if you are not in your seat. If you do so, you will not be here for the vote. I give the call to the Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 5:58 PM on 2024-07-03
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 81
Total number of "no" votes: 55
Total number of abstentions: 15

Adapted from information made available by

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