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FOR – Matters of Urgency — Israel

Catryna Bilyk

I inform the Senate that the President has received the following letter, dated 7 November 2023, from Senator McKim:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I give notice that today the Australian Greens propose to move "That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

"To support peace for Palestinians and Israelis, and due to the approximately 10,000 Palestinian deaths and over 1400 Israeli deaths, the Australian Government call for an immediate ceasefire to end the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Gaza, for the unconditional release of all hostages and for an urgent end to the siege on Gaza."

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

With the concurrence of the Senate, the clerks will set the clock in line with the informal arrangements made by the whips.

Jordon Steele-John

I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

"To support peace for Palestinians and Israelis, and due to the approximately 10,000 Palestinian deaths and over 1400 Israeli deaths, the Australian Government call for an immediate ceasefire to end the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Gaza, for the unconditional release of all hostages and for an urgent end to the siege on Gaza.

I want to use my time in the Senate today to share some stories from life in Gaza today. Firstly is a story from Fidaa, a mum in Gaza:

Today is my daughter's 12th birthday, and to be honest I was glad that she felt excited, she had been counting down to it since the beginning of this month.

But last night she was like, "you know what I wish for my birthday? I just wish that it won't be my death day. I wish I won't be targeted by a rocket and the people won't have to say 'wow, she was killed the same day that she was born.'"

Then this from Hoor, again, a 15-year-old living in Gaza right now—a 15-year-old girl who has survived four wars: 'I'm not sure that I will do the same during this fifth terrible war. It is completely different; death accompanies people in Gaza every single second. I'm not sure that I can finish my statement before an Israeli rocket splits me into pieces.' Both of these stories come directly to us from Oxfam in Gaza.

And Save the Children provided the story of a worker, whose name has been removed from this speech just to safeguard their identity.

They are a father of four, currently sheltering in a facility with 20,000 others. He talks, in his communication with us, about what it means to be a displaced person in Gaza, what it means to be one of the hundreds of thousands of people forcibly displaced by the Israeli carpet bombing and ground invasion.

He says: 'Displacement means that there is no mattress or pillow. Your mattress is the floor or your car and a your cover is a sheet that has been found in a warehouse where it has sat for years. Displacement means there is no clean water to drink. You may have to, if you find it, drink contaminated water full of diseases. Displacement means that there is no cooked food—no food at all, except a few boxes of cheese which smell rank from the heat. Displacement means that there is a loaf of bread to split into two or possibly into four. Whatever it is, it is never enough. The important thing that you count is that you have managed to eat. This is considered a great achievement.

Displacement means that you look up to the sky 30 times every minute, imagining a new massacre will happen to you and the latest breaking news will be about you and your family. Displacement means you will always hear bombing around you. You will see it, but you will never know where it is coming from. Displacement means that there is no electricity, except by chance or luck. There is no mobile phone battery, there are no phone calls or messages, there is no internet and there is no communication with the world. You may die, and no-one in your family will know that you have died. Displacement means oppression, anxiety, tension, hunger, sweat, distress, disillusion, sadness, darkness, anticipation, fear for the children, fear for the family, fear for the friends and fear for the future.'

It is from stories like this, human stories representing the millions attempting to survive right now in Gaza, that the Australian community draws its courage to confront its government which daily fails to call for an end to this slaughter, to the carpet bombing, to the siege and to the collective punishment of 2.2 million people. Shame on the government for not rising and drawing that same courage to join with them. (Time expired)

Simon Birmingham

Today, 7 November, marks precisely one month since the 7 October attacks by Hamas, one month since the horrors of Hamas's attacks upon innocents—innocent lives lost on that deadly day and, of course, tragic innocent lives lost in the time since. There should be no forgetting the horrors that occurred on 7 October: the targeting, deliberately, of civilians by Hamas—babies, children and the elderly—and the barbaric nature of those attacks, with the beheadings, rapes and torture that was undertaken. We should, today, one month on, mourn all of the innocent lives lost—those taken by Hamas through those attacks of 7 October and those lives that have been lost in the subsequent war, a war where Hamas has acted in the most cowardly of ways, hiding behind civilians and civilian infrastructure and therefore ensuring the greater loss of innocent lives.

Hamas rocket launchers have been found in mosques, in scout halls and next to kindergartens or schools or UN offices.

This is the brutality and the barbarity that the world confronts: an organisation not just intent on attacking and taking the lives of those whose existence they oppose—Israeli people and Jews—but happy to put the people they pretend to represent in harm's way—namely, Palestinian residents within Gaza.

We should remember those still held hostage, 240 innocent people who have been living a hellish existence and whose families continue to be put through hell. Of course, we should remember all impacted by the dislocation of peoples, especially within Gaza, the humanitarian situation and the challenges that that presents for so many and the loss of life that creates, along with those dislocated in other parts of Israel. As in all wars, the loss of innocent lives is a tragedy, be they Palestinian lives, Israeli lives or any other lives. Everyone would wish to live in a world without war, but, sadly, we have to live in the real world—one where you have to deal with its horrors, not simply wish them away. Hamas is one of those horrors that Israel must deal with and that the world must deal with.

This motion from the Greens does two things of note. It calls for a ceasefire, but it totally ignores Hamas. It is reckless, misleading and one-sided. What would the best way to a ceasefire be? It would be for Hamas to surrender its arms, its infrastructure, its military capabilities and its terrorist capabilities; for Hamas leaders and terrorists to surrender and face the justice they should face; and for Hamas to release the 240 hostages it still holds. These would be the best ways to a ceasefire, not simply a call for some type of ceasefire that would enable Hamas to rearm, regroup and reorganise and, in doing so, perpetuate the likelihood of more terrorist attacks or more brutal attacks like those we saw on 7 October.

None of this is easy, and it requires strong, thoughtful and considered approaches. Ideally, it requires the type of bipartisanship that this chamber exercised following 7 October and that I want to see us continue to exercise: strength in our condemnation of Hamas, strength in our desire to see Palestinians and Israelis given the opportunity to live in peace. (Time expired)

Anthony Chisholm

It is impossible to absorb the harrowing images from the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza with anything less than distress and horror. The widespread human suffering we are witnessing means that a just and enduring peace in the region could not be more pressing. The government has said repeatedly that the future of both Israelis and Palestinians depends on this just and enduring peace being realised.

It is clear that the status quo is failing everyone. Some 1,400 Israelis were killed by Hamas on 7 October, the biggest loss of Jewish life on any day since the Holocaust. We condemn these terrorist attacks unequivocally. They cannot and should not be justified. With more than 200 people still held captive, we call for Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release all hostages. In Israel's response to those attacks, thousands of Palestinians have been killed, including more than 3,500 children, as reported by UNICEF. In affirming Israel's right to defend itself, Israel's friends, including Australia, have consistently emphasised that the way it does so matters. We continue to call for international law to be observed and for the protection of civilian lives.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens by the day. On 26 October, Foreign Minister Wong announced that Australia would provide an additional $15 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza, in the West Bank and across the region.

This funding is in addition to the $10 million already committed by the Australian government and brings our total package of assistance to $25 million since 7 October.

There are serious constraints preventing this and other aid getting to the people who need it. While there has been some access, much more assistance is required from parties to the conflict if this aid is to reach Gazans. This is why so many countries, like Australia, have been calling for humanitarian pauses on hostilities as a necessary first step. The government has heard the calls for a ceasefire. The tragic reality is it can take a long time to reach a ceasefire between parties to a conflict. The people of Gaza can't wait for that.

It's clear that the Australian communities are experiencing deep distress and pain, felt most acutely in our Jewish and Palestinian communities. It is essential that we do not let the very real pain caused by this conflict drive Australians apart. With this in mind, the government has developed a social cohesion package to support Australian communities affected by the ongoing conflict. This includes a $25 million grant to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to immediately improve safety at Jewish schools and preschools across Australia, and $25 million to Australian Palestinian, Muslim and other communities to support a range of safety, security, mental health, cohesion and education objectives.

It's the role of every senator and every member in this place to remember they also have a responsibility when engaging in this debate. We all have a responsibility to engage responsibly, respectfully and constructively. Engaging in inflammatory rhetoric not only is extremely harmful to many Australians but also undermines some of our greatest strengths: our diversity, our tolerance and our values. And it does nothing to advance the cause of peace, a cause which is the responsibility of everyone in this place.

David Pocock

Today, one month on from the Hamas terrorist attack, we mourn the 1,400 civilians killed. We repeat our call for the immediate release of the 240 civilians taken hostage. We grieve for the 10,000 civilians reported killed in the intervening period. Forty per cent of those who have died in Israel's bombardment of Gaza are children—over 4,000 innocent young lives lost. This cannot go on. Behind each of these numbers are people—people with families, lives, dreams and aspirations; people who matter; people who all have equal worth. Together, all Australians must call for a ceasefire and an enduring end to the cycle of violence paid for in civilian lives.

And we must remember that how we talk about this matters. How we talk about this has real implications for people in our communities. Israelis are not Benjamin Netanyahu. Palestinians are not Hamas. We must call out antisemitism. We must call out Islamophobia. Every person in our communities around Australia must at all times feel safe. Hate speech cannot be tolerated. Nobody has the right to play politics with this unprecedented human suffering. I stand here to plead with all of you in this place and all around Australia: please come together to call for a ceasefire now.

Larissa Waters

I rise to call on the Senate to support peace for Palestinians and Israelis, and, with approximately 10,000 Palestinian deaths and over 1,400 Israeli deaths, we ask the Australian government to call for an immediate ceasefire to end the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Gaza; for the unconditional release of all hostages; and for an urgent end to the siege on Gaza.

The invasion of Gaza is a humanitarian disaster and catastrophe. The Greens condemn the war crimes of Hamas and the invasion of Gaza. More than 10,000 Palestinians have died, and lasting peace is now further out of reach. We grieve with those who have lost loved ones, and we must all work now to stop further bloodshed.

Instead of backing the invasion, Australia should be part of an international push for peace and de-escalation, which means an immediate ceasefire, an end to the invasion of Gaza and holding to account those who have committed war crimes.

People around Australia and around the world are taking to the streets to call for an end to the invasion and occupation. They gather united by a single call: 'Ceasefire now.' They remind their governments that children should never be killed in war and that cutting access to food, water and medicine are war crimes. I ask the Albanese government: why can't you join these calls for a ceasefire? How many children must die or be wounded, how many refugee camps or ambulance convoys bombed, how many apartment blocks reduced to rubble before you can say the word 'ceasefire'? Every moment we delay calling for a ceasefire costs lives. Nothing can justify the violence that we've seen. The Greens will continue to call for a ceasefire now and for a lasting and just peace.

Long debate text truncated.


Date and time: 4:50 PM on 2023-11-07
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 13
Total number of "no" votes: 39
Total number of abstentions: 24

Adapted from information made available by