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FOR – Matters of Urgency — Israel

Penny Allman-Payne

The Senate will now consider the proposal 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:

The need for the Government to cease using one of the most secretive military export systems in the world to hide from the public the export of Australian military equipment to the State of Israel, particularly as the Chief Economist of DFAT has acknowledged that DFAT data showing millions of dollars in 'arms and ammunition' being exported to Israel is credible."

Is consideration of 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.

David Shoebridge

At the request of Senator McKim, I move:

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

The need for the Government to cease using one of the most secretive military export systems in the world to hide from the public the export of Australian military equipment to the State of Israel, particularly as the Chief Economist of DFAT has acknowledged that DFAT data showing millions of dollars in 'arms and ammunition' being exported to Israel is credible.

We know that Australia exports military equipment to Israel, but the Albanese government is determined to mislead the public to avoid accountability. Previously, when I revealed that Australia was exporting military equipment to Israel, Minister Wong accused me and the Greens of misinformation. Keeping this in mind, I want to start by reading from a statement issued in the last few days by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, urging countries to stop exporting military equipment to Israel:

The United States and Germany are by far the largest arms exporters and shipments have increased since 7 October 2023. Other military exporters include France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

…   …   …

State officials involved in arms exports may be individually criminally liable for aiding and abetting any war crimes …

Is the UN also spreading misinformation? And, as this motion mentions, the chief economist of DFAT, Penny Wong's own department, said of DFAT's data, which shows that Australia has exported millions and millions of dollars worth of arms and ammunition to Israel in the last five years, including as recently as October, 'I would say there has been no question or challenge to the credibility of any of the data we publish.' When he says that, is DFAT's chief economist accused of misinformation?

What about the Australian companies bragging about the military equipment they sell to the Israeli arms industry and the Israeli Ministry of Defense? These are companies that many Labor MPs have visited. They have taken photos amongst the production lines of the military equipment that has been exported. Are those companies spreading misinformation? What about the glossy government brochures trumpeting Australia's role in the production of F-35 parts, including the mechanisms that open the bomb bay doors of F-35s used by the Israeli military to rain bombs on Gaza? What about those glossy brochures from Defence that were mysteriously scrubbed off Defence's website since October? Is Defence lying too and spreading misinformation?

When a Palestinian in Gaza sees an Australian-made drone drifting over their home and highlighting them or their family as a target, are they not understanding what they see? When a spike missile from Rafael demolishes a Gazan hospital, guided by one of the integration kits Australia pumps into the global supply chain or when an Israeli military armoured vehicle drives over the rubble of a home in Gaza, literally protected by Australian steel, are the Palestinians who are experiencing this right now and who are facing these weapons that we exported just imagining it? Is that the line from the government? Far from stopping the arms trade with Israel, the Israeli government won't even acknowledge it's happening. It won't even own up to the violence that they are permitting with weapons that Australia sells. But the public knows and the public sees what has been done, and they can see they've been gaslighted by this government.

Today, a two-month-old baby in Gaza died from malnutrition—just one of thousands and thousands of Palestinian children. The thought that the last thing that that child might have heard was the faint buzz of an Australian drone circling above them is an appalling thought. People want Australia to be a force for good in the world and a force for peace, and instead the Albanese government has tied itself to the harm industry, just like the coalition before them. Today we saw that the Albanese government has given Australian weapons company Elbit Systems a billion-dollar contract for Australia's infantry fighting vehicle. This is the same company that announced its expectation of superprofits from the war on Gaza due to 'the increase in demand for our solutions by the Israeli Ministry of Defense'. Make no mistake; Elbit is using the brutal assault on Palestinians to sell its weapons, actively experimenting on—and then working with the Israeli military to celebrate—how effectively they kill Palestinians, and the Australian government is buying hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment from it. How on earth could any government with a moral compass do this?

I urge this chamber to support this motion. I urge the government to admit not just to the public but to the world Australia's complicity in what's going on in Gaza. Why hide? Why gaslight? It's because the government knows that the public is against it on this. The government is trying everything it can to disempower the millions of Australians demanding a better world. But enough is enough. It's time for the government to stop the two-way arms race with the State of Israel. It's time to call for an immediate ceasefire. It's time to— (Time expired)

Andrew Bragg

I rise to make some remarks on this urgency motion. I do so by starting with the context here. These have been very difficult matters that I know are debated widely across our community, and there are very strong feelings in the Australian society about this foreign conflict. And that's what it is: it is a foreign conflict. It is a matter, therefore, of foreign policy as to how Australia engages. Yes, there are strong domestic feelings on either side of the debate, but ultimately the parliament has to come to a judgement on whether to support the Western alliance and to support the values and principles that we believe in, which I believe are under the greatest threat that has been seen for some decades. I see a large part of this attack on Israel as a broader attack on the West. That is my starting point in this debate.

It is undeniable that the 7 October attacks were an almost unbelievable conflict, and that is where this all started. People have debated over the last few months. We know this was the bloodiest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. This now has descended into a very bloody conflict over the last few months. When I reflect on how we would react if we were attacked in the way that Israel was, I think most Australians would expect that there would be a full defence of our society, of our nation, against an attack like that. The idea that Israel, as a democracy and as a partner and an ally of Australia, would not be able to avail itself of a defence and then attempt to destruct the organisation that brought the attack is, I think, patently ridiculous.

And so the position Australia has taken has been to support Israel in its attempt to disarm and destruct Hamas. That is the position. I think that is the only position that Australia can take, because any other position would be giving into an organisation that doesn't believe that there should be a Jewish state. That is the bottom line here. The perpetrators of these attacks, the people who started this war, do not believe that Israel should exist. If Israel were not to defend itself against this threat, there would not be a Jewish state. That may be something that some political parties would like to see. It is not something that is a reasonable objective, in my view. Putting that aside though, I understand that there are very strong feelings about this in the community, but the reality is that Australia cannot take any other position, other than to support Israel against this insurgency, which is designed to wipe Israel off the map.

Janet Rice

It's genocide!

Andrew Bragg

I take the interjection. Yes, it is an attempt at genocide by Hamas, which does want to eradicate the State of Israel from the map. I believe that is what we're looking at now, as we consider this complex matter of foreign policy. There will not be a Jewish state if Hamas is allowed to continue in its way.

I note the very strong feelings in the community and the differences of opinion, but I honestly don't believe that there is any alternative other than Israel rooting out and eradicating Hamas with our support and the support of the Western alliance. I don't think there's any other reasonable position that we can take. This is not a blank cheque for Israel, but it is the only position we can take as a fair and decent society.

Raff Ciccone

The government has been very clear on the matter of defence exports to the State of Israel, and the facts have been laid out in the Senate and by Defence officials in Senate estimates as recently as the last round only a few weeks ago, but I want to take the opportunity to reiterate what the government has already made very clear. Australia has not supplied weapons to the State of Israel since the conflict began and for, at least, the past five years. Let me repeat that, so there is no confusion. Australia has not supplied weapons to the State of Israel since the conflict began and for at least the past five years.

Australia has a stringent export control framework, which is designed to ensure our military and dual-use items are used responsibly outside of the Commonwealth of Australia. This framework applies to a wide range of goods and technology, including items used for civilian and commercial purposes, and, as such, export permits should not be confused with weapons sales. Defence undertakes a rigorous assessment of each export application. This includes determining if there is an overriding risk that the export may be used in ways contrary to Australia's national interest or international obligations. If this risk is identified, Defence refuses the permit. As a matter of course, this framework accounts for changes in the strategic environment to ensure exports continue to align with our international obligations—noting that Australia is a party to and fully implements all major international arms control treaties, including the Arms Trade Treaty. I would also note the proactive steps that this government is taking to reform and strengthen Australia's export control framework. The committee I chair, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, is holding a hearing this Friday on the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023, which will strengthen Australia's export controls framework.

The Hamas-Israel conflict is a deeply distressing issue for many in our community here in Australia, and one where people hold very different views—as is their right. It is only right that our language matters on such issues and matters before us and the truth underpinning them. It's important that we maintain that respect for each other. People come to Australia because they want to live in a country that is peaceful, tolerant and respectful. We must also work together to ensure that distress in our community does not turn into hatred. As community leaders, we need to be careful about how we say or articulate our points in this place. But sadly, time and time again, there are senators who peddle a false narrative on blatant misinformation.

David Shoebridge

Yes. Some of them are very senior!

Raff Ciccone

The Australian government provides information in the interests of transparency, but sadly we continue having interjections from the Australian Greens. The Australian Greens deliberately misinterpret that information for political campaigns. This only divides the community and undermines trust in public institutions. We have seen the cost of that around the world.

Repeatedly, we have heard Defence officials advise that Australia has not supplied weapons to the state of Israel, despite the Australian Greens continuing to ignore that advice. For the past five years, not a single weapon has been sent over there. Yet we hear the Greens continue to incorrectly conflate export permits with the sales of weapons.

Australia has a stringent control framework which ensures that military and dual-use items are used responsibly outside of Australia in ways that do not violate human rights. It has been a long-held practice of successive Australian governments to seek to be transparent on these matters, as well as balancing national security considerations and commercial sensitivities.

All Australians have a right to be safe and feel safe, but everyone should also engage in peaceful and respectful dialogue, not reproduce overseas conflict in Australia. I call on all senators to ensure that they are respectful in the debates in this place.

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 5:18 PM on 2024-02-28
Senator Pocock's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 12
Total number of "no" votes: 23
Total number of abstentions: 41

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au