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ABSTAINED – Motions — Middle East

Jordon Steele-John

I seek leave to move a motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion No. 451 relating to Gaza. The motion has been circulated.

Leave not granted.

How surprising! Pursuant to contingent notice of motion standing the name of Senator Waters, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me from moving a motion related to the conduct of business of the Senate—namely, a notice of motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion No. 451 relating to Gaza.

As we sit here, as this Senate convenes, at least 31,490 Gazans are dead as a direct result of the State of Israel's invasion of Gaza. Of that figure, over 12,300 are children. This is an invasion which has proceeded with the support of the Australian government. Because of the shocking decision-making of the leadership of the government and the so-called leadership of the opposition in this place, this invasion has the formal support of this parliament by the passage of a resolution stating that the parliament 'stands with Israel'.

The Australian Greens do not stand with the policies of the State of Israel. We do not stand with the bombings of the civilian people of Gaza, perpetrated by the State of Israel. We do not stand with the war crimes committed by the State of Israel. We do not stand with the crimes against humanity committed by the State of Israel. The children of Gaza are being starved to death by the policies of the State of Israel. The children of Gaza are losing their fathers, their mothers, their brothers, their sisters, their grandparents, their entire families, their homes and their communities because of the invasion by the State of Israel of Gaza. These crimes, these cruel acts, cannot continue to be perpetrated with the support of the Australian parliament. These crimes, these cruel acts, must be condemned. The government must now take the opportunity—as the opposition must—to join with the Greens and to join with the vast majority of the Australian community who say: 'Not in our name. Not now; not ever.'

This parliament has heard clearly since 7 October the condemnation of every single party in this place in relation to the crimes committed by Hamas. This Senate records clearly the call of the Greens and of many other parties for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages held by Hamas and of the political prisoners held by the State of Israel. So let us have no more of this atrocious gaslighting whereby the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, or whoever has the unfortunate responsibility to rise for the government today trot out these well-worn lines that this motion cannot be supported because it doesn't condemn Hamas or that this motion cannot be supported because it does not call for the release of hostages. Don't do the disservice to the community that those lines imply. Treat members of the community with respect and accord them the intelligence they actually have. Engage with the question before you; don't deflect.

The people of Gaza and the children of Gaza are being starved and are now at risk of dying in their hundreds of thousands from famine and disease, as the direct result of the invasion that this parliament currently supports. Every single one of those people calls on you to do better in this moment, to engage with the actual question, with the facts and with the reality, and to clean and clear this parliament from the current contemptible position of supporting this illegal and immoral invasion.

Simon Birmingham

The coalition does not support this week's repetitive weekly attempt by the Australian Greens in terms of bringing on a motion of this nature. We do not support it. Wars are tragic, wars are horrible and wars result in tragedy and the tragic loss of human lives. We mourn all of those lives. We mourn the lives of innocent civilians, be they Israelis, Palestinians or, as I have said before in response to the Greens' motions, those of innocent civilians in conflicts that continue right across the world that don't receive the same degree of attention and, indeed, don't receive the same degree of grandstanding from the Australian Greens.

Wars are fought for a variety of reasons, but often wars are fought between right and wrong, between interests that align with your values, and between interests that are evil and undermine those values. Let me be very clear: we should continue to stand with Israel against Hamas because we are supporting what is right in terms of the defence of values and democratic institutions that matter versus, in Hamas, a terrorist organisation that deliberately, on 7 October, targeted women, children and young people at music festivals, and deliberately murdered, raped, slaughtered and kidnapped those individuals, sparking this conflict and that continues to hold hostages. Apparently, according to Senator Steele-John, I am deflecting by mentioning Hamas or mentioning the hostages. Call it a deflection if you want. I think it is core to the conflict that is being waged.

We believe that Hamas is an evil terrorist organisation, their continued holding of hostages is an evil act and the way in which they have held those hostages using the Palestinian people as a human shield is a further evil that is perpetuating the cycle of violence and destruction so tragically. We should continue to stand with Israel against the defeat of Hamas just as we should continue to stand with Ukraine against the defeat of Russia, just as we should give support and encouragement to those oppressed Burmese against the Tatmadaw and the military junta in Myanmar and just as we should make sure that as a country we stand for right versus wrong. That does not mean that in all of these cases we unconditionally support every action, every behaviour and every decision that occurs in faraway places over which we have no influence or no direct say. We should be clear, as this Senate and parliament were when the joint motion was passed by the government and the opposition, that we have expectations in relation to respect for international law and to humanitarian support being made available, and we should absolutely make those expectations clear continuously.

The coalition wants to see more humanitarian assistance reach, and we would like to see a ceasefire but not the unconditional ceasefire the Greens call for, which would just give Hamas opportunities to reorganise, regroup and regain power while presumably continuing to hold the hostages that they have held ever since 7 October. We would wish to see a ceasefire where Hamas releases the hostages, surrenders, hands over its terrorist operatives and terrorist infrastructure and which puts the region on a path to greater stability and greater peace. That is an outcome that could be secured and would achieve steps forward, whereas the Greens' pathway is one that would just perpetuate the circumstance further. That is why we are very clear in continuing to support the words this parliament had in October last year, and we will continue to stand by those words.

Lidia Thorpe

It's been 163 days of a black and bloody dystopian nightmare in Gaza. It's been 163 days of genocidal horrors and barbaric destruction brought upon innocent children, women, queers, men, the elderly, animals and trees—all that has life—and intensifying every minute. We're watching the harrowing impacts, where 70 per cent of the killed and injured are defenceless women and children, with two mothers killed every 60 minutes. These are not just numbers; these are human beings with dreams, hopes and aspirations, cut short by senseless violence.

In Gaza, women face unimaginable challenges in the wake of genocide. They are not merely victims; they are survivors grappling with the loss of loved ones, the destruction of their homes and the shattered remnants of their communities. Mothers, daughters and sisters mourn the loss of family members and are often left to navigate the harsh realities of life without their loved ones by their side. The emotional scars run deep, leaving lasting trauma that reverberates through generations. Yet amidst the darkness, there is resilience. Their voices may be silenced, but their spirit endures, inspiring hope and solidarity in the pursuit of a better tomorrow.

Let us be reminded of the importance of solidarity and advocacy in the fight for the women, girls, children, queers and everyone in Gaza as the State of Israel shows no restraint in its ongoing invasion of Gaza. We must continue to recommit ourselves to the principles of equality, dignity, self-determination and human rights for all. The destruction of 70 to 80 per cent of the built environment in Gaza is not just collateral damage; it is a deliberate assault on the very fabric of Palestinian society. Homes, schools, hospitals and mosques lie in ruins, leaving entire communities shattered and displaced. This is not a war. This is a systematic campaign to erase the Palestinian identity and deny Palestinian people their right to exist.

We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinian brothers and sisters. We cannot allow the perpetrators of these crimes to go unpunished. The Israeli government must be held accountable for its flagrant disregard for international law and human rights. The world must demand justice for the victims of this genocide, but our outrage cannot end with condemnation. It must fuel our determination to fight for justice, for freedom and for the right of every Palestinian to live in dignity and peace. Let us stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza, amplifying the voices, advocating for their rights and demanding accountability for the crimes committed against them. We have to build a future where peace and justice prevail, where the rights and dignity of all are upheld without exception. Together we will not rest until the people of Gaza and all of Palestine are free from oppression, until justice prevails and until Palestine is finally liberated.

Jenny McAllister

The government will be opposing this suspension. I will start by making this observation: I understand and the government understands that the conflict in the Middle East is deeply distressing for many Australians. That's particularly the case for those with a connection to the region and those with loved ones who are directly impacted.

Australia is a respected voice in the conflict, even if we are not a central player in the Middle East, and we are using that voice. We are using that voice to advocate for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and humanitarian access. We're using that voice to advocate for the release of hostages. And we're using that voice to advocate for the protection of civilians.

It is of deep regret that the government does not have partners in this effort in either the opposition or the Greens, who are only, in their own ways, looking for opportunities to use this crisis to whip up conflict and whip up anger for votes. If they were sincere about the crisis in the Middle East then they would be engaged in the pathway to peace and in keeping our community unified. Mr Dutton and the Greens—

Opposition Senators

Opposition senators interjecting—

David Fawcett

Order. Minister, resume your seat.

Opposition senators interjecting—

Your contributions were heard in silence. Under standing order 197, I require you show the same respect to the minister, even if you disagree with her views or comments. Minister.

Jenny McAllister

Thank you. I remind the Greens that right now there are more than 130 hostages still being held by the terrorist group Hamas. I remind the opposition that we are faced with reports from the UN that 400,000 Palestinians in Gaza are starving and a million more are at risk of starvation. An estimated 1.7 million people in Gaza are internally displaced and there are increasingly few safe places for Palestinians to go. And I remind the Senate that we are seeing attacks by Iranian aligned militias across the region. Ansar Allah are conducting attacks in the Red Sea that are threatening international maritime trade and regional security, and we are supporting US and UK efforts to disrupt, degrade and deter them.

David Shoebridge

Is that why you are supporting the bombing of Gaza?

David Fawcett

Order. Minister, resume your seat. Senator Shoebridge, I have asked for the Greens to collectively respect the standing orders. I'm now asking you specifically to respect standing order 197. Minister.

Jenny McAllister

We are working with our partners to manage the risk, the real risk, of regional escalation. But, as you can see, we don't have partners for that effort in this place. The opposition and the Greens are not interested in a unified community here at home or in the pathway to peace; they are just looking out for what is in it for them. My view is that Israelis deserve better, Palestinians deserve better and Australians deserve a great deal better than what they are seeing this morning.

Lidia Thorpe

You're sending guns to kill women and children.

Jenny McAllister

I move:

That the question be put.

Lidia Thorpe

Shame on you. You're sending guns to kill women and children.

David Fawcett

Order! Senator Thorpe, you do not have the call. Your interjections are disorderly and against the standing orders.

Lidia Thorpe

I know that.

David Fawcett

Then show respect to the chamber. If we expect the world, including the Middle East, to operate according to rules that benefit people regardless of their views, then show that respect in the chamber.

Lidia Thorpe

You're complicit in genocide here. That's why.

David Fawcett

The question as moved by the minister is that the question be put.

Summary

Date and time: 10:39 AM on 2024-03-18
Senator Pocock's vote: Abstained
Total number of "aye" votes: 30
Total number of "no" votes: 11
Total number of abstentions: 35

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au