Adam Bandt MP – marking the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and noting the case of Mohammed El Halabi

photo of Adam Bandt MP
November 30, 2021

Australia should recognise Palestine and advocate meaningfully for an end to the occupation, including ceasing the expansion of settlements and ending the Gaza blockade so that Palestinians and Israelis can live in a just and lasting peace.

Full speech

Mr BANDT (MelbourneLeader of the Australian Greens) (18:14): Every second day the Prime Minister comes into this place or comes before a camera and says that his No. 1 priority is to keep Australians safe. And yet he is spectacularly failing in that duty by pouring fuel on the climate fire; by using our money—public money!—and giving it to big gas corporations to open up new fields and pipelines. Floods are building up from the Great Dividing Range and Queensland and New South Wales and heading down to the ocean as we speak. At the same time, the government have released a gas plan to open up four giant new basins with 11 new and expanded gas pipelines. Now, this plan isn’t for Australian homes and businesses; it is for their corporate donors.

There is enough gas in the dwindling supplies of the Bass Strait to last us over the decade as we undertake switching homes and businesses from gas and electricity to renewables. If there’s enough gas in the system at the moment to help us through the transition, why is the government doing this? This is a plan for three big gas consortia exporting our gas from Gladstone who contracted to sell way more gas than they can deliver to their customers in Asia. The government are riding to the rescue, saying they will detonate four huge climate bombs just to appease big corporations.

At the centre of their gas plan lies the Beetaloo basin in the Northern Territory, which the Northern Territory Labor government is opening up. The gas basins in the Northern Territory are huge. In the Northern Territory there is the equivalent of 68 years worth of Australia’s pollution locked up there. People have heard about Adani. The Beetaloo project is much bigger and much worse for the climate than Adani.

Yesterday in the Senate we lost our chance to stop $50 million of public money flowing into the pockets of the big gas corporations that want to open up the Territory to fracking. The Greens had secured the crossbench votes we needed to block public money going to these big tax-dodging corporations. The only vote we needed was the Australian Labor Party’s and it went and voted with the Liberals instead.

We have two parties who now hold identical positions: net zero pushed out to 2050—that happy place where delay has become denial—while simultaneously opening up one of Australia’s biggest ever gas fields—a climate bomb. We can’t reduce emissions and increase pollution at the same time. So which one do the Liberal and Labor parties actually want? The promise of net zero made in the United Nations and in Glasgow, or opening up 116 new coal and gas fields that are currently in the pipeline?

At Glasgow the world said, ‘No more coal and gas.’ Less than three weeks after the most important climate summit in a decade, the Liberals and Labor voted to give $50 million of public money, that could be going to schools and hospitals instead, to open up the Beetaloo gas fields in the Northern Territory and release a plan for four massive new gas fields. Gas is as dirty as coal. Beetaloo is worse than Adani. And Beetaloo itself will drive Australia’s emissions up by up to 13 per cent a year! We’re talking about getting out. We’re talking about terrible 2030 targets from the government. This is lifting Australia’s pollution by 13 per cent because of how much it leaks and how much is required just to convert this into liquefied natural gas.

The Liberals and Labor have ignored the rest of the world. They are putting a safer climate out of reach. They both backed more gas in Beetaloo and Scarborough and Barossa and Galilee and Bowen basins—so much gas that it will lead us to a catastrophic world of 3½ degrees of warming. When these political parties back more gas, that means they back more fires, more floods, more heatwaves and more droughts. If you don’t have a plan to phase out coal and gas, you don’t have a plan to tackle the climate crisis.

Why is this happening mere weeks after Glasgow? As always, the answer is money. Because what the Liberal and Labor parties do have is a plan to protect the coal and gas corporations that they take donations from. Even when these donors don’t pay any tax, they take the donations and then the corporations get to write the climate policy. It is time for this to end. No more handouts to these big corporations. No more public cash for coal and gas. No more paying big corporations to pollute. No more sending profits offshore tax-free like these big corporations do. No more mine approvals for mates and donors. No more cushy fossil fuel jobs for ex-politicians. The only acceptable plan is one that says no more coal and gas.

The Greens won’t take donations from big coal and gas. We will put the people first. We will make sure public money is spent on schools and hospitals and tackling the climate crisis. We will fight for our future. It is becoming clearer by the day that the only way to get climate action in this country is to kick this climate-denying Liberal government out and put the Greens in the balance of power, to push the next government to start phasing out coal and gas.

I also rise to mark the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The Greens recognise the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination and a future built on peace, dignity, justice and security. In Palestine, as you travel from town to town and move along crowded roads, from time to time you look across to see other, faster-moving, more modern roads cutting through areas that make up the lands widely recognised as forming part of Palestine. But Palestinians are not allowed on these roads. Similarly, you visit refugee camps, as I did, where people tell you of their families forced from their own homes a few decades ago, and, even though these homes are still standing, in some instances kilometres away, their families were never allowed to return, and nor are the people still living in camps. You go to universities and you hear that basic things that we take for granted here, like people being able to get to class on time, are regularly disrupted because a student coming to sit their exam, say, has been stopped at another checkpoint and delayed for hours—a checkpoint that sits in the middle of their homeland but is not controlled by them. As an Australian, you see water tanks on the roofs of Palestinian flats and houses and think it’s about collecting falling rainwater, but then the locals tell you it is so that they can scavenge some water on the day that it’s flowing to their towns, because it may not be flowing to them the next day, when they want to cook or clean, because their water system is not controlled by them.

All people have the right to peace, justice and freedom, and we want to see those rights valued equally for all. But, for decades, Palestinians have lived under occupation, and they are denied these rights. Israelis are entitled to their own state and to live in peace and security, but so too are Palestinians. Australia should recognise Palestine and advocate meaningfully for an end to the occupation, including ceasing the expansion of settlements and ending the Gaza blockade so that Palestinians and Israelis can live in a just and lasting peace.

Peace also means supporting civil society, democracy and transparency, but a few short weeks ago, according to Human Rights Watch, the Israeli government:

… issued a military order declaring six Palestinian civil society organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to be “terrorist organizations.”

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, in a joint statement, said:

This decision is an alarming escalation that threatens to shut down the work of Palestine’s most prominent civil society organizations.

UN special rapporteurs issued a statement noting:

Silencing their voices—

the voices of human rights advocates—

is not what a democracy adhering to well-accepted human rights and humanitarian standards would do. We call upon the international community to defend the defenders.

Statements of solidarity have come from human rights organisations in Israel and from around the world. The European Union, importantly, has seen the alleged evidence and has chosen to continue to fund these organisations. Here in Australia we support the statement signed by 70 organisations, including unions and faith, legal and human rights organisations, calling on the Australian government to condemn the move. As UN special rapporteurs and the International Commission of Jurists have said, the Israeli government should immediately review and reverse its decision.

On this day I also note the case of Mr El Halabi, Gaza’s World Vision manager, who was arrested in 2016 and, after 50 days in Israeli state detention, was charged with diverting aid funding, which he strongly denies. Since he was arrested, World Vision has commissioned a forensic audit, which found no evidence of diversion of funds. An investigation by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade failed to show any evidence that the money was diverted. We support the call from UN special rapporteurs that Mr El Halabi should be given a fair trial or else released immediately.

Marking the international day, I pay tribute to the sumud, or steadfast perseverance, of the Palestinian people and offer our support to get Australia to push for a just and lasting peace.

Link to parliamentary Hansard