With a ground invasion of Gaza looming, it is disappointing to say the least that this motion moved by the government backs that invasion. There is much to be supported in this motion. The Greens join in condemning the attacks on innocent civilians and call for the hostages to be freed and for the perpetrators of these war crimes to be held to account. We join with everyone in this place and say there is no place for antisemitism and Islamophobia. There is much that we could support, but, on the eve of a looming invasion that is likely to be not just a humanitarian catastrophe but a war crime, Australia cannot stay silent and back that invasion.
Mr BANDT (Melbourne—Leader of the Australian Greens) (12:21): There is no place for antisemitism in Australia or in this parliament. I think I speak on behalf of everyone in saying that the vile antisemitic comments that we have heard from some in the community and also the attacks of Hamas on innocent civilians which constitute war crimes are to be condemned. It is also contemptible to hear an attempt in this chamber early today from the Leader of the Opposition to try and weaponise it by suggesting that somehow someone in the government condoned any of those remarks. That is beneath contempt. It is beneath contempt on what should be a motion that is about expressing support for people who are on the receiving end of hate, and there is no place for antisemitism and no place for Islamophobia in this country. We can have a debate in this place about the looming invasion and the need to fight for peace without the Leader of the Opposition falsely accusing people I might have a difference of opinion with, but I can bet my bottom dollar none of them back the vile antisemitic comments that we have heard. It is beneath contempt for the Leader of the Opposition to try and use this motion to prosecute that agenda.
There were some other people who gathered over the weekend in their thousands across the country to say that not only is there no place for antisemitism in Australia but there is no place for Islamophobia and that the war on Gaza must stop. Thousands of people gathered together peacefully across the country to make the point that we are on the verge of a humanitarian disaster becoming a humanitarian catastrophe. With a ground invasion of Gaza looming, it is disappointing to say the least that this motion moved by the government backs that invasion. There is much to be supported in this motion. The Greens join in condemning the attacks on innocent civilians and call for the hostages to be freed and for the perpetrators of these war crimes to be held to account. We join with everyone in this place and say there is no place for antisemitism and Islamophobia.
There is much that we could support, but, on the eve of a looming invasion that is likely to be not just a humanitarian catastrophe but a war crime, Australia cannot stay silent and back that invasion.
There are about 2.3 million people in Gaza crammed into an area about half the size of the ACT. In many respects, Gaza is a walled-in primary school, with 40 per cent of the population under 15 years old. Their area has been blockaded now for many years, but, in the heartbreaking words of the United Nations Refugee Agency:
Not one drop of water, not one grain of wheat, not a liter of fuel has been allowed in the Gaza Strip for the last eight days.
Raise the alarm that as of today, my UNRWA colleagues in Gaza can no longer provide humanitarian assistance as I speak.
The UN has also said that the directions being given by the Israeli military for evacuation orders in hospitals in northern Gaza are ‘a death sentence’ for everyone within them, because there is nowhere for these people to go. It has also been pointed out by Amnesty and the UN and others that these orders to evacuate are not in compliance with international law. The Red Cross has been reportedly saying that there has been deliberate shelling of health facilities, and that amounts to a collective punishment of the Palestinian people for something that they are not responsible for.
This looming humanitarian catastrophe is something that Australia should be joining other countries in trying everything we can to stop. We join with everyone in this parliament in mourning the 1,300 Israelis who have lost their lives, but on today’s count there are also between 2,300 and 2,600 Palestinians who have lost their lives, many of who are children. And we mourn them as well. This is now moving beyond self-defence into an invasion, and it is up to Australia as a peace-loving country to join the push to stop it.
No to antisemitism, no to Islamophobia and no to the war on Gaza. We stand with all of those people in Australia and around the world who want just and lasting peace and security for everyone in Israel and Palestine. And that means ending the occupation and developing a just and lasting peace, but it also means putting our efforts into an immediate cease fire of all parties and a stopping of the war and the invasion. Not only will it bring about a humanitarian catastrophe and be a likely war crime; we’ve got to think about what the consequences will be for the region of an invasion of an area that’s occupied territory in breach of international law when we know what the other actors in that area are like. We have to push for peace.
It is really only paragraph (2) in the government’s motion that stands in the way of us supporting it. It reads, in part, like a motion that was drafted some time ago and does not take account of the fact that we are on the eve of an invasion of this territory that not only is going to create a humanitarian catastrophe but is going to make life less safe for people living in Israel and people living in Palestine. So I move that the motion be amended as follows:
Omit paragraph (2), substitute:
(2) condemns war crimes perpetrated by the state of Israel, including the bombing of Palestinian civilians, and calls for an immediate ceasefire between all parties and an end to the war on Gaza, recognising also that for there to be peace there must be an end to the state of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories;
I am proud to be standing with those Jews, Palestinians and supporters in Australia who are saying it is time to push for a just and lasting peace. We can condemn atrocities and war crimes, but that does not justify an invasion where there are 2.2 million people, 40 per cent of whom are children, who have nowhere to go. The direction for them to leave their homes so that bombing can take place is unlawful, the United Nations has said, and there is nowhere for them to go. They are walled in. That, amongst other reasons, is why an invasion is not only wrong; it is going to lead to humanitarian catastrophe. So I urge the government to reconsider that part of their motion that gives tacit support to that invasion and instead to adopt a pathway forward for peace.
There are millions of people around this country and around the world who want that and who know that this is the opportunity not to call for escalation of the conflict and to back an invasion but instead to call for peace so that we can mourn those who’ve died and, hopefully, not add to their numbers in the thousands, as an invasion is going to lead to.