…there is no point in being friends with governments if you do not use that supposed friendship to stand up to them when they do the wrong thing—to say, ‘You need to act on what is clearly an egregious abuse of human rights.’ Otherwise, if you do not stand up to governments when they do that, you become complicit in it. The standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept. That means that the Australian government has now been put on notice. It has taken action in the past, and it is time that it renewed that action so that we address what is clearly an unlawful but also immoral abuse of children.
Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (16:47): I am pleased to support this motion moved by the member for Calwell. The motion reads:
That this House:
(1) acknowledges that:
(a) 500 to 700 Palestinian children are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system each year;
(b) Human Rights Watch reported in April that arrests of Palestinian children by Israeli forces had doubled in the preceding six months;
(c) Defence for Children International research, based on 429 affidavits from Palestinian children, indicates that 97 per cent of children had no parent or legal counsel available during interrogation and 75 per cent endured some form of physical violence following arrest;
(d) the United States State Department’s 2014 human rights report on Israel states that military courts have more than a 99 per cent conviction rate for Palestinian defendants;
(e) UNICEF has reported that ill-treatment in the Israeli military detention system remains widespread, systematic, and institutionalised throughout the process; and
(f) Australia raised concerns with Israel about the treatment of Palestinian minors in 2011 and 2014, however there has been little improvement concerning the treatment of Palestinian children by Israeli forces; and
(2) calls on the Australian Government to raise concerns with the Israeli Government about the treatment of Palestinian children.
This situation is intolerable. The Australian government has acknowledged in the past that there has been problem and it has raised it, but it has gone quiet for some period of time, and not only have we not seen an improvement in the situation but we have seen a deterioration.
The motion references Human Rights Watch in paragraph (1)(b). It is worth considering for a moment what Human Rights Watch has said. It has said:
Israel enforces severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights, and it builds and supports unlawful settlements in the occupied West Bank. Its security forces appear to use excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and suspected attackers, raising the specter of extra-judicial killings. It has renewed the practice of punitive home demolitions.
It is also worth considering what Amnesty International has said about this point, and especially what Amnesty International has said about this practice of detention. Amnesty International has said in its 2015-16 annual report:
In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention.
Now, the other parts of the motion are worth considering and reflecting on themselves, because they are essentially unassailable fact.
As I noted previously, our government has raised the issue previously but no further action has been taken. It is concerning when one puts this in the context of our government’s willingness to stand back and not use its relationship with the state of Israel to press for action on this important question of human rights. We saw it during the attack that was called by the Israeli government Operation Protective Edge. The Australian government sat back and did not raise concerns about human rights violations.
Yes, there were some who said that human rights violations occurred on several sides, but the Australian government said nothing about any of it. But when it comes to the detention of children at such high rates as have been seen in the motion, where it becomes almost a fact that if you are brought in for a hearing you are likely to end up in some form of detention, then Australia must act.
The government itself does not have a proud record here at home when it comes to keeping children in detention, but even the government has acknowledged—and the Minister the Immigration and Border Protection stands up in parliament and acknowledges this—that no-one wants to see children in detention. Well, if that is a good enough principle to apply here it should also apply to Palestinian children. If we as a country want to talk about the importance of maintaining strong relationships with other countries around the world then there is no point in being friends with governments if you do not use that supposed friendship to stand up to them when they do the wrong thing—to say, ‘You need to act on what is clearly an egregious abuse of human rights.’ Otherwise, if you do not stand up to governments when they do that, you become complicit in it. The standard that you walk past is the standard that you accept.
That means that the Australian government has now been put on notice. It has taken action in the past, and it is time that it renewed that action so that we address what is clearly an unlawful but also immoral abuse of children.