Alexander Hawke MP – speech stating objection to BDS campaign

photo of Alex Hawke MP
September 21, 2011

Tonight I simply want to record my opposition to the whole BDS campaign, my support for Max Brenner in Australia, my support for the state of Israel and the view of this House that we should allow all legitimate businesses to conduct their enterprises free of molestation.

Full speech

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (19:01): I rise tonight to express my objection to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, which routinely organises protests and boycotts against Israeli owned businesses worldwide. In particular I want to draw the House’s attention to the boycott activity of the Max Brenner chain of chocolate shops in Victoria, Sydney and other places and in which I have witnessed some scenes which we do not want to see in a country like Australia.

In Australia there have been a number of boycotts organised by BDS people against businesses mainly in Victoria but also, in the last few weeks, in Sydney. The Maritime Union of Australia, Geelong Trades Hall Council, Green Left Weekly, Australians for Palestine and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are all involved in or support the BDS campaign against Max Brenner. Witnessing some of the activities of the protesters in Melbourne, we have seen horrific scenes of violence as well, with protesters arrested and people dragged away by police. I uphold the right of anybody to protest peacefully and support the right to a boycott campaign against anybody in this country; however, the violence and the removal of people’s right to shop at stores is not a legitimate means of protest. In Melbourne we witnessed this firsthand, and I reject this whole concept.

However, I also have the right, as a member of this place—and other members of our society also have the right—to stand up and protest against what is rightly seen as an illegitimate boycott campaign. When we are witnessing scenes around the world this week of people talking about a Palestinian state potentially going to the United Nations and, of course, the Americans looking to veto that, this is not the kind of campaign that will assist in the peace process in the Middle East or assist anybody in achieving their ends. I note that the member for Melbourne Ports, who I think is here in the chamber, also has this view, and there is a bipartisan approach from many members here on this whole campaign of the BDS worldwide. The member for Melbourne Ports said that these prejudiced fanatics should look into their soul. While people are being murdered in Syria, people are attacking a chocolate shop just because they have a chain in Israel.

I endorse those remarks and go further. In the Senate a motion was considered in relation to the matter of the campaign against Max Brenner in Australia. This involved a motion that was to condemn the intensification of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign being conducted against Max Brenner chocolate cafes, rejecting the tactic as a way of promoting Palestinian rights and agreeing with the New South Wales Greens MP, who commented that the public perception of the Max Brenner protests may be counterproductive to the cause of peace and human rights in the Middle East. I record for the House’s benefit that there were a number of people who voted against this sensible notion in the Senate that recorded our opposition to this whole approach of this campaign in Israel. They happened to be Senator Brown, Senator Di Natale, Senator Hanson-Young, Senator Siewert, Senator Milne, Senator Ludlam, Senator Rhiannon, Senator Wright, Senator Waters—in fact, all the Greens senators voted against this commonsense motion, exposing, in my view, the real agenda of the Australian Greens in relation to Israel.

I record for this House my support for Israel. It is a great ally of Australia. It is a functioning democracy in the Middle East, and we should be very proud of our support over many years. I also acknowledge the members of this place, including people such as Senator Abetz, Senator Boswell, Senator Fifield, Senator Kroger, Senator Ryan, the shadow minister for foreign affairs, the shadow Leader of the House, the member for Kooyong and the member for Melbourne Ports, who is here. All have expressed their outrage at the BDS campaign and the targeting of a peaceful and legitimate enterprise in Max Brenner in Australia.

I want to make this very clear: while I am a strong supporter of Israel and a strong supporter of Australia’s approach to Israel over many years, people do have the right to legitimately express a view and protest in this country. But in Melbourne what we saw was the picket of a business—an illegitimate approach. To block customers and shoppers from legitimately going about their ordinary, day-to-day business and choosing to spend their capital in any store is illegitimate in my mind. This protest, which was violent and led to three people being dragged away by the police, 19 arrests for assaulting police and riotous behaviour really exposes in my view the undercurrent of anti-Israeli sentiment that is dominating this, and that is not legitimate. Tonight I simply want to record my opposition to the whole BDS campaign, my support for Max Brenner in Australia, my support for the state of Israel and the view of this House that we should allow all legitimate businesses to conduct their enterprises free of molestation.

Link to parliamentary Hansard