That we are demonstrating this sense of solidarity matters to me, and it matters to the people I represent in this place—Palestinian Australians and many others in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, from a very diverse range of backgrounds, who want to see peace, justice and an enduring two-state solution and who too often despair at the lack of progress towards this and the terrible human cost that has been borne through these longstanding failures.
Mr GILES (Scullin) (11:23): For the last 18 months, our world has seemed much smaller. The pandemic and the restrictions on movement have meant our focus has been close to home, so it’s been very easy to overlook events and issues beyond our borders—too easy. With 29 November fast approaching, I thank my friend the member for Fowler for putting forward this motion, which acknowledges the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and their inalienable rights. I acknowledge also the previous speakers in the debate: the member for Flynn, who spoke so movingly about his lived experience and his concerns; the member for Parkes, who made a very powerful contribution that I found very affecting; and my colleagues, the member for Canberra and my neighbour and friend the member for Calwell, who has been such a longstanding advocate for justice in this space.
That we are having this debate matters to me. That we are demonstrating this sense of solidarity matters to me, and it matters to the people I represent in this place—Palestinian Australians and many others in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, from a very diverse range of backgrounds, who want to see peace, justice and an enduring two-state solution and who too often despair at the lack of progress towards this and the terrible human cost that has been borne through these longstanding failures. Those costs are felt here in Australia as well as—much more obviously—in Palestine.
One of the reasons I was so keen to speak to this motion was to acknowledge the force of contributions made to me by constituents this year when I was able to hold street-corner meetings and street stalls in May, when our TV screens were filled with terrible images attesting to the deaths of 200 Palestinians and 12 Israelis—all deaths which we mourn. People urged me then not to look away. People sought reassurance that Australia would take on a constructive leadership role in standing up for human rights wherever they are threatened and standing up for international law. Labor has, of course, long supported an enduring and just two-state solution to this conflict, reflecting the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live in peace and security in their own state and the right of Israelis to live in peace within secure borders internationally recognised and agreed between the parties. I’m proud that Labor’s platform supports recognition of the right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states with secure, recognised borders and, in government, to progress towards self-determination and recognition. This is as it should be.
The member for Fowler, in his contribution, set out very articulately concerns that I share in relation to human rights, including access to the basic necessities of life; the many obstacles that have stood in the way of the peace process, including settlement building and the blockade; and, of course, the desperate and irresponsible politicking by the Morrison government around the unilateral recognition of West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, putting Australia out of step with the international community and at risk of undermining the prospect of a durable solution. From as far away as we are, it’s easy to look away. But we can’t, because everyone deserves the prospect of a future built on peace, dignity, justice and security. That this today, as we stand here, seems so remote for the Palestinian people doesn’t mean it can be ignored. We all need to work harder to support an enduring solution, to put in place whatever tangible steps we can to advance a peaceful future for the people of Palestine and the people of Israel; in doing so, to call out any actions, by any party, which undermine the journey to such a peace; to speak up in this place, in our communities and internationally in support of human rights and in accordance with international law; and to recognise, as the member for Calwell did, that Australia has a proud record, as a middle power, of being an effective presence in support of a world governed in accordance with law, not in accordance with the dictates of power. That’s a call that should be recognised.
In the lead-up to 29 November, I want to put on the record my solidarity, my hopes and my determination to do what I can in this place to stand up for the enduring values of human rights and to see those rights and a peaceful future extended to all of those in need of them.