Andrew Willcox MP – in support of the Prime Minister’s motion

October 18, 2023

What I’m calling for is peace. I fully understand that Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we need to track down Hamas, the terrorists, and make sure that they are punished. But we really need to find a peaceful solution and a resolution so we never have to go through this again.

Mr WILLCOX (Dawson) (18:54): I rise today to support the bipartisan motion that’s before us, and I thank the Prime Minister for putting this forward. I need to be on the record for my strong condemnation of the Hamas attacks on Israel. They are absolutely disgraceful. Let’s face it: Hamas is a terrorist organisation. I’m sure that there are a lot of Palestinians who are equally very devastated by what Hamas has done. I’m sure that a lot of the Palestinians are, just like us, going about their business, raising their families and trying to do the best they can. But Hamas is a terrorist organisation which is doing these abhorrent things.

There are the reports and stories of what we’ve seen—the footage that we’ve seen—with men, women, children and babies murdered. Their throats were cut or they were burned. Women were raped and paraded through the streets. These are absolute acts of brutality and nothing short of a disgrace. We are in 2023! This sort of stuff went on in the medieval days and here we are with it going on again. There are over 1,400 dead and counting. There have been more losses by the Jews than we have seen since the Holocaust—absolutely disgraceful! These were unprovoked attacks, and it’s going on and on.

We might think that, yes, this is a world away; it’s on the other side of the world. But it’s affecting Australia. It’s affecting my electorate of Dawson and its affecting Mackay. A young lady, Chantelle Matthews, a Mackay resident, was over there doing a Bible tour in Israel. She had been to Greece and to Macedonia, and she was going through Israel. She wanted to go to Jerusalem to walk in the steps of Jesus. And then the conflict broke out. Chantelle Matthews ended up in a bunker with little food, little water and no toilet facilities for days and days. We found out about this and my office contacted her mum, Lil Matthews, who has been a tower of strength through this whole ordeal. I actually made contact with Chantelle through WhatsApp. It was intermittent, because they kept turning the communications on and off because of what was happening with the military conflicts over there. My office and I contacted DFAT, the emergency consulate and Minister Penny Wong. I want to put on the record that all three worked very well and we actually got Chantelle out. Chantelle is now in Dubai, where she is resting. She’s a bit scarred and emotionally drained by this experience. But it’s very important that people know that when we do have something go wrong with our Australian people we definitely do everything we possibly can to get them out and to look after them.

From the bunker, Chantelle had to make a trek for about an hour across to Tel Aviv. That was a bit dicey; they weren’t quite sure how that was going to go because there was conflict happening. She could hear the bombs and the missiles going overhead. Of course, it was a very fluid situation so they couldn’t take her out straightaway; they weren’t quite sure of control of the air space. There would have been nothing worse than having a Qantas flight with our people on it hit by a missile. A big thank you to Qantas, actually, for making the effort to get our people out of there. So Chantelle is in Dubai and heading home. Hopefully, that story is going to end well, but the story is not going well in Israel at this present point in time and I think it’s only going to get worse.

While we were doing this we had the events at the Sydney Opera House. While we were trying to get one of our own home we saw those disgraceful acts. The opera house was coloured to show some support for our Israeli friends and then we had the group—I call them terrorists—of very, very ordinary people who were protesting and burning flags, saying, ‘Gas the Jews!’ and expletives about them. It was absolutely disgraceful. I’m a man who is for free speech. I think you should be able to say what you want to say. If you want to protest, get a permit and be lawful and do what you’re going to do. But I’ve got a tip for you. You’re not going to get too much support from people in Australia by acting like this. If you want to get people in Australia on side, you need to put some very good points forward and convince the people of that. There is no room in our country for burning flags, for inciting violence and for doing the wrong thing. We need to respect each other.

I’ve travelled all over Israel. Israel is a beautiful country. It’s got beautiful people. I’ve done the Holy Land tour. I tell you what, when I was there, it was really peaceful. I would not want to be there at this point in time.

Folks, this leads me to another thing. The Prime Minister moved this motion in good faith. It was accepted by the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, and enjoyed some respect on both sides. However, it beggars belief to me that some of the Greens and some of the teals could vote against this. I’m very interested to listen to the contributions they have and to ask why, because this was a motion for us to show Israel that we support them. It was also a motion to show all the world that Australians do not put up with brutality and barbarity. We are a peaceful, loving nation and we will support each other.

What I’m calling for is peace. I fully understand that Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we need to track down Hamas, the terrorists, and make sure that they are punished. But we really need to find a peaceful solution and a resolution so we never have to go through this again. I feel that there are going to be some more issues in front of us, but we really need to come up with a peaceful resolution, and that’s what I hope and pray for.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard