Anthony Albanese MP – responding to a question from Sophie Scamps MP relating to the impact of the conflict in Gaza on social cohesion (with Peter Dutton MP also making a statement and Adam Bandt MP seeking to speak)

photo of Anthony Albanese MP
June 5, 2024

It is unacceptable that misinformation is being consciously and deliberately spread by some Greens senators and MPs, who have engaged in this in demonstrations outside offices and online. That includes knowingly misrepresenting motions that are moved in this parliament.

Dr SCAMPS (Mackellar) (14:19): My question is for the Prime Minister. My electorate office continues to receive hundreds of emails about the events in the Middle East. The people of Mackellar were utterly appalled by the atrocities committed by Hamas and our hearts broke for the people of Israel. Now my community is deeply distressed also by the immense human suffering in Gaza. I’m concerned that this conflict is impacting social cohesion here in Australia. Prime Minister, what is your government’s message to my community about the importance of bringing the hostages home and bringing an end to this conflict?

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerPrime Minister) (14:20): I thank the member for Mackellar for her serious and constructive engagement on this issue, along with so many of her colleagues. It’s an approach shared by this government but one that has been tested by the actions of some members. The terrorist acts carried out by Hamas on 7 October, including the murder of young Israelis peacefully attending a music festival, were abhorrent, and this parliament unequivocally condemned them.

Six months ago, Australia voted for a ceasefire at the United Nations, along with 152 other countries. This government strongly supports President Biden’s ceasefire proposal announced this week. Hostages must be released. Civilians must be protected. As President Biden has said a deal would ‘allow the United States and our partners to begin the work to rebuild homes, schools and hospitals in Gaza to help repair communities destroyed in the chaos of war’.

Australia is not a participant in this conflict. We have been a consistent voice for humanitarian concerns. The point that I’ve made as Prime Minister, from the very outset, is that every single innocent life matters—every Israeli, every Palestinian. This government supports a two-state solution and an enduring peace. Two states: Israel and Palestine, living peacefully side by side with security and prosperity for their people.

Here in Australia, every one of us has a responsibility to keep our community safe. Our social cohesion is a national asset that all of us have built and all of us have a responsibility to uphold and defend. Right now, our communities are distressed. People, particularly with relatives in either Israel or the occupied territories, are distressed. We have a responsibility to not add to that distress through misinformation.

It is unacceptable that misinformation is being consciously and deliberately spread by some Greens senators and MPs, who have engaged in this in demonstrations outside offices and online. That includes knowingly misrepresenting motions that are moved in this parliament.

All of us have a responsibility to prevent conflict in the Middle East from being used as a platform for prejudice here at home. There is no place for antisemitism, prejudice of any sort or Islamophobia in our communities, at our universities, or outside electorate offices.

Our staff do work to provide assistance to people dealing with Medicare, social security, migration and other issues. They deserve respect, not abuse, not assault, not attacks on the office. Those things cost taxpayers money but cause, more importantly, considerable emotional distress and are anti-democratic by their very nature because they stop people participating in our democratic process and receiving services from members of the House of Representatives or of the Senate.

Enough is enough. The time for senators and members of parliament to continue to attend and inflame tension outside these offices must end. The fact is that denying people the right to seek that assistance achieves nothing. Tragically, it undermines the cause that protesters purport to advance.

I have supported justice for Palestinians my whole life and still do. It is tragic that the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people are undermined by some people engaging in activity that completely alienates the Australian public due to the nature of that. No-one should be targeted for who they are. The targeting of people because they are Jewish, because people disagree with some actions of the Netanyahu government, are completely unacceptable. Political debate must be respectful. As political leaders, we have a responsibility to lower temperature, not to fuel division. We must foster the unity and cohesion and diversity that have always been our nation’s greatest strength, a strength that we all have a duty to protect.

The SPEAKER: On indulgence, the Leader of Opposition.

Mr DUTTON (DicksonLeader of the Opposition) (14:25): I want to make it very clear to the Australian people that there is a bipartisan position in this chamber and that we speak with one voice when we condemn acts of violence, wherever they take place but particularly in our country at a period where there is heightened concern, legitimately, within many parts of the country. Last week, I was at a school in Sydney where armed guards have a permanent presence to protect young children going to school, to protect young kids going to daycare centres, not because they have done anything wrong, not because their families have done anything wrong or stand for any bad cause but because they are Jewish. That is why, and that has no place in our country whatsoever. It is not with any precedent in any other part of the country and it needs to be condemned. The Prime Minister today has condemned the actions of those who seek, for their own political purposes and their own political advancement, to pour fuel on this fire. They deserve the condemnation of this chamber, from day one.

In fact, after October 7, when 1,200 people were slaughtered by a terrorist organisation, to this day, people are still held in a tunnel network. Women and children are still held by the terrorist organisation. But as we know, the Greens political party didn’t wait for advice or evidence or a security briefing; they were out there condemning the Israelis immediately and without hesitation. And now we see on university campuses the hatred directed towards people who are academics, who are students, not because of views that they hold or causes that they support but because they are of Jewish faith. It is completely and utterly unacceptable and it needs to be condemned.

We are seeing now the offices of elected members of parliament being targeted with red paint, with vile messages of hate and discrimination and antisemitism, and it should be condemned. The Greens should condemn it instead of condoning it. Our country at the moment has an amazing Jewish community. We know, from speaking to some of the Holocaust survivors, that they fled war-torn Europe at the end of the Second World War and they have lived in our country in peace and harmony, have contributed to our great, amazing country that it is today without concern, without condemnation, without fear. We know today that those people, people who are in their eighties and nineties, are telling us that for the first time in the lifetimes they fear their presence in our country. They are talking about moving from our country and finding a safe haven somewhere else.

Six million people were gassed in the Second World War and we have got people in our country today out there on university campuses and outside MP’s offices denying that that took place, or saying the biggest attack on the Jewish population since that time, the slaughter of 1,200 people, somehow does not count for anything and that it shouldn’t be condemned. They should be ashamed of their actions and it has no place in our country.

We know that Hamas is using people, Palestinians, as human shields, as many terrorist organisations have done over the course of history. Why would they be any different from al-Qaeda or other terrorist organisations that we have known? Why would they value human life when many such people have had the depraved approach that they have over the course of history? Why would they be any different? Of course, they’re not. We want peace delivered as quickly as possible. It is in the hands of Hamas right now. There is a deal on the table. Hamas have the ability to bring this to an end, but of course they won’t, because they don’t care for Palestinians. They don’t care for Israelis. They care for their own power base.

The world should stand together to condemn the actions of antisemitism. We stand as one in this chamber—or we should stand as one—to make sure that we condemn the unacceptable levels of antisemitism that we see playing out on our streets. It has no place, and we will take every action we need, as a chamber, to make sure that we condemn those acts of antisemitism in our country. The Greens political party today is properly and rightly condemned.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the Australian Greens on a point of order?

Mr Bandt: No. I’m seeking the call, in the same way that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition were given extensive periods to free-range in an attack on the Greens. I am seeking the call on indulgence.

The SPEAKER: You can seek the call. You’re seeking the indulgence from the Speaker.

Mr Bandt: To respond.

The SPEAKER: In practice, that has always been granted for when there is an agreed position. If you look at the history of indulgence, that’s how it has been conducted.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: I’m not finished. If you wish to be granted indulgence, I’ll be listening carefully to make sure you’re in line with what was just said before the House. That is how indulgence works. If you wish to have another point of view, this is not the time to do that.

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! There are other forms of the House—whether being misrepresented, at the conclusion of question time, or other forms of the House—to make your statement known.

Mr Chandler-Mather interjecting

Mr Rae interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! Member for Griffith! Member for Hawke! On indulgence—in light of what I’ve said, the remarks I’ve made about indulgence—the Leader of the Australian Greens.

Mr BANDT (MelbourneLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:32): This House is united in condemning antisemitism and condemning Islamophobia. We also condemn the invasion of Gaza. I will not be lectured to about peace and nonviolence by people who back the invasion of Gaza. Children are dying because the Israeli army has engineered a famine. Instead of talking about the victims, the Prime Minister wants to make it about himself.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! Members on my right! The Leader of the Australian Greens will resume his seat. I explained clearly how indulgence works. It is not being granted.

Mr Bandt: I seek leave to make a short statement to respond to the outrageous attacks from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

The SPEAKER: Leave was not granted. Indulgence was granted.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard