Therefore, I stand before this parliament and implore that we pay close attention to the words we choose and the stance we take to ensure good faith in all Australians, from every religion, ethnicity, race and skin colour, that their leaders stand with them and for them. By focusing exclusively on addressing antisemitism, we are prioritising one group and overlooking an entire community. It is impossible to condemn the attack against Israel and ignore the horrors in Gaza.
Ms LE (Fowler) (15:39): As elected leaders of our communities and representatives of our country we have a huge responsibility of setting the tone, the language and interactions of this chamber, to ensure that we demonstrate respect, civility and consideration of the Australian public when we talk on and debate matters of public importance. As the elected member of Fowler—and Fowler is one of the most culturally diverse electorates in the country—I stand for cohesion, I embrace and respect differences and I am a strong voice for my community. Therefore, I cannot stress enough the important role that we in this House play in protecting and nurturing the wonderful multicultural tapestry that we have in Australia, at a time when international strife has caused mass casualties and inflicted grave harm to human lives.
I have no doubt that Australians from different cultures, faiths and lived experiences are impacted by the conflict in the Middle East. While the conflict is not directly at our doorstep, our people have families and friends who have lost their lives from this tragedy. There’s no denying that there’s real pain and anguish in our communities, including those of many members in our House. It’s critical that we are conscious of Australia’s multicultural community and recognise that both the Jewish and Muslim communities have probably been impacted the most. Incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitic incidents are at a record high according to the Guardian. Within a month, the period between October and November, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry reported 221 antisemitic incidents—42 incidents were within a single week alone. Within the same time frame, the Islamophobia Register Australia reported 133 incidents, but authorities believe that the accurate number is much higher because Islamophobic hate crimes are historically underreported.
Australia does not condone this abhorrent upward trend of targeted violence against any communities in our diverse country. It is our job as representative leaders to reassure our people and confirm that the government prioritises their safety, security and wellbeing. Therefore, I stand before this parliament and implore that we pay close attention to the words we choose and the stance we take to ensure good faith in all Australians, from every religion, ethnicity, race and skin colour, that their leaders stand with them and for them. By focusing exclusively on addressing antisemitism, we are prioritising one group and overlooking an entire community. It is impossible to condemn the attack against Israel and ignore the horrors in Gaza. This approach is polarising and is the most harmful and dividing thing that we could do as leaders. We must recognise the position of privilege we are in to be able to turn off the news and put down our phones amidst the ongoing crisis, because the not-so-secret reality is that a horrific amount of human lives, regardless of where, have been and are being lost in the Middle East. For that reason, it is pivotal that the message we establish on the matter as a nation is made with clarity and conviction—so, when we condemn Hamas’s action of terrorism, it is not Islamophobic, and, when we call upon Israel for a ceasefire, it is not antisemitic; it is purely and completely indiscriminate humanitarianism.
Let me reiterate this. The condemnation of the killing of innocent lives, including women and children, and the bombing of buildings is not a stance charged with religious or racial prejudice; it is a call for basic human rights. Furthermore, I cannot ignore the politics of fear being used in this parliament, as it is dangerous. It drives out reason and is an obstruction to productive discourse. Right now, Australians are grappling with critical economic challenges that impact our livelihoods, and the last thing we should be doing is driving more fear. The cost-of-living crisis is a critical issue that affects everybody in Australia, including not only adults and parents but youth and children as well. In spite of this, the parliament is inciting fear, anger and division on an already devastating conflict. Instead, we must prioritise social cohesion and take the necessary steps to ensure the safety, security and wellbeing of our impacted communities. This begins in the parliament with the message we are sending to Australians—that we are all Australians.