Labor fully endorses Israel’s right to exist and to live peacefully within secure borders. There has been no change and there will be no change from that policy. We also continue to fully subscribe to the two-state solution, as does the government. How about you, Member for Goldstein, add something useful to this debate, such as how we might move forward on achieving the two-state solution, rather than playing cheap politics.
Dr MIKE KELLY (Eden-Monaro) (18:26): I would love this to be a bipartisan issue, and you conducted yourself in that way, Mr Deputy Speaker. But the member for Goldstein chose not to do that, so let’s go there. I am willing to stack Labor’s record on this issue against the coalition’s any day of the week. I could go back a long way, but let’s start with Prime Minister Menzies’s support for the 1939 white paper where the Jewish state’s establishment was actually rejected, and it limited refugees from Nazi Germany to the consequences that we all now well understand. Let’s also recall that Menzies’s Liberal Party opposed the 1947 partition plan—they called it ‘a ridiculous and stupid decision’—which Doc Evatt, as chair of the ad hoc committee, managed to negotiate and navigate through the UN process.
The Liberals also opposed Labor’s de jure recognition of Israel. They opposed Labor’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel. They opposed Labor’s efforts to get Israel admitted as a member of the UN—again, work that was accomplished by Doc Evatt as President of the United Nations General Assembly. We could cite Prime Minister Menzies’s support for Prime Minister Eden’s 1955 proposal, which would have reduced Israel’s boundaries from the 1949 armistice lines.
We could also refer to the coalition members who have been aired views in much more strident terms than members of the current parliamentary Labor Party. These include the member for Reid, the member for Farrer, the former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and the former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. In fact, the member for Reid stated and asserted ‘the issues that we as a globe confront today’ can be traced back to the creation of the state of Israel. He also said of the two-state solution:
I believe this is used as a line to hide behind; it does not get past that.
The member for Farrer, of course, has often pushed for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. In a democracy, Member for Goldstein, people will hold and express different views. I thought that was something you supported.
I am quite happy to also refer to Labor’s record in government in its relations with Israel in our last term. As a member of the Defence portfolio, I was proud be involved in the establishment of Plasan’s involvement with Thales in the great success story which was the Hawkei light tactical vehicle. During the Afghanistan conflict we also acquired the Heron UAVs, which I know were of great support to the member for Canning’s efforts in that country. It was our contract with Elbit Systems that managed to establish the introduction of their battlefield management system into the Australian Defence Force. Our ties with Israel to establish counter-improvised-explosive-device work are deep and continuing. It even extended to acquiring Israeli combat bandages and helmets during that time, and, of course, continuing to acquire Typhoon weapons systems for our naval vessels. So our involvement with Israel during that time was deep, meaningful and sustained.
But if we want to compare politics on this we should refer to the member for Goldstein’s own attacks on section 18C, a matter of deep and abiding concern to the Australian Jewish community, just as many ethnic communities have voiced their concerns. That provision of that act has been the sole defence line against those in this country who would deny the holocaust, having been used on occasion to defend the Jewish community against those outrageous assertions, claims and attacks on a matter of great sensitivity to Jews. And, of course, virulent anti-Semitic attacks are protected against by the provision of 18C, which the member for Goldstein wishes to remove.
Let us also refer to the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, whose efforts have been consistent in adopting a sycophantic policy towards Iran, simply too obviously resolve outstanding asylum seeker issues, which are matters that also have been of great concern to the Jewish community. That involvement with Iran saw an embarrassing episode where the foreign minister attended a conference of coalition nations, at which she tried to advance the cause of Iran being involved in those coalition conferences and involved in the exchange of internal intelligence, which was of course rejected by the other participants at that coalition conference. So, if we want to get into that, we can do it.
But let’s not. Let’s adopt the approach that you demonstrated, Mr Deputy Speaker, and get back to the situation of a bipartisan approach to this issue, because Labor fully endorses Israel’s right to exist and to live peacefully within secure borders. There has been no change and there will be no change from that policy. We also continue to fully subscribe to the two-state solution, as does the government. How about you, Member for Goldstein, add something useful to this debate, such as how we might move forward on achieving the two-state solution, rather than playing cheap politics.