Nola Merino MP – regarding anti-Semitism in Australia, and the Australian Government’s vote at the UN relating to membership for Palestine

May 30, 2024

I am deeply and profoundly ashamed that the Labor government chose, by default, to reward the designated terrorist group Hamas for its barbarous attacks on 7 October by voting for a resolution at the UN granting a unique form of UN membership to the state of Palestine. I was equally ashamed when the NSW Police simply watched the antisemitic protest at the Opera House. However, it pales beside this UN pro-Hamas and anti-Israel decision by the government.

Mrs MARINO (Forrest) (11:42): My mother was a World War II widow. Her husband, Jack Leonard, was killed in Papua New Guinea in 1943. My sisters never knew their father. My family has lived with this sacrifice and loss all our lives. Jack was one of the over 103,000 Australians who’ve made that ultimate sacrifice—those who have lost their lives, when Australia has supported our allies in times of conflict, address and attempted oppression. Our service men and women also fought and died so that Australians can be free, tolerant and live in peace in one of the world’s greatest democracies—one that believes in the rule of law, in which we have the right to religious freedom. The deeds of those men and women helped define who we are as a nation, and it is a nation worth defending.

Equally, we have to continue to defend our values and way of life to continue to be worthy of the sacrifice made by those who have given their lives and their families. However, I believe that every one of those 103,000 who fought and died in conflict would be as ashamed as I am and disgusted, not only with the divisive growth in antisemitism in Australia but also with the Prime Minister and Labor government’s weakness and lack of leadership in dealing with this crisis that has allowed antisemitism to fester and grow in our communities. The Prime Minister has totally failed to provide the moral and political leadership against those who are actively inciting hatred and violence in Australia.

How appalling is it that Jewish people living in Australia have never felt and never been as vulnerable, targeted and intimidated as they are right now? The hate preachers who’ve been allowed to get away with openly inciting antisemitism; the ‘Jew, die’ graffiti on a school; the repeated use of antisemitic chants ‘from the river to the sea’ and ‘Intifada’, deeply antisemitic terms not called out by the Prime Minister—Peter Dutton is right when he said antisemitism is not just a threat to one segment of our community; it’s a threat to Australia’s social cohesion and our democratic values. It is appalling that some of the worst antisemitic and hateful intimidation activists are coming from our university campuses, with the tacit support of weak university leaders or worse, Sydney University’s Mark Scott openly rewarding antisemitic hate and vilification. Peter Cosgrove got it right recently when he said, ‘Hitler would be proud.’ After all, that’s how bad antisemitism is in Australia. Anybody who is in any doubt needs to take a walk in a Jewish person’s shoes. How much longer will Jewish students have to fear for their safety at universities? Again, we’ve seen nothing but weakness from the Prime Minister on this. The coalition government will cancel the visas of any student protesters involved in spreading antisemitism or supporting terrorism. We will not tolerate racism, antisemitism or public support for Hamas or terrorist organisations.

I am deeply and profoundly ashamed that the Labor government chose, by default, to reward the designated terrorist group Hamas for its barbarous attacks on 7 October by voting for a resolution at the UN granting a unique form of UN membership to the state of Palestine. I was equally ashamed when the NSW Police simply watched the antisemitic protest at the Opera House. However, it pales beside this UN pro-Hamas and anti-Israel decision by the government. It’s a decision that ignores the wisdom of Bob Hawke who said, ‘If the bell tolls for Israel, it tolls for all mankind.’ Labor has totally trashed Australia’s historic bipartisan support for Israel—the only liberal democratic country in the Middle East—and Labor’s UN decision does not facilitate a two-state solution. As I said, it is a morally bankrupt decision, further compounding the grief and vulnerability of Jewish Australians, whom the Prime Minister has let down. It’s a decision that has, by default, rewarded Hamas for those appalling atrocities and the barbarity committed on 7 October—the worst attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust: the utterly barbaric rape, mutilation, torture and murder of 1,200 mostly civilian women, men, children and babies, and the kidnapping of 250 hostages, 130 of whom are still in captivity or dead.

Hamas has made it very clear that it will continue these attacks to annihilate the Jews and repeat those same 7 October attacks. There is absolutely no equivalence between Israel, which is a democratic country, and Hamas, which is a designated terrorist organisation. Israel does have the right to defend itself, but Labor’s decision to, by default, support Hamas through the UN vote has undoubtedly severely increased the vulnerability and fears of Jewish Australians. The decision rewards and incites terrorist activity and rewards bullies. I’ve got no doubt it emboldened campus activists and other activists. It also completely betrayed our traditional allies, the US and the UK—relationships that are going to become even more important in the years ahead. Make no mistake: the Labor government voted against Israel but voted with Russia, China and Iran. That’s a shameful and disgraceful decision and one that ignores our history of fighting for democracy, fighting for Australian values and fighting for what is right. It sends a dreadful message that the Labor government stands with those who use violence and intimidation to achieve their goals—certainly not in Australia’s national interest or what Australians fought and died for.

Australia’s Prime Minister compounded this weakness by refusing to comment on the ICC proposal—weak and, again, totally out of step with our allies. The US unequivocally rejected the ICC’s application, reinforcing the strong message that there is no equivalence between Israel and Hamas. I originally thought that the Prime Minister’s weakness exposed him as a commentator and not a decision-maker, but I see now that, on the lack of response to the ICC, not only is he not a decision-maker and not a commentator but he is a spectator, and one who has set Australia on a divisive and destructive path not only with Hamas and antisemitism but also in total failure to stand up for Australia and our defence forces with China—weakness yet again, where he has given in to China’s pressure. If you do that, they will simply take another step forward. That ‘handsome boy’ comment was not a compliment. It showed contempt and a lack of respect for a weak prime minister who failed to stand up for our Royal Australian Navy, HMAS Toowoomba and its divers over the deliberate sonar attacks. He failed to raise this directly with Xi Jinping when he had the opportunity. This is a prime minister who continues to demonstrate weakness with China, with not enough courage to directly raise the tough issues, which is what a prime minister should be doing on behalf of this nation.

But this weak response further emboldened China to show its contempt for Australia and take another step forward with the dangerous and provocative intimidation from the PLA’s jet firing flares at a Royal Australian Navy Seahawk. It put the lives of our RAN members at direct risk. They could have been killed. When will Australia’s Prime Minister actually stand up for our ADF and for all Australians? As I understand it, no Labor minister at all has spoken directly to their Chinese counterpart about this incident.

So Prime Minister, I’ve got a question. Would you have supported that UN vote that has by default rewarded Hamas? If the 1,200 women, children, men and babies who were barbarically tortured and murdered on 7 October, the 250 kidnapped by Hamas and the 130 still held hostage or dead were actually Australians—they’re people no different to us, and we normally stand up for those in these circumstances—would you still be that cowardly commentator and a weak spectator, rewarding a registered terrorist organisation responsible for the atrocities with a UN vote? If it were Australians on 7 October, how would your government have responded to other countries telling Australia to show restraint in its response? I can tell you exactly what Australians would be demanding of us if the victims and hostages were Australians attacked on Australian soil.

Prime Minister, historically and as we see currently, there are—nationally, globally—critical decisions that need to be made by the government of the day. They are decisions that are far more important than and far outweigh the politics of the day or an upcoming election—where Australia needs strong, capable leadership that makes decisions in the national interest, in Australia’s interests, as well as in the interests of our allies. Prime Minister, it is your duty to act in Australia’s national interest, to have the courage and conviction to stand up against political interests and pressures from within your own party and put the national interest first. It is the job of a true statesman. That is the tough job of a prime minister.

On this count, Prime Minister, you’ve failed this nation, and your decision to support, by default, Hamas, China, Iran and Russia at the UN and failure to be strong in controlling the rampant rise of aggressive and escalating anti-Semitism in Australia is an egregious and unforgiveable failure. Talking about the problem does not fix the problem.

Let’s not forget that Australia and Israel are historic allies. Remember the extraordinary efforts of our Australian light horsemen at the Battle of Beersheba. Never forget that the legacy of the Battle of Beersheba by the Australian Light Horse Brigade was an Australian led victory that helped, in part, to return Israel to the Jewish people. I know what my mother’s husband, Jack Leonard, and his World War II mates who fought and died for Australia would say about Labor’s vote at the UN and the appalling failure to act on anti-Semitism. I know exactly what my mother would be thinking and feeling if she were alive. I know personally what my one living sister thinks right now: this is not the Australia my father died for. What we have now is definitely not the Australia that these men and women gave their lives for.

I had the honour of laying a wreath at Tyne Cot on behalf of our service men and women. I also saw the cemetery at Polygon Wood. And I met the oldest Menin Gate bugler and thanked him most profoundly for the fact that they have played ‘The Last Post’ over 30,000 times. They’re all volunteers. I looked at those 55,000 names on that bridge, and I thanked him for playing ‘The Last Post’ and for all his people. He was one of the oldest ones surviving. He said: ‘You listen to me. At the time, it was like genocide when the Germans were rolling across this country. What we know here is that all we are and all we have is because of your Australians’ blood on our soil.’ That freedom and that right is what Australians should be continuing to fight for.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard