Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – proposing a motion condemning Hamas’ attack

photo of Anthony Albanese MP
October 16, 2023

We should be very clear that it is Hamas that is the enemy, not the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people are suffering greatly, and this suffering has impacted on generations of Palestinians. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which is home to two million people, is deteriorating rapidly. We are monitoring the situation closely and we support the work of the United Nations, the United States, Israel and Egypt to establish safe passage for Gaza civilians. There is no question that Israel has the right to defend itself against a terrorist organisation and to take strong action against it, but we join the calls of President Biden and other partners for Israel to operate by the rules of war.

Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerPrime Minister) (11:28): I move:

That the House—

(1) unequivocally condemns the attacks on Israel by Hamas, which are the heinous acts of terrorists, and have encompassed the targeting and murder of civilians, including women and children, the taking of hostages, and indiscriminate rocket fire;

(2) stands with Israel and recognises its inherent right to defend itself;

(3) condemns antisemitism and recognises that generations of Jewish people have been subjected to this hateful prejudice;

(4) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages;

(5) recognises that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their legitimate needs and aspirations;

(6) acknowledges the devastating loss of Israeli and Palestinian life and that innocent civilians on all sides are suffering as a result of the attacks by Hamas and the subsequent conflict;

(7) supports justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike;

(8) supports international efforts to establish and maintain humanitarian access into Gaza, including safe passage for civilians;

(9) reiterates Australia’s consistent position in all contexts is to call for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international law;

(10) supports Australia’s engagement with countries in the Middle East and beyond, at all levels, in support of the protection of civilians, and the containment of the conflict;

(11) supports the Government’s ongoing efforts to provide consular assistance to affected Australians and to facilitate the departure of those who want to leave the region;

(12) acknowledges what has unfolded is deeply distressing for many in the Australian community, close to the heart of many, and it is important that we maintain respect for each other here at home as people express their views;

(13) condemns all forms of hate speech and violent extremist activity, including Antisemitism and Islamophobia;

(14) recognises an attack on any religion is an attack on all religions and that we all share a responsibility to unite, condemn and defeat such an attack on our common values and way of life;

(15) notes that undermining social cohesion and unity by stoking fear and division risks Australia’s domestic security; and

(16) affirms in the strongest possible terms that hateful prejudice has no place in Australia.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!

Mr ALBANESE: Mr Speaker, the evil committed by Hamas in Israel has chilled every Australian heart. We have all been profoundly shocked by the scale and wantonness of these attacks. What has happened affects both Israelis and Palestinians, so it’s important to note that this motion deals with the situation that both now confront. And I will speak to both. We must face what has happened and what is now unfolding with complete moral clarity.

Hamas terrorists committed mass murder on a horrific scale. Jewish families here and across the world are mourning the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust. This was no act of war against the army of an enemy. It was the slaughter of innocent people. It was an act of terror—calculated, pitiless, brutality—compounded by a rain of rockets designed to kill and to terrify without mercy and without discrimination. We have learned of acts of violation and humiliation so grotesque they should be beyond imagination but have been made reality by Hamas. They targeted young people at a music festival and hunted them down. They preyed on families, on children, on parents trying to protect their babies in what often proved to be their desperate final act. And Hamas celebrated. They wanted the world to see. They rejoiced in suffering and death. It is so difficult to contemplate. It is so confronting. But we cannot turn away from the truth. We must call these atrocities for what they are. We must condemn them together, and today this motion does just that.

As hard as it is for any of us to bear, we know that it is hardest on Australia’s Jewish community. Australia has the largest per capita Holocaust survivor population outside Israel. Our Jewish Australian community is made up of Holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren. The branches of their family trees are heavy with loss and suffering, with acts of survival in the face of overwhelming odds. It is nearly 80 years since that darkest of chapters closed, nearly eight decades of the world saying: never again. It is shocking and wrong that in 2023 Jewish people are having to draw on their courage and resilience again, enduring such loss, enduring the weight of not knowing and, for those with relatives who are missing, enduring the weight of hope.

I want to repeat the message that I’ve given to all Jewish Australians since the outset: you are not alone; your fellow Australians stand with you.

This was not just an attack on Israel. This was an attack on Jewish people. Let us be clear: Hamas is an enemy, but not just of Israel. Hamas is an enemy of all peace-loving Palestinian people who are left to pay a devastating price for this terrorism. Hamas honours no faith. It serves no cause but terror. It is no better than any other group in history that has clung to the twisted belief that victory can be built on the blood of the innocent. In the words of President Joe Biden:

Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people.

They use Palestinian civilians as human shields.

Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed with no regard to who pays the price.

We should be very clear that it is Hamas that is the enemy, not the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people are suffering greatly, and this suffering has impacted on generations of Palestinians. The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which is home to two million people, is deteriorating rapidly. We are monitoring the situation closely and we support the work of the United Nations, the United States, Israel and Egypt to establish safe passage for Gaza civilians. There is no question that Israel has the right to defend itself against a terrorist organisation and to take strong action against it, but we join the calls of President Biden and other partners for Israel to operate by the rules of war.

As French President Emmanuel Macron has said, preserving civilian populations is the duty of democracies. Protecting innocent people is not a show of weakness; it is a measure of strength because true strength never turns its back on humanity. We care about the lives of everyone caught in this conflict—that is who we are as Australians. We believe all people have the right to live in peace within secure borders. The people of Israel have that right, the people of Palestine have that right and the best path to that reality is a negotiated two-state solution within internationally recognised borders. As Foreign Minister Penny Wong told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce last week, one of the many tragic consequences of Hamas’s abhorrent attack is that it’s pushed that two-state solution further out of reach, and that also makes this an unconscionable crime perpetrated by Hamas against the Palestinian people.

Amidst this depravity, we can never let go of our own humanity because there is no greater weapon against inhumanity. As Ministers Wong and Conroy announced on Saturday, Australia is providing an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza. We will provide $3 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross to fund urgent needs, like restoring essential services and providing medical support to victims of the conflict. Through United Nations agencies, we will provide $7 million to deliver critical support, including emergency water, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as child protection. We will continue to monitor and assess the humanitarian situation and stand ready to provide further support.

We are moving quickly in pursuing all options to get out Australians who want to leave Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories. The first Australian government assisted departure flight landed in London on Saturday morning, with 238 Australians and their family members on board. I know we are all relieved those Australians are on their way home, and I thank the Australian officials who helped assist. We thank Qantas for the support it provided. Overnight we provided a further three flights: two operated by the ADF, and one government charter. But the situation on the ground is challenging and rapidly deteriorating. For Australians who want to leave, I can’t emphasise this enough: I strongly encourage you to take the first option you can.

Please do not wait for another option. We have secured flights for onward travel to Australia from London and Dubai. Information about those flights will be provided directly to passengers, and further details will be released soon.

We are assessing the situation very closely and working as fast as possible to help Australians. We know not everyone can get to the airport and that the security situation is very dangerous in some areas. We’re supporting Australians who have registered with DFAT’s consular emergency centre and are updating them with all the details directly. DFAT’s crisis centre in Canberra is operating on a 24-hour basis. Officials from DFAT and other agencies have been deployed to the region, including Tel Aviv, to support assisted departures. If they have not done so already, Australians in Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories who want to leave and don’t already have plans to depart should register via DFAT’s crisis portal.

Just as Hamas stands in the way of a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians alike, they try to drive division in every peace-loving democratic society and they seek to fan the embers of anti-Semitism. We cannot allow that. We will not allow that. I know I speak for every member of this House when I say that this kind of hateful prejudice has no place in Australia. The awful anti-Semitism chanted by some of the protesters at the Sydney Opera House is beyond offensive; it is a betrayal of our Australian values. We reject it and we condemn it. Our country is better than that and our country is a better place because of our Jewish community. Our government is committed to keeping the community safe.

Just as we join in this place to condemn Hamas, the message we should be sending loudly and clearly from this place to all Australians is to avoid the traps set by such forces of division. Anyone seeking to exploit people’s suffering for political purposes should consider the damage they risk doing. Anyone tempted by the lazy but corrosive option of false equivalence should shun that temptation. This is a time for compassion, not cynicism. Something that very much bears repeating is the advice of Mike Burgess, the Director-General of ASIO:

… it is important that all parties consider the implications for social cohesion when making public statements. As I have said previously, words matter. ASIO has seen direct connections between inflamed language and inflamed community tensions.

He goes on:

As always, ASIO is not interested in those who are engaged in lawful protest, but rather the small subset of protesters who may wish to escalate protest to violence. This includes religiously motivated and ideologically motivated extremists, or anyone who believes that violence is a means to further their own interests.

We have no room for anti-Semitism in this nation just as we have no room for Islamophobia. We have no room for hatred—not against Jews, not against Muslims. Our nation has been made better by generations of both. An important part of our strength as a nation is the breadth of our society, and it is such a great and vibrant strength, but, even in a country as stable and open as ours, social cohesion cannot be taken for granted. It must be nourished and protected. My government is committed to preventing discrimination against people of faith, including through anti-vilification protections. We have established a new, $40 million grants program to improve safety and security at places of worship, religious schools and community groups. I can announce that today the cabinet has agreed to $10 million from the confiscated assets program to be added to that $40 million and to fast-track the processing of what were many hundreds of applications just this week. We expect to have an announcement of funding in days.

We have committed to funding the Australian Human Rights Commission to complete its National Anti-Racism Framework and implement a comprehensive national antiracism strategy. Last October Australia signed a United Nations Human Rights Council statement on combatting antisemitism and online hatred.

In June the government introduced the Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Prohibited Hate Symbols and Other Measures) Bill to criminalise public displays of hate symbols. In addition to the important measures that seek to protect the community from symbols of hate, the bill will ensure that glorifying and praising acts of terrorism are criminal offences under Commonwealth law. The bill will also increase the penalties for those seeking to glorify these atrocities.

Earlier this year we also launched the Multicultural Framework Review to ensure Australian government policy settings and organisational arrangements are fit for purpose in supporting our multicultural society. There hasn’t been a review of how government supports multiculturalism since 1973.

The government is continuing to implement a strengths based approach to build on the successes of Australia’s cohesive and inclusive multicultural society. Those successes are considerable. As Australians, we should all take pride in what we have built together as an open-hearted, welcoming country driven by compassion and an instinctive sense of fairness. We showed it in 1948, when Australia played a role in the foundation of the modern state of Israel. It was a moment of light after the darkness of the Holocaust.

On this side of the House another source of pride is the fact that it was a Labor minister and future Labor leader, Doc Evatt, who was there at the heart of it all at the United Nations as President of the General Assembly. With Evatt presiding over the UN and supported by Prime Minister Chifley, Australia was the first country to vote for Israel to be made a member.

Through this motion today, our parliament sends a message of sympathy and solidarity to the people of Israel after the attacks by Hamas, and to our own Jewish community: all of us, and all Australians, embrace you in this time of trauma; we cannot lighten the weight that is upon you, but we hold you in our hearts. I commend the motion to the House.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard