There has been a shocking outbreak of Islamophobia and antisemitism in this debate, and this is a time for leadership. It is a time for all our leaders to try and bring our different groups together, because here in Australia we are the most successful multicultural society on Earth, and at the moment it feels like that is fraying.
Senator BRAGG (New South Wales) (19:31): I rise this evening to put on the record some remarks in relation to the very sad conflict in the Middle East and some of the effects it is having on our community in Australia and most particularly in my state of New South Wales. It was a month ago that we woke to the dreadful images of Hamas attacking Israel, murdering innocent civilians and then kidnapping hundreds of Israelis. This has had a profound impact on the community in Australia more broadly, but it has a particular impact on the Jewish community and also, of course, on the Muslim community in Sydney and elsewhere in New South Wales.
The position that Australia has taken has been the right position: to support Israel in fighting Hamas. But I understand that there has been a very significant level of hurt in how this debate has played out and that there have been instances which could have been managed better in terms of the communication of how this undertaking will be progressed. We’re talking about human life here, and there has been much suffering on both sides of the conflict in Gaza. Australia’s position should always be to condemn all forms of terrorism and to condemn the loss of civilian life, because, of course, we are committed as a responsible global citizen to ultimately getting to a two state solution with Israel and Palestine. I believe that the statement that the former prime ministers made—which set out their very clear position of understanding and support for the Jewish community, which feels under great stress at the moment—was timely and very well expressed. That statement also was very deliberate in that it made mention of the very strong feelings that I know that many parts of the Sydney Muslim community have about the impact and the treatment of Palestinian people at this time, because, of course, as Australians, we care about all citizens and we value the life of an Israeli child in exactly the same way that we regard the value of the life of a Palestinian child. That is why we are committed to a two state solution.
There has been a shocking outbreak of Islamophobia and antisemitism in this debate, and this is a time for leadership. It is a time for all our leaders to try and bring our different groups together, because here in Australia we are the most successful multicultural society on Earth, and at the moment it feels like that is fraying. Our leaders need to make a much stronger effort to bring different groups together and to speak out when wrongs happen. I feel that, with the recent outbreak of antisemitism in Sydney, where you’ve seen Hitler and Netanyahu faces and you’ve seen swastikas inscribed on various pieces of public infrastructure, that needs to be investigated and people need to be prosecuted under the laws of the state.
Equally, political leaders have to be very careful about how they engage in this debate. The Greens political particularly released a statement which depicted Israel as no longer existing. It is just so important that we take a moment to reflect on the humanity here, that we take all steps that we can to engage carefully with all parts of our community, because Australia is balanced and must always be a balanced country. We must look after all of our communities. We are supportive of the Palestinian people. We are supportive of the Israeli people. We support Israel. We do not support Hamas. We must always commit ourselves to working as a collaborative international citizen towards the long-held goal of a two-state solution. That is really important, and we need to give people hope that that is still something that we believe is achievable.