We must engage with what is occurring here. The senator is using parliamentary privilege to defame Melissa Parke. He’s using parliamentary privilege in an effort to silence criticism of the Israeli government for the human rights abuses it has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate against Palestinian citizens.
Senator URQUHART (Tasmania—Opposition Whip in the Senate) (20:13): I rise tonight to reject a statement made recently in this place by Queensland Senator Scarr, who cynically used the protection of parliament to impugn the integrity of a former parliamentarian, with no basis in fact. On 3 February, Senator Scarr did not name the former federal member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, but he precisely identified her as the initial Labor candidate for the WA seat of Curtin in the 2019 federal election. He accused her of uttering a vile lie, of spreading vile misinformation and, by direct implication, of being an anti-Semite. His false accusations relate to events that occurred when Melissa worked as a lawyer for the United Nations in Gaza in 2003. One of those events involved a well-documented case of a Palestinian refugee woman being forced by an Israeli soldier to drink a bleach-like cleaning fluid. We must engage with what is occurring here. The senator is using parliamentary privilege to defame Melissa Parke. He’s using parliamentary privilege in an effort to silence criticism of the Israeli government for the human rights abuses it has perpetuated and continues to perpetuate against Palestinian citizens.
I challenge Senator Scarr to reiterate his assertions that Melissa Parke has spread a vile lie and a vile misinformation and that she is an anti-Semite outside the walls of this place. If he is unwilling to do so, he must retract his assertions and apologise to Melissa Parke, for the record of this parliament. If Senator Scarr is willing to do neither of these things, he must look at his integrity, as others certainly will, for there are only two explanations for his professed ignorance about the facts of Melissa Parke’s experience in Israel and Palestine and the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel. One is that he has not taken the trouble to research the documented history of the matter before proceeding to defame people of integrity. The other is that he does not wish to be troubled by the facts. There are no other options.
I put it to my colleagues in this place that the cynical use of the slur of anti-Semitism as a tool to silence critics of Israel for that state’s exhaustively documented human rights abuses against Palestinians must stop. Equally, this place must not be used as a refuge from reality from which false accusations can be hurled against people of greater integrity than their accusers.