Let there be no doubt that in adopting these terms the Australian government is reaffirming its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state co-exist in peace and security. The reaffirmation stands with the Australian government’s strong support for the legitimacy and continued security of the State of Israel.
Senator O’NEILL (New South Wales) (16:47): I’ll commence by saying Australia is a friend of peace. Australia is a friend of Israel. Australia is a friend of the people of the occupied Palestinian territories. I am a friend of peace. I am a friend of Israel. And I am a friend of the people of the occupied Palestinian territories. I’m also the chair of the friendship group here in the parliament for the State of Israel, and I’m very pleased to work alongside Ms Vamvakinou, in the other place, who is the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine. It is in proper, careful dialogue that we will do honour to our nation and strive towards peace.
Peace can only reign in the Middle East if there are many of us all across the world who share the positions that I just articulated. My fellow senators, this is where we should be setting our sights: on the worthy goal of peace in the Middle East—such an elusive but worthy goal—rather than on what is happening here this afternoon, which sets its sights only on descent, discontent and division. The Australians have a right to expect better of us. This is why the motion is such a disappointment.
I’d like to address the substance of the urgency motion put forward by Senator Chandler, and I do so as a senator for New South Wales but also in my role as the Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Israel—a Labor senator. I want to remind people that it was Doc Evatt who, as President of the General Assembly from 1949 at the United Nations, served as chair of the ad hoc committee on the Palestinian question. He said, ‘It was, in my view, something in the nature of a miracle that the nation of Israel became a reality.’ We need to work with others multilaterally to continue to look for peace in the Middle East.
The recent announcement by Foreign Minister Penny Wong returns the Australian government to its stated position of the Israel settlements as illegal under international law and it sees the readoption of the term ‘occupied Palestinian territories’. The Albanese government view this alteration as maintaining consistency with our multilateral partners on the United Nations Security Council, with the European Union and also with the United Kingdom. New Zealand uses these terms, as do many of our other international partners. The government also views this rhetorical return as maintaining the longstanding classification that was shared by both major parties prior to 2014.
Foreign Minister Downer referred to the territories as ‘occupied’, including in media releases and his responses to parliamentary questions. Foreign Minister Smith did so in 2009. Defence Minister Faulkner did so in 2010. The current Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Sussan Ley, used the term ‘occupation’ in a speech to the House in 2011. In 2014 Prime Minister Abbott referred to the Palestinian territories as ‘disputed territories’. His foreign minister confirmed there had been no policy change. They were occupied territories. So for the opposition to come in here and play mischief with this and pretend it’s a change is absolutely a misrepresentation of reality.
Let there be no doubt that in adopting these terms the Australian government is reaffirming its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state co-exist in peace and security. The reaffirmation stands with the Australian government’s strong support for the legitimacy and continued security of the State of Israel. The Australian government desires peace in all regions and corners of the globe. This includes welcoming the Abraham Accords and the declared official relations between Israel and Morocco, Bahrain, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates, who joined Jordan and Egypt in officially recognising Israel. The government recognises and respects Israel’s right to defend itself in a uniquely challenging environment, and the government believes that the Abraham Accords foster that protection to ensure that peace is ultimately achieved.
It’s the Labor Party’s continued policy, without change, that a two-state solution is vital to ensuring peace and security. I am going to run out of time to speak more on this issue, and I hope we have the opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to peace and unity as a government for the whole nation. We need to do that in a bipartisan and multipartisan way. (Time expired)