Far from representing the Palestinian people, Hamas undermines Palestinian needs and aspirations. We continue to call for the unconditional release of all hostages. We stand with Israel and reiterate its right to defend itself. The Australian government reiterates our call for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international humanitarian law.
Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (16:55): At the outset I want to highlight the inappropriateness in my mind of the Greens bringing this matter of urgency forward when all senators in this place had the opportunity to debate an extensive motion on the issue, including the Greens amendment, and vote on it this morning. Sadly, I’m not surprised. Shame on anyone who politicises this tragedy for their own childish political gains.
As has already been said, any loss of innocent life is a tragedy. This is an extremely alarming time not just for the people in Israel and Gaza but also for Israelis and Palestinians and their loved ones around the world and here in Australia. To date and at the last count 2,778 Palestinians have been killed, 9,700 Palestinians have been wounded, an additional 1,200 have been buried under rubble, more than 1,400 Israelis have been killed and a further 3,000 wounded. The attack on Israel also resulted in some 200 people being taken as hostages into Gaza. These are innocent civilians—the elderly, children, babies and young people enjoying a music festival. This is why this whole situation is simply devastating.
As Senator Wong stated during question time today, we urge the protection of civilian lives. Furthermore, this is not an ordinary political debate. Everyone has their own views on this and for many it is extremely personal. Every life matters. We must all never forget that. I take this opportunity to offer my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of all civilians, both Israelis and Palestinians, who have lost their lives as a result of this conflict. We have seen a devastating loss of innocent life with the heinous attacks on Israel by the brutal terrorist group Hamas.
Far from representing the Palestinian people, Hamas undermines Palestinian needs and aspirations. We continue to call for the unconditional release of all hostages. We stand with Israel and reiterate its right to defend itself. The Australian government reiterates our call for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international humanitarian law. The Albanese government’s guiding principle has always been the pursuit of peace and progress towards a just and enduring two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live within secure borders. One of the many tragedies of what Hamas has done is it has pushed any prospects for peace further from reach, undermining the legitimate aspirations and the needs of the Palestinian people themselves.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza precipitated by Hamas’s actions is of serious concern and it is rapidly deteriorating. To ensure that essential humanitarian relief can reach the civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza, Australia calls for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza and the rapid establishment of a humanitarian corridor. Australia is providing an initial $10 million in humanitarian assistance for civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza. Australia 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 the victims of the conflict. Australia will continue to monitor and assess the humanitarian situation and stands ready to provide further support. Many of us here know and have friends and/or family in these affected areas. It’s important we stand together as a community during this time.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending a gathering in Perth—I would rather have been there under different circumstances—organised by the Perth Hebrew Congregation, where more than 1,000 Western Australians gathered together inside the synagogue, with many more attending outside who could not fit in, to support Israel. The congregation sang the prayer Oseh Shalom, which means prayer for ‘one thing above all: that for Israel, for the Jewish people and for the world that there should be peace.’ Peace and empathy are what we should be calling for and striving for here, particularly in this building—not turning this horrible situation into a topic for an MPI in this place.