Last week Senator Paterson rushed to call an incident on the US-Canadian border a terrorist attack. Only two hours later, the New York Governor confirmed there was no indication of terrorist involvement. Facts, not fear, are what we need in this place. They are what we need when we’re talking about the Israel-Gaza conflict. They are what we need when we’re talking about national security.
Senator WALSH (Victoria) (16:56): I am genuinely appalled by this motion about national security that Senator Paterson has brought to the chamber, particularly by the last line of the motion, which accuses the government of not acting in some way on antisemitism. That is an absolute disgrace, Senator Paterson. We are all better than that in here. This motion links every issue on which the opposition thinks it can promote fear and division and combines it in one hot mess of emotion. That is what is in front of the chamber right now.
We came together as a chamber to move a bipartisan motion unequivocally condemning the events of 7 October. We condemned antisemitism together. We did that together. We came together in this place as we should, as leaders, because we all have the responsibility to lead here. This motion and its accusation are a disgrace. The Prime Minister could not have been clearer in his comments rejecting and condemning antisemitism. He said in this parliament that antisemitism is beyond offensive. He said it is a betrayal of our Australian values. This is a time to be bringing people together, not playing the politics of fear and division. We know that words matter, Senator Paterson. That is the view, advice and warning of the Director-General of Security. He said after the terrible events of 7 October:
… it is important that all parties consider the implications for social cohesion when making public statements.
He said words matter. It is the responsibility of all of us here to lead in these challenging times. It is the responsibility of all of us to check our words. It is the responsibility of all of us to check our facts, too, because facts matter right now, more than ever.
Senator Paterson might wish to be reminded of that, given some of his recent commentary. Last week Senator Paterson rushed to call an incident on the US-Canadian border a terrorist attack. Only two hours later, the New York Governor confirmed there was no indication of terrorist involvement. Facts, not fear, are what we need in this place. They are what we need when we’re talking about the Israel-Gaza conflict. They are what we need when we’re talking about national security. They are what we need when we’re talking about border security. A fact about the opposition’s approach to border security is that Mr Dutton as the Minister for Home Affairs talked tough on borders and then slashed funding for compliance staff. He cut compliance officers by 50 per cent—that is a fact.
Then Senator Paterson comes to this chamber with an assertion that we have abandoned Operation Sovereign Borders. That is an outrageous attempt at fear over fact. We have, in fact, just yesterday, announced an increase in funding for the Australian Border Force—funding that will increase compliance staff and give additional funding to the AFP. Facts matter—they matter—and the opposition has a responsibility here. But, in this motion, in linking every issue that you think will instil fear into Australians into one hot mess of emotion, you are seeking to promote division. You are seeking to instil fear in the way you are talking to the Australian community. You are fanning the flames of division in this country.
Let’s talk about how we protect Australians and keep Australians safe. Let’s talk about facts, not fear. To keep our country safe, we need to be respected. Our leaders need to be respected. And the opposition is not demonstrating that kind of respect, as the alternative government of this country. So, while you get angry, we will get things done. While you focus on fear, we will focus on the facts. And, while you stoke division, we’ll do the harder work of keeping Australians together. (Time expired)