Senator Katy Gallagher – opposing the Greens’ attempt to move a motion condemning Israel’s invasion of Gaza

February 26, 2024

They continue to reproduce the conflict here to whip up anger and fear and to perpetuate myths in the Australian community because they think there are votes in it for them. I remind the Greens that right now there are 130 hostages still being held by the terrorist group Hamas. They have been since 7 October, when 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed in attacks.

Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital TerritoryMinister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (10:27): It’s of deep regret that the Senate continues to face suspension motions like this from the Greens political party, who are clearly only looking for ways to use this crisis to whip up anger to gain votes. We heard that in the presentation from Senator Steele-John, who perpetuates incorrect statements. We have not sold arms to Israel. We have increased funding for multiple agencies in Palestine. Don’t come in here and try to whip it up, as you have done in previous sittings. How about the Senate work together on a pathway for peace and on keeping our community unified? It’s clearly not what you want, but that is the responsible approach from an Australian government and an Australian parliament.

We are a respected voice on the conflict in the Middle East, even if we’re not a central player in it. The government is using Australia’s voice to advocate for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and humanitarian access, the release of hostages and the protection of civilians. If the Greens were really concerned about the crisis in the Middle East, they would be engaged in the discussions for a pathway to peace and keeping our community unified. They continue to reproduce the conflict here to whip up anger and fear and to perpetuate myths in the Australian community because they think there are votes in it for them. I remind the Greens that right now there are 130 hostages still being held by the terrorist group Hamas. They have been since 7 October, when 1,200 Israelis and foreigners were killed in attacks.

Senator Faruqi: Thirty thousand Palestinians are dead.

Senator GALLAGHER: If you stop yelling at me, I will go on that we are faced with reports from the UN that 400,000 Palestinians in Gaza are starving and a million are at risk of starvation. An estimated 1.7 million people in Gaza are internally displaced, and there are increasingly few safe places for Palestinians to go.

With the humanitarian situation in Gaza already dire, the casualties from an expanded military operation would be devastating. Australia’s message to Israel is to not go down this path. Our position on this is consistent with our position the whole way through this conflict, which has been that international humanitarian law must be respected and civilians must be protected. We have communicated this at a senior level. In recognising Israel’s right to defend itself, we have said that the way it does so matters. Israel must respect international humanitarian law. Civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected.

There are more than a million civilians sheltering in and around Rafah. Many civilians who are displaced in Israeli operations in the north have moved to the south to this area, often under Israeli direction. We are not alone in expressing concern at the prospect of an expansive Israeli military operation in Rafah. The United States has said it will be a disaster and should not proceed without a credible plan for ensuring safety for the more than one million people sheltering there. Germany has said it would be a humanitarian catastrophe. Canada has said it would have a devastating impact. We have consistently said there is no place in Australia for antisemitism, Islamophobia or prejudice or hatred of any kind. We must all work together to ensure that the distress in our community does not turn into hatred.

An honourable senator interjecting

Senator GALLAGHER: Well, the Australian government has made these comments, and I know you say it’s just words, Senator Steele-John, but we have made these comments. The foreign minister has made these comments at the highest level. I have made these comments last week at the foreign ministers meeting in Brazil. People are speaking out. People are concerned. What’s happening is incredibly distressing. But do you think coming in here and perpetuating myths in this chamber about what the Australian government is doing is going to help one little bit? Do you seriously think so? How about you act like grown-ups and work with us on the serious matters that present in the Middle East—work together on a credible pathway to peace, which is what responsible international actors are doing, speak out against further civilian loss of life and look at ways that we can support the humanitarian efforts in the Middle East? We have increased funding, not decreased it. We are not selling arms to Israel. You should not repeat those claims in this chamber when you know that they are not true. We should all in this chamber work together on that pathway to peace.

Link to Parliamentary Hansard