Senator Marise Payne – spoke in response to questions raised by Penny Wong on the topic of Australia relocating its embassy to Jerusalem

photo of Senator Marise Payne
October 16, 2018

I do want to emphasise that there is no change in this process—and the Prime Minister has emphasised this several times this morning—in support of peace and stability in the Middle East. Australia remains firmly committed to a durable and resilient two-state solution, one that allows Israel and the Palestinian state to exist side by side, within internationally recognised borders.

Full speech

Senator WONG (South Australia—Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Payne. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Julie Bishop, said in June:

… the Australian government will not be moving our embassy to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is a final status issue and we have maintained that position for decades …

Does the minister agree with the then foreign minister, Ms Bishop, or with Mr Morrison?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:00): I thank Senator Wong for her question. Today’s announcement by the Prime Minister is one that follows consideration of a number of important issues that affect Australia’s interests in the Middle East. I do want to emphasise that there is no change in this process—and the Prime Minister has emphasised this several times this morning—in support of peace and stability in the Middle East. Australia remains firmly committed to a durable and resilient two-state solution, one that allows Israel and the Palestinian state to exist side by side, within internationally recognised borders.

The Prime Minister has made observations this morning about the location of Australia’s embassy in Israel. He has said that he has considered the arguments put forward by a number of commentators, including our former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, that those arguments are ones which have contributed significantly to the international debate, that, in that process, Australia should consider recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without prejudice to its final boundaries, that we acknowledge East Jerusalem as an expected capital of a future Palestinian state and that we should be open to examining the merits of moving Australia’s embassy in the context of our support for a two-state solution. He looks forward to the discussion on this matter with other world leaders and counterparts through the upcoming series of international meetings: the G20, the East Asia Summit and, of course, APEC itself. Any consideration will be subject to a rigorous consideration of Australia’s national interests.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:02): When asked in June whether Australia would move the location of its embassy in Israel, the secretary of DFAT, Ms Adamson, said:

I don’t think so … I would expect the Australian government in future to maintain the position that Jerusalem is a final status issue. Our embassy will remain in Tel Aviv.

Can the minister explain what has changed?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:03): I think the Prime Minister actually addressed this issue this morning. A number of matters have been raised by the community since the Prime Minister was appointed in August of this year. A number of key issues around Middle East policy have been part of those discussions, and the Prime Minister has been very clear about that. He wants to be open with the Australian people. He wants to engage with the Australian people in terms of this issue. He believes that the Australian people should know what their Prime Minister is thinking, so he has placed these matters on the agenda so there can be a discussion, so there can be a process of examination of Australia’s policy in this regard. The government is capable of being open-minded on this matter. Those opposite are not.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:04): When did this minister first become aware that Prime Minister Morrison was considering moving Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem? Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s decision to change a longstanding bipartisan foreign policy and to put his short-term domestic political interests above the national interest?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Foreign Affairs) (14:04): Just for starters, I have never engaged in public discussion about my conversations with colleagues. I don’t intend to start now. Secondly, I think that the Prime Minister’s initiative to have this discussion—to actually consider these key areas of Middle East policy—is a very important one and one which I support.

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