I am advised that Australia has not supplied weapons to Israel since the Hamas-Israel conflict began and I am advised that that has been the case for at least the last five years.
Senator SHOEBRIDGE (New South Wales) (14:15): My question without notice is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Noting that a recent Department of Defence media release stated ‘more than 70 Australian companies have directly shared more than $4.13 billion in global F-35 production and sustainment contracts’ and that earlier this month it was revealed that Israel has been ordering F-35 spare parts from global suppliers for the F-35s it is using in the bombardment of Gaza, can the minister confirm whether or not Australia is or will be supplying F-35 parts to the State of Israel?
Senator WONG (South Australia—Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): I first say that, given some of the events this week, I encourage all in here not to continue to promulgate some of the disinformation on social media. There’s been a lot of disinformation on social media about what Australia is doing. I am advised that Australia has not supplied weapons to Israel since the Hamas-Israel conflict began and I am advised that that has been the case for at least the last five years.
I also make the point—and I trust that the senators down that end might do their part to push back on this disinformation—that the Australian government has not had any involvement in the conduct of the military conduct in Gaza. Given some of the misinformation on social media and the distress, anger and, frankly violent behaviour that we have seen, I trust that those in positions of authority might exercise—I’m not surprised you take a point of order at that!
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge?
Senator Shoebridge: My point of order is about relevance. The question was about whether or not Australia is or will be supplying F-35 parts to the state of Israel. The minister’s response is not relevant.
The PRESIDENT: The minister is being relevant.
Senator WONG: [inaudible] that, when he is asked to consider his responsibilities to the chamber, he takes a point of order, and he’s doing it again.
Senator Shoebridge: The minister is now (a) making a personal reflection and (b) clearly being not relevant to the question, which is: is or will Australia be supplying F-35 parts to the state of Israel?
The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Shoebridge. I will draw the minister back to the question, and the minister was not making a personal reflection.
Senator WONG: If we want to talk about personal reflections, we might want to go back to yesterday, but I’m happy to respond—
The PRESIDENT: Minister, please resume your seat. I have Senator Shoebridge on his feet. Senator Shoebridge?
Senator Shoebridge: The minister flouted your ruling and sought to again not be relevant and reduce to mudslinging.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge, resume your seat.
Senator Watt interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Senator Watt, I am responding. The minister had just stood again and begun her response. Minister, please continue.
Senator WONG: I’m just waiting for you to stand before I speak, because you just like to do that! Do you want to do that? Come on!
The PRESIDENT: Minister Wong, I am going to draw you back to the question
Senator WONG: I responded to your question, I think, in the first 20 seconds—that the advice I have from Defence is that Australia has not supplied weapons to Israel since the conflict began—and I again reiterate that there is a lot of disinformation on social media. I invite Senator Shoebridge and his leader to perhaps make sure they don’t promulgate it as well. (Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge, first supplementary?
Senator SHOEBRIDGE (New South Wales) (14:19): Given the criticism by Oxfam America and Amnesty International that the provision of 155-millimetre artillery shells to the State of Israel for use in Gaza undermined the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law, what, if any, guarantees can you give that Australian 155-millimetre artillery shells produced by NIOA munitions at Maryborough will not be directly exported to the State of Israel in the future or indirectly sent for use in Gaza through the US under the approved community export arrangements with the US?
Senator WONG (South Australia—Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:20): I think, to be clear about the question, I have responded on the advice I have, which is that Australia has not supplied weapons to Israel since the Hamas-Israel conflict began and for at least the last five years. I think I understand from the question that I am asked to rule out something that may or may not happen in the future.
Senator Shoebridge interjecting—
Senator WONG: Right. Well, that’s not an appropriate question for question time. I can tell you what our response is. I can tell you what the advice is. But you are trying—
Senator Shoebridge: You don’t want to answer.
Senator WONG: No, you know what it is? You are trying to make this a political issue in here, and I am saying to you it is utterly irresponsible, given what is happening out there in the community, for you to be backing in some of the misinformation and disinformation on social media. It is irresponsible. Your party should take some control of what you are doing. (Time expired)
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge, second supplementary?
Senator SHOEBRIDGE (New South Wales) (14:21): Minister, what response do you have to the criticism published today by the Australian Institute of International Affairs that the lack of transparency around Australia’s military exports leaves the government exposed to criticisms that Australian exported weapons could be used in conflicts like Gaza and that, without change, it risks Australia’s credibility as a sponsor of the rules based international order?
Senator WONG (South Australia—Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:21): As the senator would be aware, we have initiated a review of the Defence Trade Controls Act 2012 to ensure it remains effective, efficient and fit for purpose. I think the senator has been advised of that previously. In relation to the point about the international rules based order, that is an important point. That goes to who we are. You might recall, Senator, the motion you voted against in this chamber, the bipartisan motion on this conflict that you voted against, talked about in—
Senator Shoebridge interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Senator Shoebridge! Minister, please continue.
Senator WONG: The motion that your party voted against in this chamber—
Senator Shoebridge interjecting—
Senator WONG: Wow! Pfft! The motion that your party voted against in this chamber referenced, specifically, international humanitarian law, because that is an important national interest for Australia, and it is disappointing that you voted against it.