Senator Richard Di Natale – criticised Scott Morrison’s decision to relocate Australia’s embassy to Jerusalem

photo of Senator Richard Di Natale
October 17, 2018

Let’s start with the issue of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday was yet another sign of Australia’s complete and utter capitulation to Donald Trump’s erratic and reactionary world view. The government is lining up behind a dangerous and unstable US President to destroy any prospect of a just peace in Israel and Palestine…In even raising the prospect of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving our embassy, the Prime Minister is supporting the Israeli’s settlement enterprise. Let’s be absolutely clear about this: settlement building is a flagrant violation of international law. It is illegal.

Full speech

Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (13:05): The Morrison government has decided that it wants us to focus on foreign policy in the lead-up to the Wentworth by-election. But yesterday’s rash and dangerous announcement regarding Jerusalem and the Iran nuclear deal was nothing more than a crude attempt to divert our attention and divide our community. Clearly, when it comes to the by-election in Wentworth, no price is too high for the Prime Minister. In a desperate attempt to appeal to a narrow segment of the community and to distract from the hopeless division within his government, he made that announcement yesterday.

This is a divided government. It is divided over whether religious schools should be able to fire teachers simply because they’re gay. It’s divided over the fact that people are now being tortured, murdered and abused in our off-shore detention camps, under the care of Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton. It is divided over the science of climate change. We now know that many people are suffering under appalling drought conditions, with the government reluctant—indeed, refusing—to acknowledge the causes of that drought. Prime Minister Morrison, if you’re keen to focus on foreign policy, let’s have a look at your record. We’re more than happy to oblige, because it is a dismal record. It is a history of lying low, averting our eyes and abrogating our responsibility to show leadership on human rights and the rule of law.

Let’s start with the issue of Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday was yet another sign of Australia’s complete and utter capitulation to Donald Trump’s erratic and reactionary world view. The government is lining up behind a dangerous and unstable US President to destroy any prospect of a just peace in Israel and Palestine. He is sacrificing our relationship with close friends and neighbours—just look at the response of the Indonesian government. His chief cheerleader is the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, with his abhorrent policies and behaviour. In even raising the prospect of recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving our embassy, the Prime Minister is supporting the Israeli’s settlement enterprise. Let’s be absolutely clear about this: settlement building is a flagrant violation of international law. It is illegal.

It’s not just the settlements; it seems there is no Israeli government atrocity to which the Prime Minister wouldn’t turn a blind eye: the endless siege, the marginalisation of the Arabic language and the deaths of over 100 Palestinian protesters. Just look at the opposition expressed by the Prime Minister to the Iran nuclear deal. We are jettisoning any respect that we had from European countries, who unequivocally support the deal. Is this the type of foreign policy Australians want, where we slavishly follow an erratic madman who governs his country by offensive rants on Twitter at 4 am? That’s not the sort of foreign policy a smart country like Australia engages in.

Let me turn to another major foreign policy story this week. Jamal Khashoggi, a respected Saudi journalist and writer for The Washington Post, entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey last week to collect marriage documents and never came out. All evidence now points to his murder. We now know, through media reports, that the Saudis are about to fess up. Yet where is the statement from our foreign minister?

This is just like how we didn’t hear a peep about Saudi atrocities in Yemen. At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed, many while going about their daily business, attending weddings and doing their groceries, and children on their way to school. Yemen is on the brink of the world’s worst famine in over 100 years if this war continues. Starvation is being used as a weapon of war on 13 million people. And what’s our response? We reward the perpetrators. We enthusiastically sell Australian military equipment to Saudi Arabia’s national guard. Former defence industry minister Christopher Pyne proudly trumpets his success in selling to war criminals and spruiks his multibillion dollar plan to make Australia a global arms dealer—all while cutting our international aid budget to the lowest levels on record. It is utterly contemptible. Our response to the gruesome Saudi regime is one of the many examples of our crawling retreat on human rights and development.

Let’s look at our own region. In Myanmar, the United Nations has found clear evidence of acts that amount to crimes against humanity, war crimes and, in all likelihood, genocide. Its recent fact-finding report found evidence of the rape of Rohingya women and the torture of an unknown number of innocent Rohingya people, which led to hundreds of thousands fleeing their homes. Yet, still, the Prime Minister sees fit to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars cooperating with the Myanmar military. The UK, the EU and the US have all decided that working with their military is irresponsible, that it’s a bridge too far, but not our government. A few weeks ago, the foreign minister finally flagged that we might have some sanctions, but still nothing has happened. I ask again: what more could it possibly take for the Liberals to take a stand against the genocidal regime in Myanmar?

Even closer to home, our neighbours in West Papua are still being denied self-determination nearly 50 years after the ‘act of no choice’ locked in the Indonesian occupation of their ancestral lands. If you’re a journalist, you can’t get a visa there; West Papuans are regularly arrested or even killed for peacefully protesting; and you can be beaten or murdered for flying the Morning Star flag in West Papua. But the Australian government still provides diplomatic cover for these atrocities and helps train paramilitaries, like Detachment 88, that are implicated in some of the worst of the violence. In Cambodia, we still refuse to take any concrete action against the murderous and illegitimate Hun Sen regime after the recent sham elections there—and they were a sham. How about we end that shameful refugee deal with Cambodia and implement sanctions against Hun Sen and his cronies? That would be a good start.

I could go on. I could talk about our disgraceful decision to thumb our noses at the Paris climate agreement, which makes us an international pariah and condemns many of our neighbours in the Pacific to a future of rising sea levels, where they will lose their homes to severe storms and lose arable land and drinking water. I could talk about the fact that our measly and ever-decreasing aid budget is a shameful response from a wealthy, civilised country like Australia. Our international development budget is now at its lowest levels on record, at a time when the need has never been greater. A country like Australia can and must contribute its fair share to the efforts around the world made by countries poorer than ours to lift people out of poverty; to educate young children; and to provide health care, sanitation and water for people who don’t have it. It is a disgrace that we are slashing the international development budget and continuing to support some of the most murderous regimes on the planet.

Unfortunately, I’ve only got a minute left to speak. Let me just say to the Prime Minister of this country and to his candidate in Wentworth: your foreign policy credentials do nothing to recommend you to the people in your community. Stop standing shoulder to shoulder with the US President, that lunatic who’s currently occupying the White House. Stop providing cover to human rights abusers just because some of them might be our allies or because you see benefit in a trade relationship with them. Stop providing cover to them because we sell them arms or we deposit our refugees there. Show some courage. Make us proud to be Australian again. Stop trashing our name on the world stage. Protect the rule of law and protect human rights, because there is so much work to do.

Link to parliamentary Hansard

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