The response by Israel to seek to rid Gaza and the region that Israel operates within so far as possible of Hamas is a response that seeks to ensure peace is possible in the future. Those who utter a slogan of ‘ceasefire now’ are ignoring the reality that a ceasefire now, short of a release of hostages, a surrender by Hamas and a handing-over of terrorist capabilities, infrastructure, equipment and leaders, would only perpetuate the type of tragedy that we have seen.
Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia—Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) (12:12): President, I seek leave to make a statement.
The PRESIDENT: Leave is granted for five minutes.
Senator BIRMINGHAM: I thank the Senate. Like many of us, I attended Remembrance Day services on Saturday. At the service in Adelaide that I attended, leaders of our RSL spoke. One of the messages they gave was that they did not like to hear people talk about the futility of war. The tragedy of war—yes. The sacrifice of war—yes. But, for those who have paid the price of war, be they those who’ve paid the price serving our nation and others, or be they, of course, innocent lives lost, they did not think that phrase suggesting war is futile was appropriate. The reason, of course, is that wars are fought for a purpose and a reason. I would hope that we would all agree that it would be preferable if wars never had to be fought. But, tragically, that is not the real world in which we live. Horrific actions are undertaken by groups, individuals and nation-states in a range of ways that do result in conflict and war. One of the factors and functions of war is that innocent lives tragically are lost.
We are seeing a war in Gaza at present, and it is a war that was sparked by the actions of Hamas on October 7. These were horrific, brutal actions that, as Senator Wong rightly acknowledged in her worthy contribution just then, saw the largest loss of Jewish lives in a single day since the Holocaust. This chamber, this parliament, sought to come together on 9 October, just a couple of days after, in a statement that amongst it very clearly acknowledged the devastating loss of Israeli and Palestinian life and that innocent civilians on all sides are suffering as a result of the attacks by Hamas and the subsequent conflict. The response by Israel to seek to rid Gaza and the region that Israel operates within so far as possible of Hamas is a response that seeks to ensure peace is possible in the future. Those who utter a slogan of ‘ceasefire now’ are ignoring the reality that a ceasefire now, short of a release of hostages, a surrender by Hamas and a handing-over of terrorist capabilities, infrastructure, equipment and leaders, would only perpetuate the type of tragedy that we have seen.
This Senate should not be used as a place to seek to fight the war of the Middle East. It should not be used as a place in seeking to fight that war of the Middle East to divide Australians. Where there were arson attacks on Islamic schools in South Australia, I condemned that act of Islamophobia, as I know Senator Wong did. Where we see, though, as we did on the weekend, deliberate, provocative acts of pro-Palestinian rallies going into parts of Melbourne and parts of Sydney that are known to be home to the largest numbers of Jewish populations in Australia, that deserves condemnation as well. That is not only deliberate provocation but a deliberate intent to intimidate Australians.
When we hear Jewish Australians saying that they are afraid to display religious symbols, afraid to wear religious garments and afraid for their children to wear their school uniforms going to or from school, then we have a serious problem. That problem does demand leadership, and we will have a contest of debate in this place about how Australia responds, but it should not be a one-sided response. The actions of the Greens consistently from 9 October onwards have been to view this through a one-sided approach that has never seen them support a motion to condemn Hamas and only sees them coming here seeking to create further division.