14 November 2023

I rise today to talk about the situation in Israel and Gaza. Since I spoke about this issue in the previous sitting week, the violence has escalated dramatically. We have rightfully condemned the actions of Hamas, unequivocally. They have targeted innocent civilian Israelis, including children, who continue to be held hostage. While Israel has a right to defend itself, as our foreign minister has said: the way that they defend themselves matters. We have called for the protection of civilian lives. The scale of the death and destruction in Gaza at the moment is unfathomable. Babies in neonatal intensive care are dying due to a lack of fuel to power hospital generators. Families are being wiped out in their entirety.

I have met with many from the Palestinian community in Canberra, including this afternoon, when I met with a group of women who wanted to tell me about what their community is going through. One woman said that 30 members of her family had been killed. I met with another Palestinian woman yesterday who said that 42 members of her family had been killed, but because many were under the rubble, and people are removing the rubble by hand because there is no other way, that number is actually far greater. I have heard horrific stories of amputations and operations going on without anaesthetics, and that the situations in the hospitals are absolutely dire. Medecins Sans Frontieres have reported that dozens of doctors, nurses, staff and patients continue to be killed in the al-Shifa Hospital which is under siege by the Israeli military and has already been bombed several times. It is reported that when people have attempted to leave the hospital they have been killed on the spot. Today, the UN observed a moment of silence for the 100 UNRWA staff who lost their lives in Gaza since 7 October. This marks the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short period.

Hospitals, schools, universities and refugee camps have been bombed. Palestinians have the right to live in peace in their homeland, as do Israelis. When I talked to members of the community this afternoon, they told me that they feel frustrated, hopeless and unable to do anything to help. To members of my community here in Canberra, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, or have links to those communities: I have the deepest concern for your suffering at the moment, which I cannot fathom. Our government is concerned about every innocent person that is being killed, regardless of which side they are on.

I thank the hundreds and hundreds of Canberrans who have written to me, calling for a ceasefire. I thank you for your concern about this situation and for writing to me about this, and I want you to know that I hear you. As our foreign minister has said, we all want to see the next steps towards a ceasefire and a political process for a just and enduring peace. We have reiterated our commitment to a two-state solution. Without an end to violence, that can never be achieved. Of course, this cannot be one-sided. Hamas is still attacking Israel, using human shields and holding more than 200 hostages.

Our communities here in Australia and in Canberra are feeling deep hurt at the moment, and what we need to remember at this really challenging time is our humanity. There's no place for antisemitism or Islamophobia here in Australia. It's important at this time that we call for peace. That is what we all want to see. The indiscriminate nature of the bloodshed in Gaza is unacceptable. Over 13,000 Gazans, including at least 4½ thousand children, have been killed. This must stop. We've also started to see settler violence in the West Bank against Palestinians. Australia maintains that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal. The unlawful taking of Palestinian homes is wrong and inflammatory. It makes the goal of a two-state solution harder, and it is a significant obstacle to peace.

I was really concerned to hear from people in my local Palestinian community that they believed that Australia was sending weapons to Israel. We are not. We are not sending troops; we are sending only personnel to help people to get out. We've also committed $25 million of aid, which we are doing our best to see delivered. I just want to reiterate that everyone in our government is absolutely devastated by the killing of innocent people in this situation. The deepest hope of everyone in our government is for enduring peace in the Middle East and a two-state solution, where both Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace and security.