Australian solidarity – and its detractors
Nov 2, 2023 | Jamie Hyams
The effect in Australia of the horrendous October 7 Hamas terrorist atrocity and aftermath was exemplified in Federal Parliament, with well over half of all members and senators addressing the issue.
On Oct. 16, the first sitting day after October 7, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (ALP, Grayndler) moved:
“That the House—
(1) unequivocally condemns the attacks on Israel by Hamas, which are the heinous acts of terrorists, and have encompassed the targeting and murder of civilians, including women and children, the taking of hostages, and indiscriminate rocket fire;
(2) stands with Israel and recognises its inherent right to defend itself;
(3) condemns antisemitism and recognises that generations of Jewish people have been subjected to this hateful prejudice;
(4) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages;
(5) recognises that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their legitimate needs and aspirations;
(6) acknowledges 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;
(7) supports justice and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike;
(8) supports international efforts to establish and maintain humanitarian access into Gaza, including safe passage for civilians;
(9) reiterates Australia’s consistent position in all contexts is to call for the protection of civilian lives and the observance of international law;
(10) supports Australia’s engagement with countries in the Middle East and beyond, at all levels, in support of the protection of civilians, and the containment of the conflict;
(11) supports the Government’s ongoing efforts to provide consular assistance to affected Australians and to facilitate the departure of those who want to leave the region;
(12) acknowledges what has unfolded is deeply distressing for many in the Australian community, close to the heart of many, and it is important that we maintain respect for each other here at home as people express their views;
(13) condemns all forms of hate speech and violent extremist activity, including Antisemitism and Islamophobia;
(14) recognises an attack on any religion is an attack on all religions and that we all share a responsibility to unite, condemn and defeat such an attack on our common values and way of life;
(15) notes that undermining social cohesion and unity by stoking fear and division risks Australia’s domestic security; and
(16) affirms in the strongest possible terms that hateful prejudice has no place in Australia.”
Mr Albanese said, “The evil committed by Hamas in Israel has chilled every Australian heart. We have all been profoundly shocked by the scale and wantonness… [Australian Jews] are not alone; your fellow Australians stand with you… There is no question that Israel has the right to defend itself against a terrorist organisation and to take strong action against it, but we join the calls… for Israel to operate by the rules of war… The awful antisemitism… at the Sydney Opera House is beyond offensive; it is a betrayal of our Australian values.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (Lib., Dickson): “[The attacks were] the embodiment of evil… Israel has every right to defend itself and its people. Israel has every right to deter future attacks and other acts of aggression… It’s particularly repugnant that some Australians have decided to… celebrate Hamas’ attack…”
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles (ALP, Corio): “Hamas has an ideology of terror, and its acts… have been of the most profound evil. Israelis and Palestinians have a right to exist in peace and security. Israel has a right to act in its defence… we add our voice to the international call that the rules of war be respected.”
National Party Leader and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud (Maranoa): “Our party stands in unity and in solidarity with… Israel and its people… Israel has every right to defend itself against the appalling threats presented by an ISIS-like organisation like Hamas, which has no regard at all for human life.”
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus (ALP, Isaacs): “Today we mourn the greatest loss of Jewish life in a single day since the Holocaust… Australia unambiguously supports the right of Israel to defend itself today.”
Greens Leader Adam Bandt (Melbourne): “There is much [in the motion] that we could support, but, on the eve of a looming invasion that is likely to be not just a humanitarian catastrophe but a war crime, Australia cannot stay silent and back that invasion.” He moved an amendment to omit paragraph (2), and substitute:
“condemns war crimes perpetrated by… Israel, including the bombing of Palestinian civilians, and calls for an immediate ceasefire between all parties and an end to the war on Gaza, recognising also that for there to be peace there must be an end to… Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories.”
Minister for Employment and the Arts Tony Burke (ALP, Watson) condemned the attacks, but added, “There are legitimate aspirations for the Palestinian people. It’s legitimate to want to live freely: free of occupation, free of endless checkpoints, free of a legal system which differs in the different ways that military courts do. All of that is further away now…”
Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley (Lib., Farrer): “We stand with people of Jewish faith in this country and abroad… and we stand against these acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas and support Israel taking the strongest possible action to ensure this can never happen again.”
Josh Burns (ALP, Macnamara): “Israel… has an obligation to protect its citizens, just as Australia does… We must stand against terrorism, against antisemitism and against hatred in all its forms.”
Former Prime Minister Scott Morrison (Lib., Cook): “… we will support… Israel’s right to self-defence… this should and must include all efforts to eradicate Hamas from Gaza and dismantling the capability of Hamas to conduct terrorist attacks…”
Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic (ALP, Chifley): “Hamas must absolutely be held to account. Innocent Palestinians should be protected… They should be able to get out of harm’s way. They should be preserved as well, in the sense of not being targeted.”
Julian Leeser (Lib., Berowra): “Antisemitism is always accompanied by an indifference to antisemitism. In too many places… the brutal terrorist acts were met with statements of false equivalence…”
Adam Bandt’s amendment was then put and defeated, with only the four Green MPs, and independents Andrew Wilkie, Kylea Tink and Sophie Scamps voting in favour. The original motion was then passed with only the four Greens opposing.
Foreign Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Penny Wong (ALP, SA), moved the same motion in the Senate. She said, “The Senate must condemn these acts of evil perpetrated by a hateful group bent on the destruction of… Israel and the eradication of Jews… We unequivocally condemn these attacks. We call for the immediate release of hostages. Australia stands with Israel and always will… Israel has a right to defend itself, to re-establish its security, to prevent such attacks from taking place again… We join… calls… for Israel to operate by the rules of law.”
Shadow Foreign Minister and Opposition Senate Leader Senator Simon Birmingham (Lib., SA): “Australia… must support efforts by Israel to defend… against this and the risk of future atrocities… The gross antisemitic scenes on the steps of the Sydney Opera House stain our nation in shame… The coalition is unequivocal in the belief that, in exercising its right to self-defence, Israel has the right to remove the threat that Hamas presents… Hamas are responsible for the current loss of Israeli, Palestinian and other innocent lives.”
Greens Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Senator Jordon Steele-John (WA) condemned Hamas’ “blatant war crimes”, but added, “…Israel… is now engaged in a ruthless campaign of collective punishment…” He accused Israel of “war crimes” and “apartheid”, and described Israel’s call for Gaza residents to evacuate south for their own safety as “an act of collective punishment and a forced population transfer that would constitute one of the most significant humanitarian disasters and contraventions of international law in the 21st century,” before moving the same amendment Adam Bandt had moved in the House.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development and National Party Senate Leader, Senator Bridget McKenzie (Vic.): “[I] defend the right of Israel to defend itself from the existential threat… Hamas has repeatedly used its own people as human shields. This moral distinction underscores a fundamental difference between a nation that values human life and a terrorist organisation that uses it as a bargaining chip.”
Many House members and senators spoke on the issue over the following days. When the Senate voted on Oct. 18, only the Greens supported Jordon Steele-John’s amendment, and only the Greens opposed the motion. The Greens then moved “That the Senate opposes Israel’s invasion of Gaza.” Again, only they supported that motion.
Below are short excerpts from some of the speeches.
Senator Lidia Thorpe (Ind., Vic.), who didn’t vote, said, “For 75 years now, Palestine has been under brutal occupation. The state of Israel was founded on Palestinian land in 1948,” and accused Israel of apartheid and “attempted genocide”.
Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil (ALP, Hotham): “[Hamas] have committed heinous, inhuman, disgusting crimes against Israelis. They have also committed disgraceful crimes against Palestinians. They… are using innocent people who live in Gaza as human shields.”
Allegra Spender (Ind., Wentworth): “Israel has an inherent and fundamental right to defend itself and safeguard its citizens against those horrifying acts of terror.”
Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts (ALP, Gellibrand): “There is absolutely no context that can justify the violence and depravity that we have seen perpetrated by Hamas against civilians.”
Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles (ALP, Scullin): “Innocent Israelis, and Palestinians too, have suffered and will continue to suffer unspeakable atrocities… ”
Greens Deputy Leader Senator Mehreen Faruqi: “The major parties have refused to condemn Israel’s genocidal mission.”
Shadow Defence Minister Andrew Hastie (Lib., Canning): “The violence inflicted by Hamas… was brutal and evil. And why?… simply because they were Jews who chose to live in the national homeland of the Jewish people.”
Senator Raff Ciccone (ALP, Vic.): “Those trying to draw some false moral equivalence are providing cover for the most horrific expression of antisemitism.”
Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Cybersecurity Senator James Paterson (Lib., Vic.): “While Israel uses the IDF to defend the citizens of Israel, Hamas uses the people of Gaza to defend itself… No democracy could accept the ongoing risk of another attack like this… That is why Israel must eliminate Hamas.”
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen (ALP, McMahon): “In all the barbarity… the most disturbing element of Hamas’ attack is that… Hamas was … hoping that Israel would attack back in a way which would receive international opprobrium. They were actually trying to provoke an attack on the people that they claim, or pretend, to represent.”
Other members and senators who made statements unequivocally supported Israel and its right to defend itself, with many also expressing concern for Gaza’s civilians, were Coalition members Melissa McIntosh, Paul Fletcher, Russell Broadbent, Michael McCormack, Keith Wolahan, Sam Birrell, James Stevens, Barnaby Joyce, Phillip Thompson, Aaron Violi, Henry Pike, Luke Howarth, Garth Hamilton, David Gillespie, Keith Pitt, Karen Andrews, David Coleman, Michael Sukkar, Scott Buccholz, Jason Wood, Anne Webster, Alex Hawke, Rick Wilson, Bert van Manen, Michelle Landry, Jenny Ware, Terry Young, Dan Tehan, Nola Marino, Andrew Willcox, Melissa Price and Tony Pasin, Coalition senators Dean Smith, Andrew Bragg, Michaelia Cash, Andrew McLachlan, Jonathan Duniam, Claire Chandler, James McGrath, Hollie Hughes, Slade Brockman, Sarah Henderson, Wendy Askew, Paul Scarr, Matthew Canavan, Richard Colbeck, David Fawcett, Matt O’Sullivan and Linda Reynolds, ALP members Mike Freedlander, Matt Thistlethwaite and Sam Rae, ALP senators Deborah O’Neill and Helen Polley, cross-bench MPs Bob Katter and Andrew Gee, and cross-bench senators David Van, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson.
Those who strongly expressed condemnation of Hamas and sympathy for Israel, but also used their speeches to implore Israel to abide by international law, with some giving equal emphasis to the plight of those in Gaza to the Israeli victims, were: ALP members Sharon Claydon, Michelle Ananda-Rajah, Anne Aly, Julian Hill, Joanne Ryan, Andrew Leigh, Alicia Payne, Graham Perrett, Susan Templeman, Andrew Charlton, Patrick Gorman, Sally Sitou, Josh Wilson, Peter Khalil and Jason Clare, ALP senators Helen Polley (who made two speeches) and Glenn Sterle, as well as Coalition MP Mark Coulton, crossbench members Zoe Daniel, Zali Steggall and Monique Ryan and crossbench senators Malcolm Roberts and David Pocock.
Condemning Hamas, but then devoting most of their speech to criticising Israel, with some accusing it of war crimes, were Greens senators Janet Rice, David Shoebridge, Penny Allman-Payne, Larissa Waters and Nick McKim, Greens MPs Max Chandler-Mather and Elizabeth Watson-Brown, ALP members Maria Vamvakinou, Tony Zappia and Ged Kearney, ALP Senator Fatima Payman and independent member Sophie Scamps.
The issue also arose in all six state parliaments, and the NSW, Victorian and South Australian parliaments passed motions expressing solidarity with Israel. These will be covered in next month’s AIR.
Australian landmarks illuminated in solidarity with Israel
In the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas mass-murder terror attack, landmarks across Australia, like landmarks in many countries across the world, were lit up in the blue and white colours of the Israeli flag in a show of solidarity with the Israeli people.
Below are the examples we are aware of:
- Federal Parliament, Canberra
- Sydney Opera House
- Story Bridge, Brisbane
- City Hall, Toowoomba
- Victoria Street Bridge, Toowoomba
- Parliament House, Adelaide
- Adelaide Oval
- Adelaide Railway Station
- Tasman Bridge, Hobart
- Melbourne Cricket Ground
- National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
- Old Treasury Building, Melbourne
- Flinders Street Station, Melbourne
- Melbourne Town Hall
- Federation Square, Melbourne
- Royal Exhibition Dome Promenade, Melbourne
- Glen Eira Town Hall, Caulfield
- Optus Stadium, Perth
- Matagarup Bridge, Perth