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Head to Head

May 2, 2022 | AIJAC staff

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) shakes hands with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the first leaders' debate of the 2022 federal election in Brisbane, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AAP Image/Pool, Jason Edwards)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) shakes hands with Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese during the first leaders' debate of the 2022 federal election in Brisbane, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. (AAP Image/Pool, Jason Edwards)

The Morrison and Albanese campaigns answer AIJAC’s exclusive policy questions

 

In keeping with a long-standing pre-election tradition, AIJAC submitted a series of 11 policy questions to the campaigns of both Prime Minister Scott Morrison, leading the Liberal-National Coalition, and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, leading the Australian Labor Party (ALP), to help our readers and supporters make an informed decision as they go to the polls on May 21.

The questions – designed to focus on political issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community – deal with matters including: 

  1. Ties with Israel
  2. The Peace Process and Recognising a Palestinian State
  3. Voting in the United Nations
  4. Aid Funding to the Palestinians
  5. BDS in Australia
  6. The Iranian Threat
  7. Counter-Terrorism
  8. Communal Security
  9. Racial Hatred and Antisemitism
  10. Australian Multiculturalism
  11. Complaints Handling for our Public Broadcasters

The answers from both campaigns are presented here in full:

 

If you win Government, what action will your party take to encourage the ongoing development of bilateral ties between Australia and Israel? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government is committed to further strengthening our valuable bilateral relationship with Israel. Australia has been a steadfast friend to Israel since its creation. The last two years of COVID-19 travel and other restrictions have hampered efforts to increase in-person engagement, but we will continue to enhance our practical work together.

Bilateral ties are strong, starting at the top, from those of the Governor-General and the President, to the Prime Ministers, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, and other Ministers and parliamentarians.

Prime Minister Morrison said in Parliament on 19 February 2019 that the Morrison Government would not walk back or shrink from the recognition and support that Australia has afforded Israel since 1948. Australia played a leading role in Israel’s founding in 1948 and we will continue to play a role as a strong partner of Israel in the international community.

Under the Morrison Government, Australia recognised West Jerusalem – being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government – as the capital of the State of Israel.

Our Government opened Australia’s Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem. The Office is focused on building partnerships in trade, investment, bio-medical commercialisation, business, education, technology, and innovation with Israeli industry. This will include maximising opportunities for Australia’s high-tech and defence exports industries. It will also facilitate commercial meetings and visitor programs and take appropriate opportunities to build awareness of Australian capabilities in Israel, consistent with its mandate.

ALP

An Albanese Labor government will remain a steadfast friend of Israel. We will work with the Government of Israel and the private sector to deepen our people-to-people and trade and investment links.

 

If you win Government, what concrete measures will your party take to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Under what circumstances do you believe the Australian government should recognise a Palestinian state? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government remains strongly committed to a two-state solution, where Israel and a future Palestinian state exist side-by-side in peace and security within internationally recognised borders. The Morrison Government has repeatedly said that Israel has the right to self-defence consistent with the UN Charter, and Israel has the right to take reasonable and lawful security measures to protect itself and its people from terrorism and other security threats.

In the spirit of a two-state solution, we acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Australia has long held that aspirations for Palestinian statehood can only be realised through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, which is a longstanding position of the United Nations and many other countries. The negotiated resolution of final status issues remains the key to peace. There must be a renunciation of terrorism and terrorist acts, and an end to the cycle of violence.

The Morrison Government’s position is consistent with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We continue to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to take the steps needed to reinvigorate the peace process and recommence negotiations.

ALP

Labor has long supported and continues to support, an enduring and just two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders internationally recognised and agreed by the parties, and reflecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state. Labor will continue to call on both sides of the conflict to refrain from any actions that hamper peaceful outcomes for both the Israeli and Palestinian people.

The 2021 Australian Labor Party Special Platform Conference replicated the decision taken at the 2018 National Conference to support the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders. Labor’s national platform makes clear the desire of the conference to recognise Palestine as a state while acknowledging this will ultimately be a matter for a future Labor Government. 

Any lasting resolution to the Middle East conflict cannot be at the expense of either Palestinians or Israelis. The only way that a two-state solution can be achieved is through a negotiated outcome between the two parties. An Albanese Labor Government will ensure that any decision taken contributes to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and to progress towards a two-state solution.

 

What principles should underlie Australia’s decisions with regard to voting on Israeli-Palestinian issues at the United Nations General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council? If you win government, do you anticipate any changes to the way Australia currently votes on these issues at the UN?

 

Coalition

Under a returned Morrison Government, Australia will continue to strongly support Israel’s right to exist within secure and internationally recognised borders, and the right to self-defence as guaranteed in the UN Charter. The Morrison Government will stand by Israel in the face of biased and unfair targeting in the UN General Assembly and other UN bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). This was our consistent approach when Australia held a seat in the HRC in 2020 and 2021. In the past, Australia abstained on UN resolutions where anti-Israel sentiment was cloaked in one-sided language about human rights. Under the Morrison Government, Australia changed its voting pattern to oppose anti-Israel bias and one-sided resolutions in the United Nations.

The Morrison Government remains disappointed that a specific resolution condemning Hamas for its terrorist attacks failed to pass in the UN, and that a bloc of nations continues to use the UN’s procedures to mount a campaign directed against Israel. The Morrison Government has listed both Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code.

The anti-Israel bias and one-sided resolutions introduced each year in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) under permanent Item 7 of the Council’s agenda do not, in the Morrison Government’s view, contribute to lasting peace and stability for Israel or the Palestinians, nor do they assist the negotiated resolution of ‘final status’ issues. In her speech to the HRC in Geneva on 25 February 2019, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, outlined Australia’s principled opposition to the existence of Item 7. Foreign Minister Payne has been consistent in this approach ever since, reflected in Australia’s voting pattern.

ALP

Labor is a strong supporter of the State of Israel – that will never change.

UN bodies that are perceived to be biased or unbalanced are diminished in their credibility. Human rights abuses and authoritarianism are rising around the world – that’s why it is important that all countries and actors are held to account for violations of human rights. That’s why Labor questioned why Australia was the only country along with the Trump administration to vote against a UNHRC investigation into human rights violations in the Palestinian Territories – including violations committed by Hamas and other terrorist groups. In all of our engagement with the UN, we will be guided by our national interest, taking into account the facts on the ground and our strong support for a just and enduring peace. 

 

In recent years, Australia has raised concerns that aid and development funding to the Palestinian Territories may be used to pay stipends to terrorists, distribute textbooks that spread hate or otherwise undermine a future two-state peace. What would your party do to ensure any development aid provided to the Palestinian people advances the cause of peace?

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government has overseen rigorous systems put in place to ensure all aid activities in the Palestinian Territories are comprehensively monitored and proactively managed to ensure humanitarian and development assistance funds are not misdirected, or used in ways that have unintended and unacceptable consequences. Under the Morrison Government, funding has been suspended, cut, or re-directed for NGOs and international organisations that have used Australian Government funding in ways that risk undermining peace processes or that do not assist the provision of services and support for Palestinians in the manner intended by the Australian Government.

The Morrison Government has shifted funding into health, COVID response, and humanitarian programs. This process will be continued under a re-elected Morrison Government. The Morrison Government will continue the program of close oversight, audit, and other compliance measures it introduced to reduce risk in assistance funding delivery.

ALP

Labor will ensure that appropriate due diligence is undertaken to ensure that Australian development assistance is not diverted to fund violence or the encouragement of violence. 

 

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel – whose leadership makes clear they seek Israel’s destruction as a Jewish homeland – recently garnered major headlines through its boycott of the Sydney Festival over Israeli government money it received for a dance performance. What is your party’s policy toward the BDS movement? Do you see a government role in helping limit the discriminatory effects of BDS campaigns?

 

Coalition

Australia is a free country, and businesses, customers, festivals, artists, and any others may choose to support or not support enterprises as they see fit. Australians also have the right to peaceful and lawful protest. The defence of these freedoms does not extend to organised campaigns of coercion and public pressure targeted against one nationality, religion, or minority group as a form of passive-aggression, or an expression of coercive collective punishment, for a perceived relationship with a foreign national government.

The funding model of the Sydney Festival is a matter for the festival organisers, and the decision of performers and artists to participate or not is a matter for the individuals concerned. Concerted programs of economic attack against private individuals or companies because of perceived grievances with a foreign national government are misguided, misdirected, and manifestly unfair.

The Morrison Government does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign that actively targets Israel and Israelis, or Jews and Jewish institutions, especially when coercion or public pressure campaigns are weaponised to create the appearance of broad public support.

The Morrison Government’s view is that boycotting businesses or activities because of religion, citizenship, or other minority status is unacceptable, and contrary to Australia’s multicultural society.

ALP

Labor believes that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only come from open dialogue and discussion between the parties, not from a policy of exclusion. This underpins the Labor Party’s opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Viewing any conflict from only one perspective will not advance the cause of peace. It will take leaders recognising their respective roles in the cycle of escalation and conflict, and returning to meaningful dialogue and negotiation, for a just and enduring peace to be achieved.

 

If you win Government, what action will your party take to assist the international community in preventing Iran from continuing to pose a threat to regional and global security, including tackling its nuclear weapons programs, its dangerous cyber capabilities and its support for terrorist groups? 

 

Coalition

Under the Morrison Government, Australia continues to apply sanctions required under UN Security Council Resolution 2231 on nuclear and ballistic-missile related materials. We also continue to apply Australian autonomous sanctions on the export of arms and related materials.

Working with our partners, and consistent with our obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, the Morrison Government works to tighten the net on Iran’s missile proliferation networks and Iran’s support for activities that are destabilising the region, including in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and on the waters of the Gulf. We keep the option of additional Australian autonomous sanctions under active review for Iran and other countries of nuclear and missile technology proliferation concern, and for those countries that engage in armed aggression, cyber-attacks, and support for terrorism.

Noting Australia is not a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Morrison Government will maintain Australia’s support, subject to the progress of negotiations with stakeholders on Iran’s compliance. The Government’s assessment is that our conditional support for the JCPOA serves our national interests in nuclear non-proliferation, and in reinforcing a rules-based international system where agreements once made must be upheld, and international security undertakings once made must be delivered.

Under a returned Morrison Government, Australia will continue to work closely with the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand, France, Germany, and other like-minded in reinforcing the global nuclear non-proliferation and ballistic missile arms control frameworks that we all rely on to deliver regional and global security and stability. |

We will continue to act decisively against cyber-attacks, including by funding and establishing the new REDSPICE (Resilience-Effects-Defence-Space-Intelligence-Cyber-Enablers) program. This will introduce new offensive cyber capabilities, persistent cyber-hunt activities, new technology using Artificial Intelligence, and create 1,900 new analyst, technologist, corporate and enabling roles across Australia and around the world.

ALP

Labor will act with urgency and determination to rid the world of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Labor will build on Australia’s strong history of leading international action by working with our partners and allies to build consensus for action, negotiate new treaties and instruments, and promote adherence to and implementation of existing treaties and instruments.

Labor is alarmed at the potential nuclearisation of conflicts in the Middle East, particularly with Iran moving towards nuclear weapons capacity. We support the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with reservations, and agree with Britain, France, Germany and the US that the interests of global security are best met through an Iran nuclear agreement with robust verification requirements. Iran must whole-heartedly co-operate with UN, International Atomic Energy Agency and other inspections and monitoring as provided in the Action Plan. We remain concerned about Iran’s destabilising activities across the Middle East – which is why Labor supported the listing of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation in its entirety. It is also why Labor members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security called for the listing of the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

 

Terrorism remains an ever-present threat in Australia and around the world emanating from Islamist, far-right and other ideologically extremist sources. If you win Government, what will your party do to improve Australia’s counter-terrorism capability, counter violent extremism and enhance deradicalisation initiatives? Do you believe that there are any additional groups that need to be considered for listing as terrorist organisations in Australia?

 

Coalition

Australia has a 2022 National Counter-Terrorism Strategy to account for the evolving nature of terrorism and terrorist support, and a 2022 Counter-Terrorism international engagement program designed to advance our capabilities for the next five years. Led by the Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, Australia will continue to work with like-minded nations to counter-terrorism in all its forms, including terrorist financing, terrorism support networks, and online radicalisation. The Morrison Government has listed Hezbollah, Hamas, Atomwaffen and other religiously-motivated terrorist or neo-Nazi terrorist groups under the Criminal Code.

Inside Australia, the Morrison Government is working hard to protect Australians from terrorism. The Morrison Government has passed more than 20 packages of national security legislation to help our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to investigate, monitor, arrest and prosecute extremists. The Morrison Government also changed the Criminal Code Regulations on terrorist organisations to add dozens of offshoot terrorist cells to the list of groups that can be prosecuted.

The Morrison Government has boosted funding of our law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies and we have passed new laws to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who engage in terrorism. We will continue to work with local Australian communities to prevent terrorism, counter-radicalisation and violent extremism, and remove online terrorist propaganda.

ALP

Our national security agencies have repeatedly warned that right-wing, nationalist and racist violent extremism is on the rise in Australia. We know it now accounts for 50 per cent of ASIO’s domestic counter-terrorism caseload, up from 16 per cent just a few years ago.

The Morrison-Joyce Government has not kept pace with this evolving threat and won’t censure those in its ranks who peddle the dangerous and divisive disinformation and conspiracy that drives people towards extremist ideas.

Mr Morrison allowed Australia to fall behind our like-minded partners in taking this threat seriously, being the last of our Five Eyes allies to designate a far-right group as a terrorist organisation.

While we welcomed moves to designate groups already proscribed by our partners, we urge the Morrison-Joyce government to proscribe groups actively recruiting and training in  Australia.

Labor will address the rise in right-wing extremism by ensuring our security and law enforcement agencies have the powers, priorities and resources to counter this threat.

And we’ll do more with online platforms to remove what the community agrees is abhorrent material.

We also want to work with communities to fight racism and anti-Semitism where it starts, through education and deradicalisation interventions.

Social cohesion is vital in responding to this threat. In Government, Labor will support multiculturalism and inclusion, and unite the country, not divide it.

Labor members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security called for the listing of Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations in their entirety.

 

The Jewish community is particularly vulnerable to manifestations of racist hatred and violence. If you win Government, what measures will you take to address the significant security costs imposed on the Jewish community by the need to protect Jewish community institutions and schools? 

 

Coalition

Religious freedom is not just an inalienable right for citizens, it is important for the cohesion of our society. The Morrison Government is committed to protecting the freedom of Australians to worship and meet safely without fear.

The Morrison Government continues to stamp out crime and improve community safety right around Australia through our highly successful Safer Communities Fund.

Since 2016, investments through the Safer Communities Fund have ensured local schools, councils, community groups, religious institutions, including Jewish institutions, and others have the funding they need for programs that reduce crime and violence, decrease anti-social behaviour, and make communities safer and more secure.

A $50 million expansion of Round 6 of the Fund in the 2022-23 Budget focussed on supporting organisations that support young people to build resilience, strengthen community connections and hone their everyday skills will further help ensure that everyone, including Jewish communities, can go about their lives free from violence, harassment and anti-social behaviour. This expansion has brought the total investment through the program to $315 million.

ALP

Labor will consider changes to the Safer Communities Fund to address Jewish community concerns. In particular, we will consider whether the Commonwealth’s Safer Communities Fund should now be further expanded to allow for grants to pay for security at facilities other than schools and pre-schools, and for security infrastructure and personnel at the community level.

 

The Australian Jewish community is concerned by rising global antisemitism and bigotry. Both the Coalition and Labor have embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism. Can you detail how a government you lead would implement this definition across government? Also, is your party considering any changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act?

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government does not have any plans to introduce legislation to amend section 18C. Australia is a proud multicultural society. The Government is committed to ensuring that freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom from discrimination, including on the basis of race or religion, are all protected and promoted. Whilst all Australians have a right to express their views, including people with controversial views, they must remain within the framework of Australian law.

In federal law, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 makes it unlawful to do an act otherwise than in private that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origins. This provision appropriately balances Australia’s international obligations within our domestic context, and balances the right to free speech with the right to be free from racial vilification.

ALP

Labor deeply appreciates the work of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance in raising awareness of genocide and countering the scourge of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Labor believes that no faith, religion, or set of beliefs should ever be used as an instrument of division or exclusion, and condemning anyone, discriminating against anyone, or vilifying anyone is a violation of the values we all share. Labor will continue to combat racism and expressions of intolerance and discrimination with strength and where necessary, the full force of the law.

That is why Labor supported an amendment to the government’s Religious Discrimination Bill to prohibit vilification on the basis of religious belief or practice. Disappointingly, the Liberal Party voted against that amendment and ultimately, Mr Morrison abandoned his bill when amendments to protect school children from discrimination succeeded.

Labor will also continue to defend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which for over 20 years has helped to protect Australians from racist hate speech. Labor pays attention to history, and we understand where the acceptance and normalisation of racist hate speech can lead a nation.

In contrast, the Liberal-National Government has launched two separate attacks on section 18C in the last nine years, which former Attorney-General George Brandis infamously declared to the Senate was a Liberal Government priority because ‘people have a right to be bigots, you know’. It is astonishing that any Australian government would work to give a green light to racist hate speech in support of an imagined ‘right to be bigots’. Labor stood with thousands of individuals, legal experts and organisations, as well as community groups from across our nation, including the Jewish Community, to successfully defend section 18C from these reckless, ideological attacks by the Liberals.

With the rapid rise of right-wing extremism in Australia, Labor believes it is even more important now that the major parties stand united against racism and bigotry in our community.

 

There is bipartisan agreement that Australian Multiculturalism – which balances rights with responsibilities to uphold core Australian national values – is the policy framework which anchors a harmonious, ethnically diverse democracy. What policy proposals will your party implement to enhance Australian Multiculturalism? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government is working to keep our economy strong, keep Australians safe and keep Australians together. Australia is stronger and more prosperous as a nation because of our multicultural heritage.

The Morrison Government recognises the importance of keeping Australians together and fostering social cohesion. We have done this by actively investing in programs that embrace our diversity and help all communities actively become part of, and benefit from, Australia’s economic and social development.

This builds on a solid record of policies and programs supporting Australian multicultural communities, including labour agreements to support migrant communities access the specialised skills that will support older Australians from multicultural backgrounds; as well as new measures to help religious institutions access the skills they need. These changes recognise increasing difficulties in sourcing locally skilled professionals to work in aged care and religious institutions.

ALP

Labor recognises that Australia’s multicultural fabric and our First Nations identity are national assets. An Albanese Labor Government will bring Australians together in celebration of our rich diversity, and work to end all forms of discrimination.

Labor will have more to say about this during the election campaign.

 

The ABC is an important national institution but many are concerned about its ability to meet its statutory charter obligations of balance and fairness. The ABC has commissioned an independent inquiry into its complaint handling, which has yet to hand down its recommendations. What steps, if any, will a government led by your party take to strengthen accountability and improve the independence of complaints procedures at both the ABC and SBS? If the ABC inquiry recommends a new body to review complaints, will you commit to attempting to ensure that these recommendations are implemented?

 

Coalition

A robust complaints process is a critical foundation to the ABC meeting its legislative obligations to be accurate and impartial. All too often people who have complained about perceived bias or inaccuracy in an ABC story have said they have not been given an adequate response from ABC Audience and Consumer Affairs.

The ABC has legislated independence for all operational and content matters, but the Coalition is encouraged that the ABC recognises these serious issues and has initiated an independent review into its handling of complaints. We look forward to the outcome of this process and consider that it must lead to constructive change.

ALP

Australians have a high regard for the ABC and the trust and respect of the community depend on the ABC’s editorial independence and integrity. The ABC has a duty to ensure that the gathering and presentation of news and information is accurate. There are a range of complaints mechanisms in relation to ABC reporting that anyone can take advantage of. It is also open to people to complain to the Australian Communications and Media Authority if they feel the ABC has not dealt with a complaint appropriately. The ABC is also subject to regular external scrutiny, including through regular appearances at Senate Estimates and performance audits conducted by the Australian National Audit Office.

Labor will consider the outcomes of the ABC independent inquiry closely.

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