Topics: Parliamentary delegation in Israel; Albanese Government keeps changing Australia’s stance and undermining Israel’s position;

02:35PM AEDT
13 December 2023


Neil Breen:  Firstly, Anthony Albanese joined the prime ministers of Canada and New Zealand in calling for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza. They put out a joint letter. The statement is good. It calls for the release of hostages. It condemns Hamas and says they must stop using civilians as human shields. And it says the terrorist group can’t have a role in the future governance of Gaza. Gone. Good statement. But if Australia’s so against Hamas, they should stick with that all the way through. Because we supported a ceasefire vote at the United Nations, we didn’t go with other allies, the US and the UK. We supported it. But that ceasefire vote, it didn’t mention Hamas. I’ve read the UN resolution. It calls for hostages to be returned. Well, it should do that at the bare minimum, but it doesn’t condemn Hamas at all. That’s what it comes down to. So, the Prime minister and the foreign minister, Penny Wong, they can talk all they want about, they want Hamas gone and they support Israel. But if you’re voting for that resolution, the calls for a ceasefire, which would also allow Hamas to continue ruling in Gaza, then that’s your new position. As simple as that, because that’s the one you supported on the world stage. That’s the one you voted for. It’s different to a letter. That’s how you voted yes to a ceasefire that would see Hamas stay in control. As I said, that is their position and the breakaway from the US and the UK, that’s a big deal. 152 nations voted in favour of the motion, ten voted against. The US was one of those ten. The United Kingdom abstained. That’s because of the situation with not condemning Hamas. Everyone wants the war to end. I’m not Jewish. I don’t have skin in the game. I watch it from afar, like all of you. But I know the difference between a democracy and a terrorist organisation. I don’t want anyone hurt. I want no one more hurt. But if you leave Hamas in control, people will be hurt. Anyway, it’s no secret the opposition’s had a few swipes at the Prime Minister over his refusal to visit Israel. Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham has taken the initiative to visit. He joins us now from Tel Aviv. How are you, Simon?


Simon Birmingham: Hello, Neil. I’m well, thank you and thanks for the opportunity to chat.


Neil Breen: So, this is early in the morning in Tel Aviv, but you’re there. I think most Australians are wondering what it’s like there. What have you encountered? What have you seen?

Simon Birmingham: Neil, it is. It’s around 5:30 in the morning here. I’ve had a couple of days on the ground, a mixture, of course, of meetings and the types of things you would expect. But also, the opportunity to go and inspect some of the kibbutzes that were the scenes of the 7th October terrorist attacks from Hamas. What we saw there, what we smelt there, the scene of absolute horror and devastation was just horrific. And of course, then to speak with survivors and family members of those who were murdered or kidnapped just reinforces the absolute barbarity. And let’s not forget, on that day, October 7th, more than 1,200 people were slaughtered. They were murdered, they were raped, they were beheaded. They were deliberately targeted, and they were overwhelmingly innocent civilians, babies, children, the elderly. This was not an act of war in the way we think of acts of war. This was an act of terrorism that targeted innocent civilians. Those doing it were Hamas breaking out of Gaza, where they have established themselves as not only the government, but also a very well entrenched terrorist organisation with deep capacity that needs to be removed if we are to avoid a repeat of that October 7th tragedy.


Neil Breen: Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham is joining me live from Tel Aviv. You’ve said it was weak and appalling. The government supported the UN motion call for a ceasefire. Didn’t criticise Hamas. Why?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s a motion that doesn’t even mention Hamas. It dares not speak Hamas’s name, and it is incredibly weak for Australia to do so. We’ve said the right things since October 7th, in terms of, as a nation being clear that we support Israel’s inherent right to self-defence. Imagine if the things I just described it happened to Australians. If more than 1,200 Australians had been so brutally and savagely killed by a neighbour of ours, we would definitely want to see that neighbour removed from any capacity to repeat that again. That is the case that that is here in Israel. The Albanese Government has gone to water it seems, when it matters most. Yes, it is tough going in terms of trying to remove Hamas because they use the Palestinian peoples in Gaza as human shields, and they shamelessly put military infrastructure in hospitals, in schools, in public infrastructure, in places where innocent civilian lives are lost when the Israeli Defence Forces try to disable that terrorist infrastructure. There is a tunnel network under Gaza that is estimated to be bigger than the New York subway system. And it’s not there for Palestinians to shelter during air raids from Israel. It’s there for Hamas terrorists and operatives to hide and ambush Israeli soldiers, while the Palestinians are kept above as shields to protect those terrorists. That’s the reality we’re facing, and it’s an ugliness of war. War is terrible, and I grieve for absolutely every single life that is lost, that is an innocent civilian, particularly those of children. But the reality is, if Israel just adopts the ceasefire that Anthony Albanese has now voted for, it will just give Hamas opportunity to rearm, regroup and repeat. The terrorist atrocities all over again.


Neil Breen: And they will do it again.


Simon Birmingham: Correct and they’ve said they want to do it again. Let’s be clear here. This is not an organisation showing regret for its actions. Their leadership has said on camera they want to repeat it again and again because they are interested in killing Jews. They are the ultimate in anti-Semites in terms of wanting to eradicate Israel and the Jewish population.


Neil Breen: You just got to think back to 2001. What did al Qaeda love most about the terror attacks? It was the chaos that they caused in the Western world, the absolute chaos. What did ISIS enjoy about the beheadings, the chaos that caused in the Western world? And that’s what Hamas has enjoyed, the whole world being engrossed by this conflict. That’s why they did it.


Simon Birmingham: Well, you do have real regional implications in the sense there that, yes, Hamas is enjoying the chaos. So is Iran, who sponsors Hamas. So is Russia, who receives arms from Iran. Ultimately, there is an axis there of those who are seeking to cause maximum mayhem and chaos across the world and are seeking to test the resolve of liberal democracies as to whether we will stand up for that chaos, even when the going gets tough. That’s why we can’t back down in Ukraine against Russia. Ultimately, that democracy needs to be supported and why we can’t turn our backs on Israel at this time. Because ultimately the free and democratic people of Israel also need to be supported, and so do the Palestinian peoples who are used and abused by Hamas and these types of individuals. And if we want to have any type of chance for a sustainable peace in the future, then Hamas needs to be removed. The Albanese government has said that, but why won’t they vote for it? Why have they gone so weak at the knees just when the going gets tough?


Neil Breen: Shadow Foreign Minister Simon Birmingham I could talk forever. Look, I do want to raise one thing with you. The listeners will go. He’s not on about that again. Just before I let you go. The one thing that’s completely confused me has been that this federal government. Labor never mentioned anything about Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, anything before the federal election. As soon as they were elected Penny Wong’s first action as foreign minister was to say, we no longer recognise Jerusalem as the capital, as the Morrison government did, we recognise Tel Aviv. Why was our government like getting involved in something like that so soon without taking it to the Australian people? They seem to have a bugbear about Israel.


Simon Birmingham: Look, they do. That’s not the only thing on which they changed Australia’s position. They changed our voting record at the United Nations in a number of ways. This issue, of course, is weaponised against not just Israel but against Western nations in many ways. And it is used, of course, by extremists on the left at times and troublingly, those extremists seem to have fallen into ways that promote or embrace different forms of attitudes that lead to anti-Semitism, that lead to the hatred of Jews and the targeting of Jewish people. That’s a shameful thing. Australia is a country that settled some of the highest numbers of Jewish people after the Holocaust, and they have built happy lives, contributing to Australia, paying taxes, creating jobs, going about their daily lives just like we welcome so many others. There are consequences at home in in how we vote, how we behave on these matters too, not just when it comes to terrorism, but also to ensure the social cohesion of Australia. That’s why so many Jewish Australians are now so deeply troubled and concerned to see the position the government takes on issues like this and sadly, the rise of anti-Semitism alongside it.


Neil Breen: Shadow Foreign minister Simon Birmingham from Tel Aviv, thanks so much for getting up early. For our listeners this morning, your time. This afternoon, our time.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Neil. My pleasure. Thank you again for the opportunity and the interest.