Topics:  Labor lacks courage to stand firm; UN General Assembly resolution; 

09:20AM ACST
11 May 2024


Luke Grant:  I want to have a chat here to the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Simon Birmingham, who joins me on the line. Good morning.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning. Luke, good to be with you.


Luke Grant: Nice to talk to you again, Simon. The reaction I’ve got has been astounding. People are absolutely furious with what the government’s done here with no real public debate on this issue specifically and no forewarning. What do you make of it?


Simon Birmingham: Luke, people are right to be angry and perplexed. The government has changed Australia’s long-standing position, which is that recognition of Palestinian statehood should be part of a negotiated two-state solution, one where the hard questions of borders, of rights, of return, of recognition, of the right to exist for each country and of security agreements between each country are all settled and negotiated. If you remove the incentive for those hard things to be negotiated first, well, then you actually just make long-term peace so much harder to achieve. That is the real fallacy of what the Labor government has done in terms of changing Australia’s position. They’ve rewarded the type of terrorist behaviour and incentivised, tragically, that type of behaviour in ways in the future. Rather than saying that diplomacy and negotiation should be the key approach. As you said in your introduction, they’ve gone against the majority of our closest security partners, the majority of the Five Eyes nations, the US voted against, Canada and the United Kingdom abstained, as did other critical democratic partners like Germany and the Netherlands and a number of other European nations.


Luke Grant: There’s one of the areas of this requires someone added to the list of nations or states as being a peace loving nation. They’ve still got more than 100 Israelis that they’ve kidnapped, held hostage. I mean, I’d frankly, I don’t understand that, Simon.


Simon Birmingham: This motion reads as though the October 7th terrorist attacks never happened. It doesn’t mention them. It doesn’t mention Hamas. It doesn’t call for the release of [hostages]. It doesn’t call for Hamas to surrender. It doesn’t do any of the things that should occur in the short term, the immediate priorities, which should be about putting maximum pressure on Hamas to surrender Hamas to hand over the hostages, Hamas to give up its terrorist infrastructure, its vast network of tunnels that are estimated to be bigger than the New York subway system. And of course, it removes that incentive for longer-term negotiation that I spoke about as well. So it sends all of the wrong signals, both in the short-term, to try to get hostages released and end to the bloodshed and the loss of life happening in Gaza and in the long-term, to try to get people to a negotiating table where you can seek to achieve a lasting peace.


Luke Grant: Does this legitimise, in the eyes of some, do you think it’ll, I’m sure, be used as that, Hamas as a government?


Simon Birmingham: Well, certainly they will see it as a reward.


Luke Grant: They will.


Simon Birmingham: And it’s a reward for terrible evil deeds and it seems, as I said before, the wrong signals. Now, the Albanese government hasn’t gone yet quite so far as to declare Australia’s recognition for the state of Palestine. Anthony Albanese having changed the policy position so many times, even though over the last few weeks he kept insisting there was no change to our position. He now needs to be crystal clear, that they will have the fortitude to actually hold the line in terms of not going down the path of recognition until Hamas is clearly removed, until the terrorist threat is clearly gone, and until there is a government in place in the Palestinian territories and one that can be trusted, one that is clear in stating that it recognises Israel’s right to exist and with whom negotiation can occur around important issues such as borders and future security agreements.


Luke Grant: Time’s got us, Senator. Good to talk to you again. Thanks so much.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Luke. My pleasure.