Topics:  Labor puts cart before horse and risks rewarding terrorists;  

12:30PM ACST
10 April 2024



Narelda Jacobs: Returning now to our top story. Shadow foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham has criticised Penny Wong’s speech last night, which signalled the federal government is considering recognising a Palestinian statehood as a pathway to a two-state solution. And Senator Simon Birmingham joins us now. Senator, the Coalition has long supported a two-state solution that means it recognising of a Palestinian state. What’s changed?


Simon Birmingham: Well, nothing has changed in that regard, Narelda, from the Coalition’s perspective. It has been a decades long policy commitment to a negotiated two-state solution, which depends upon negotiation of secure and determined borders and respect for each other’s right to exist. What Penny Wong seems to have talked about overnight is some type of fast-tracked, two-state solution, and that’s a really disturbing and potentially dangerous thing to be doing, given it comes in the context of the terrorist attacks that Hamas undertook six months ago, which have initiated the very tragic war that we’ve seen. And it would almost be seen as a reward for that type of disruption and come ahead of those negotiations around what borders would look like and the certainty of security that would come from respect for one another.


Narelda Jacobs: Well, Penny Wong says it wouldn’t be a reward or a win for terrorists. In fact, it would see the end of Hamas. What do you say to that?


Simon Birmingham: Well, how does it end Hamas? How, indeed, is the Albanese Government supporting Israel to see the end of Hamas? Because right now we seem to see more criticisms of Israel rather than the pressure being put on Hamas. And indeed, as Penny Wong was giving this speech in Cairo, ceasefire negotiations were being held where the United States has revealed that Hamas was being uncooperative, refusing to make progress in terms of the release of the hostages. Up to 130 of them still held, who have been held since the brutal slaughter and bloodshed that occurred on October 7 last year. That shows that more pressure is required on Hamas to get them to yield and to move, so that a ceasefire and peace progress could be possible. That might ultimately lead to the type of stability and security to achieve a two-state solution.


Narelda Jacobs: Well, Penny Wong says she’s not isolated in her thinking here, and that UK Foreign Minister David Cameron says we should start setting out what a Palestinian state would look like. The US is also pushing that too. Should Australia be part of those discussions?


Simon Birmingham: Down the track there is obviously a need to look at how once security is established and stability is established, you can start to get the progress towards a potential two-state solution or other enduring process that gives stability and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike. But right now, in the middle of negotiations, that should have a pressure on Hamas to get a ceasefire that involves the unconditional release of hostages, the unconditional surrender of terrorist infrastructure and capabilities, that’s where Australia’s foreign minister should be focusing our position as a country and the language from the Albanese Government. Not indeed dangling out some pre-emptive or early recognition of statehood, which Hamas would see as a victory.


Narelda Jacobs: So, what do you say about David Cameron’s comments then, that if we start there, then a two-state solution would be irreversible? Is it getting the ball rolling?


Simon Birmingham: As I just said before, once you’ve got stability, once you’ve got security, then you can start to move in relation to the discussions around agreed borders and the terms for a two-state solution. But we’re not at that stage yet.


Narelda Jacobs: What happens in the meantime? Would you like to see an acceleration at the end of the war?


Simon Birmingham:  Right now, the pressure should be on Hamas. Release the 130 hostages that have been held, or however many of them are actually still alive that have been held illegally for six months now. Surrender the terrorist infrastructure that they have, the tunnel network that is estimated to be bigger than the New York subway system. Hand over the terrorist leaders so they can face justice. Stop using the Palestinian people as human shields who are suffering enormously as a result of Hamas embedding their terrorist infrastructure, terrorist leaders and hiding the hostages amongst civilians and civilian infrastructure. This is where the pressure needs to be to get us a ceasefire that can then provide stability, can lead to security, and ultimately take a pathway towards an enduring solution that could be a two-state solution.


Narelda Jacobs: Senator Gaza isn’t the only area of conflict. Would a two -state solution help address conflict in the occupied West Bank?


Simon Birmingham: Well, ultimately, a two-state solution should help to provide stability in the West Bank and Gaza. But it’s not possible. While you have a situation where there is no clear government to negotiate with, in terms of the Palestinian territories, where Hamas continues to wield significant influence and control. And with that, you have a situation where Israel’s very right to exist is not even recognised by parts of the leadership within Gaza.


Narelda Jacobs: Well, Senator, with Israel fast losing support from its allies and work underway to accelerate an end to the war, keeping in mind that Israel has set a date for a ground assault of Rafah, what does the Coalition believe is the pathway out?


Simon Birmingham: The pathway out is to see Hamas removed from any position of power or influence, and in them doing that, for Hamas to release those hostages and to surrender that terrorist equipment so that the Palestinian people, those living in Gaza, can live without being used as pawns by a terrorist organisation. And you can actually then start a pathway towards stabilisation, security and long-term negotiations. But you’ve got to defeat Hamas first and remove the terrorist threat, to be able to even get those first steps towards stabilisation and security.


Narelda Jacobs: Even if that means the killing of more innocent civilians?


Simon Birmingham: The alternative is to leave Hamas in a situation where they regroup, rearm, and they have publicly stated their ambition is to repeat the types of atrocities and murders we saw on October 7th. Now, Australia wouldn’t live with that sort of threat right on our border or on our doorstep. Why would we expect another democracy like Israel to do so.


Narelda Jacobs: Simon Birmingham, thank you very much for your time.


Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Narelda.