Topics: Australian reportedly killed in Gaza, Lebanon travel advice; Albanese Government failing to support Ukraine:
2 January 2024
Danica De Giorgio: An Australian, has reportedly been killed while fighting with the Israel Defence Forces in Gaza. It’s understood Captain Lior Sivan was killed by Hamas militants on December 19th, while fighting in southern Gaza. The 32-year-old was born in Melbourne before he moved to Israel with his family. The federal government is aware of the reports and DFAT is seeking confirmation from Israel’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. Well, joining me now live for more on this is Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham. Thank you so much for joining us. Have you had any more information or any confirmation about the death of this Australian man?
Simon Birmingham: Well, no, we don’t have any further information. But obviously this, along with all deaths in this conflict, are a tragedy, particularly those innocent deaths. In this case, we are talking about an Israeli Defence Force soldier called to action after the horrific terrorist attacks of October 7th perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians, against babies, the elderly, children, young people at a music festival. And of course, this person was called back into service, serving his nation to seek to defend their right, to live peacefully and to live without such terrorist attacks and threat on their doorstep. All of these deaths of innocent individuals are a tragedy. And in this case, our thoughts would go to the family who have lost a loved one, but also in recognising that he was fighting in the service of Israel and fighting for the values and principles of being able to live in a peaceful, free, democratic country, which is something that many of us in Australia can and should be able to relate to.
Danica De Giorgio: Okay. The Coalition wants the government to declare parts of Lebanon a terrorist no go zone. Why is it time for Australia to take such drastic measures?
Simon Birmingham: Like many Australians, would have been surprised and deeply concerned by the reports indicating that an Australian potentially was involved in fighting for Hezbollah, who have been engaging in ways through their firing of rockets into the northern areas of Israel in ways that potentially risk an escalation and expansion of the conflict that’s happening in the Middle East. Nobody wishes to see the conflict expand or escalate in any way, and the idea that there could be Australians engaging in ways that would threaten and exacerbate that is of deep concern, along with the domestic threats posed by people who become radicalised in different ways, and especially if they are fighting for a listed terrorist organisation like Hezbollah. The Albanese Government needs to be clear in terms of the steps and actions it is taking. It needs to consider using all powers available to it to prevent Australians from signing up and fighting with any terrorist organisation. But in this case, there is a discrete area of activity in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is engaging in actions that would risk an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East, and also engaging in ways where we should be ensuring that Australians are not participating. That’s why the Albanese Government should be looking at all powers available to it. Considering those powers, including the use of no travel zones to prevent individuals from travelling into that region, and to have a very clear line in the sand that simply says you cannot, as an Australian, travel into that region, unless you may very limited criteria, and that can ensure that there is a clear offence identifiable for anybody who breaches it.
Danica De Giorgio: All right, just before we let you go, the Government’s considering a request to provide coal to Ukraine, given the focus, of course, in recent months has been on the situation between Israel and Hamas, has the Government forgotten that there’s still a war going on in Ukraine?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the Labor Party sadly has led Australia’s position in support of Ukraine deteriorate since they took office. We were the leading non-NATO contributor. We had a strong position providing military assistance, of providing humanitarian assistance and of providing energy assistance to Ukraine. Now, the Government has not provided any additional energy assistance from that promised by the previous Coalition government. They’ve only done a little in relation to humanitarian and we have slipped in relation to military support. But on this energy assistance, it should be a quick answer from the Albanese Government. It should be, yes, today. It should have been, yes, last month when the request was made. In fact, it should have been a proactive offer many, many months ago to Ukraine. Australian coal, providing energy support through a long, deep, dark winter for Ukraine has been critical to date and the fact that Ukraine had to come asking for it again, rather than the Albanese Government offering it, is a shame on Australia’s foreign policy at present. We should have been far more proactive and should be leading in relation to providing the type of support for Ukraine, because conflict is not just about their own nation, it is also about defence of the international rules and laws that we rely upon as a nation, and that we seek to defend as important values across the globe.
Danica De Giorgio: Simon Birmingham, thanks for joining us this afternoon.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you. My pleasure.