Topics:  UN Palestinian statehood vote; Australian Israel position; Budget;

09:20AM AEST
10 May 2024


Laura Jayes:  Let’s go live now to the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, thanks for your time. Of course, in the context of what Kaiser was just talking about, there is a looming vote at the UN on Palestinian statehood.


Simon Birmingham: There is LJ and good morning. With this looming vote expected to be taken tonight, Australian time. Australia should have the courage to stand by our principles, our values, our friendship with Israel and our long-standing foreign policy position and vote against this motion that is expected to call for or enable some form of recognition of a Palestinian state. We should do so but it is highly unlikely-


Laura Jayes: But isn’t that part of the two-state solution? Why would we vote against it?


Simon Birmingham: Because how you get to a two-state solution matters. And whether or not a motion like this actually creates the right incentives to get to a two state-solution or creates the incentives for Hamas and others to see that the tactics of October 7th work and therefore to continue in an entrenched form of terrorist activity and capability, which would be the world’s worst signal that you could possibly send out of a vote like this. Whether this resolution is going to pass or not. Australia-


Laura Jayes: Abstaining would be acceptable to you?


Simon Birmingham:  Well. Australia should be able to stand by our principles and be clear in those principles. This motion might pass, but we should be strong enough to oppose it. If it’s not clear in calling for the unconditional release of hostages, the unconditional surrender of Hamas, and also clear in terms of what needs to be resolved for a two-state solution and recognition to be achieved, and that is a negotiated settlement around borders, resolution of difficult issues such as rights of return, and clearly a respect of all parties for the right of the other to exist. These are critical principles. Remember, Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel in any type of Jewish state, and you need to see pressure put on Hamas for those hostages to be released in the short-term, and for proper negotiations to actually be made possible over the medium to longer term.


Laura Jayes: What about our allies, our AUKUS partners, the US and the UK? They’re likely to vote for this recognition. Wouldn’t it be somewhat strange for us to diverge from those allies?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I don’t think we should assume that’s where those votes will be cast. Indeed, this follows a situation at the UN Security Council where the US used their veto rights. So, I would expect the United States to maintain their position and to oppose a likely resolution. I’d expect they’ll will be in company with others, such as potentially Germany or other European nations, in terms of the position they take. And if those countries can be strong enough in the face of what I know is intense pressure around the emotion of the conflict and the war that is being undertaken at present, and none of us wish to see civilian loss of life and the tragedy that is occurring. But in terms of the policy position that democratic nations take, we should be strong enough to stand by fellow democracies, and we should be strong enough to stand by long standing policy positions that if you are to ultimately achieve a two-state solution that is enduring and peaceful, it needs to actually have resolved questions of borders, questions of governance, questions of rights, of return. And those things will not be resolved if you create an incentive for Hamas and others to see that they get what they want through terrorism rather than through negotiation.


Laura Jayes: Are we or the sentiments you’re expressing today, are you diverging from the US more and more on this very issue? Because we often rely on US intelligence. We’ve seen the US pause the sending of weapons to Israel because they’re concerned about how they’re going to use them now. Australia seems more pro-Netanyahu than America does at the moment. Is that a fair assessment?


Simon Birmingham: No, I don’t think it is Laura. I think firstly, as I said, in terms of questions of UN resolutions about statehood and recognition, the US used their veto rights to reject such a resolution in the Security Council very recently. I would be very surprised if their position changes in the General Assembly vote tonight. In relation to US decisions about trade and weapons. Those, of course, are matters for the United States, but I would hope very much that they are able to work through those issues with Israel. And I hope that for two main reasons. One is that I hope that they can achieve a position of alignment with the Israeli government in relation to how the war is conducted, but does ensure sufficient protection of civilian lives, but also enables the removal of Hamas. The second reason is that in the broader context, it is important for democratic partners to be able to continue to work together and to support each other, particularly in the face of such terrorist activity.


Laura Jayes: Okay, if I could ask you just about the budget quickly, the treasurer says have more babies. Easy for him to say.


Simon Birmingham: [Laughs] Well, easy for him to say. You can say, look, I think what Australians want at present is to have lower prices and to see lower inflation and to see downward pressure on their interest rates. Without those things, it makes it so much harder for people to choose to have their first baby, let alone their third. The test for Jim Chalmers in this budget is not to create distractions about whether or not people have more babies. It’s whether he has a budget that actually helps to drive down inflation and cost of living.


Laura Jayes: Birmo, we’ll have to leave it there. Thanks so much for your time as always.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, LJ. Let’s take you live now to the Prime Minister.