Topics:  Joint former Prime Ministers’ letter; Israel-Hamas conflict;

08:15AM AEDT
Tuesday 31 October 2023


Pete Stefanovic:  Well, let’s go straight to the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham, and we will start off with this letter, I should say, signed by all former living Australian Prime Ministers, Simon, except one Paul Keating. So, it was enough to bring Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott together, but not everyone in the Labor Party.


Simon Birmingham: Well look, that’s right and it’s a reminder of some of the differences we’re seeing on the Labor side. It’s deeply unfortunate because at present, we need everybody to be firmly reminded of the genesis of these attacks. And that is, of course, Hamas, a terrorist organisation, on October 7th, killing more Jews in a single day than at any time since the Holocaust. So, while there are indeed enormous tragedies that continue to unfold in terms of the loss of innocent lives, people do really need to keep in perspective the cause of these events. This letter, this powerful statement sent by six of our living former prime ministers, Labor and Liberal, is a clear-cut reminder that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, undertook these terrorist atrocities, caused such huge loss of life and if left without being brought under control, would pose a continued threat to Israel in the future. Which is why this is not just about Israel’s right to self-defence, but their right to remove Hamas and disable them from being a future threat.


Pete Stefanovic: Still, no call to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as far as I’m aware of. What do you make of that? Nearly three weeks in, Simon.


Simon Birmingham: Well, look, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has plenty on his plate, but it is surprising and disappointing that the requested call from Australia has not been taken. Now, the Albanese Government made a number of unilateral policy shifts in relation to Israel over their first 12 months or so in office. These didn’t do much to warm the relationship, but I urge the Albanese Government to make sure they remain firm and in lockstep on this issue that even with the divisions or splinters in the Labor Party from Paul Keating or from different ministers, they’ve got to be solid and firm about Israel’s right to self-defence and its right to remove Hamas as a threat in the future.


Pete Stefanovic: Your opponent, Penny Wong, she said yesterday that Israel runs the risk of isolating itself from the international community if the civilian death toll climbs too high in Gaza. Is that something that you agree with?


Simon Birmingham: Well, this is why it’s so critical and why the former Prime Ministers letter matters. We have to, Penny Wong, Kevin Rudd, Anthony Albanese and all on our side as well need to be making sure that in our statements, we are being crystal clear about the causes and genesis of this, which is Hamas as a terrorist organisation and a reminder of those atrocities from October 7th. None of us wish to see the loss of innocent lives and the loss of an innocent Palestinian life matters just as much as the loss of innocent Jewish life. And we grieve and mourn for all of those affected. But Hamas has to be removed from being an ongoing threat to innocent lives and ongoing destabiliser in the Middle East. And of course, not just a threat to Israel and the Jewish population there, but Hamas is a constant threat to the Palestinian population in Gaza, too. They hide behind innocent civilians. They use people as human shields, hospitals as shields, schools as shields and they do not represent the genuine, legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. So, removing them from being a threat and an influence is good for both Palestinian peoples in Gaza, as well as for Jewish peoples across Israel.


Pete Stefanovic: Okay. Simon Birmingham, appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon.