Topics: Israel raises travel warning for Australia; Detainees re-arrested 

08:10AM AEDT
Tuesday, 5 December 2023


Danica De Giorgio:  Joining me now live is Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham. Thanks for joining us this morning. What does this say about how Australia is viewed at the moment by the Jewish community?


Simon Birmingham: This is a terrible stain on Australia. The idea that Jewish people or Israeli citizens would somehow have to take extra precautions in visiting Australia because of the rise in antisemitism, because of the type of intimidatory tactics that we’ve seen various protests and other actions engage in. This is something that must be tackled at the highest levels. Prime Minister Albanese should ensure that the rise in antisemitism is on the agenda for National Cabinet. He should be getting a unified statement from all of Australia’s leaders condemning antisemitism, being clear in terms of the actions that are being taken across the country by police forces and others to quell these acts of intimidation that we have seen. We should be working to restore Australia’s reputation because we should be one of the safest countries in world. We have one of the highest populations of people who settled in Australia following the holocaust, and to now have Israel judge us as a country where Jews need to take such precautions is a terrible, terrible thing, a stain on our nation and it must be removed through government action.


Danica De Giorgio: All right, let’s move on. It’s a busy day. Obviously, we now know that two former detainees have been charged in the wake of the High Court ruling. Is it fair, though, to blame the Immigration and Home Affairs ministers for this? When it was the High Court that released these detainees in the first place?


Simon Birmingham: Well, this has been bungle after bungle by the government and how they seemingly handled the High Court case, but in particular how they responded to it. Let’s remember that initially they were very clear that they did not need to release anybody other than the one individual, and would await the findings and rulings of the High Court to assess whether other individuals required release. Yet then they started to release waves of individuals. Now two of those have ended up being arrested, one of them on very serious charges, it would seem, in terms of the potential sexual assault of an individual. The government’s first objective and priority must be to keep Australians safe. And now they’re failing that in terms of the perceived rise in antisemitism and the issues we were discussing before and they’re failing that in terms of having now released many, many individuals into the Australian community. Murderers, rapists and others who pose a threat to the community and who clearly do pose a threat because tragically, two of them have now been arrested.


Danica De Giorgio: How critical, then, is it to get this legislation through before the end of this week? Do you support it in its current form?


Simon Birmingham: We’ll support anything that keeps Australians safe, and that’s why we are going through extensive briefings with the government to understand the nature of this legislation. Tragically, this government can’t be trusted to get the job done. We saw that with the first piece of legislation they brought to this Parliament, which at sunrise was the toughest it could possibly be. But by lunchtime they had adopted all of the proposed amendments the Opposition had suggested to toughen it up further. So, we can see with this government that they need the intense scrutiny of the Opposition and to get them anywhere close to the type of policies that can keep Australians safe, because they’re just not up to it themselves.


Danica De Giorgio: But does it risk, then does it risk overreach if it’s too tight? I mean, some legal experts have already said that this will definitely be challenged.


Simon Birmingham: Of course, many, many laws in Australia are challenged and we should work to ensure it has the best and strongest legal underpinnings. But how about we go and ask the woman in South Australia who’s been sexually assaulted, whether it’s overreach to try to detain and keep detain the person who sexually assaulted her, or indeed the threat posed by all of the others who have been released. This is what we’re dealing with. These are real life circumstances, real individuals who pose a real threat to Australians and that’s why we want to make sure the laws are as tough as possible, and why we are trying to work as diligently from Opposition as we can to clean up the mess and the bungles that this Government has undertaken.


Danica De Giorgio: All right. Well, only a few days left to try and get this through. Simon Birmingham, thanks for joining us.