Topics: Parliamentary delegation in Israel;

07:20AM AEDT
13 December 2023


Peter Stefanovic: Labor MP Josh Burns has condemned calls for a cease fire in the Middle East, fearing it could trigger a repeat of October 7th. He’s been visiting the site of a Hamas massacre in Israel, the Kfar Azar kibbutz, with a bipartisan group of Australian MPs. Seeing the devastation of the attacks the Jewish MP says an early peace settlement could allow Hamas to regroup. He says there would be no tolerance for the terrorist group if Australia faced a similar attack. The foreign minister, Penny Wong, will be travelling to the region next month. Well, let’s go to Tel Aviv now. It’s late in the evening, about 10:30 in the evening, and we’re joined by the Shadow Foreign Minister, Simon Birmingham, who is there. Simon, good to see you. I know you’re on the bus at the moment. Where are you heading?


Simon Birmingham: G’day, Peter. Yes, heading back into Tel Aviv, having been in Jerusalem all day. Sorry about the slightly dodgy quality.


Peter Stefanovic: No, no, not at all. Glad to have you with us. So, what have you learned on your trip so far, Simon?


Simon Birmingham: Well, Pete. Our actions by visiting here have been very warmly welcomed. It’s clear that the Israeli people are appreciative of having Australian parliamentarians here, that they have welcomed the fact that we have been clear in our support for Israel and its inherent right to self-defence, and the need for the removal of Hamas as a terrorist threat, and that the engagement we have had, be it with survivors, families of victims, in inspecting the different sites of the Hamas attacks, and of course, talking with government officials and others. This has all provided an opportunity for us to deliver clear messages, but also to learn and gain a much deeper understanding of the horrors that were committed on the 7th of October.


Peter Stefanovic: Now, of course, you’ve got Josh Burns there, but has there been any, concerns about our Prime Minister who hasn’t made a trip yet?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I’ve been pretty clear, as you know, that we would much rather have seen Prime Minister Albanese come sooner. That he should have come in the early stages. That there should, if he couldn’t go, have been a senior government minister. Dozens upon dozens of presidents, prime ministers, foreign and defence ministers from other nations have visited. The fact that the first parliamentary presence here is a parliamentary delegation is not of the same standard and standing. But it is very good that we do have Labor MPs as part of this. But it’s not the same as having the representatives of the government here.


Peter Stefanovic: Yeah. I mean, Josh Burns condemning calls for a ceasefire, not exactly in line with the rest of his party, is it?


Simon Birmingham: Well, we see the statement that has been put out by the different prime ministers overnight. Overnight Australian time. Now this statement said many, many different things. But I think the emphasis from it has got to be to look at the terms of a ceasefire. It is one thing to be saying that you want a ceasefire, but the terms of the critical aspect there. The terms have to be that Hamas releases all hostages, Hamas surrenders all arms, Hamas hands over its leadership and its terrorist operatives, and that ultimately Hamas is completely disabled. If those things happened, I’m confident that there would be a ceasefire. But there is no point, as the United States has made clear and others, in a premature situation that would only enable Hamas to rearm, to regroup, and ultimately to pose the threat of conducting the same type of terrorist atrocities as they did on the 7th of October and for the cycle to just perpetuate itself again.


Peter Stefanovic: Yep. And of course, your opponent, the Foreign Minister Penny Wong, will be visiting the region next month. Just finally, Simon, you might have just heard or seen that report that we just brought you. Uzzy Khawaja, the Aussie cricketer there about to begin the test series against Pakistan in Perth tomorrow. He’s making a political statement it would seem, on his shoe. He’s a Palestinian supporter of course, but he’s going to write all lives are equal. Do you take any issues with that?


Simon Birmingham: Look, the words themselves are, of course, hard to argue with. All of us grieve for innocent loss of life. All of us would wish that you didn’t have a conflict like this, but it has to be remembered. It was started by the atrocities of Hamas, and that they have said they would repeat those atrocities again if given the chance. That is what needs to be stamped out. I don’t think Australians have a great deal of tolerance for politics in sport, but they also have a great deal of respect for the individual circumstances of different players. As long as he doesn’t bring the direct politics into it. Well, I’m sure people will want to pay more attention to what’s happening on the field than what’s on his feet.


Peter Stefanovic: Simon, Birmingham, good to see you. We’ll talk to you again soon.