Topics:  Iran launches attack on Israel; Australia needs to increase support to Ukraine; 

02:45PM AEST
15 April 2024


Tom Connell: Joining me live now, the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Thank you for your time. What has happened to Israel? Obviously, attacks that have been condemned. Does this mean they are entitled to retaliate, or should they show restraint?


Simon Birmingham: Tom, it’s good to be with you. Were these attacks are deserving of the strongest condemnation. Iran has clearly engaged in unprecedented attacks against Israel. The good thing is that Israeli defence, alongside support from the United States, the United Kingdom, but also critically, countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia have combined to ensure that Iran’s attacks did not have the intended or desired effect in terms of the impact on Israel. But that doesn’t change the reality that Israel was subjected to an unprecedented attack from Iran. There were also the sponsors of terrorist activities such as Hamas’s October 7th Attacks on Israel, along with the Hezbollah attacks from the north into Israel, along with the Houthi rebels’ attacks in [inaudible] disruption of global shipping-


Tom Connell: Is it important, though, to delineate. Yes, condemnation. You’ve made that clear. Sorry, sorry. You had a bit of a pause in audio. Think your side froze there. So, apologies for jumping in if it seemed unseemly. Let me go ahead with the question anyway. So, condemnation of the attack. That’s been shared across political lines here and overseas. But should Israel still show restraint, seeing as this seemingly did not pose a threat to its security because the defence mechanism was so successful?


Simon Birmingham: Tom, a couple of things there. Firstly, we should be clear in standing with Israel in our explicit support for Israel. And I think we have seen that clearly from President Biden, from other G7 leaders. It hasn’t been as clear from the Albanese Government. I would call on them to be explicit in stating that they stand with and support Israel against these attacks and in their right to self-defence. Of course, none of us wish to see a broader conflict ensue. However, Iran should pay a price for the destabilisation that it is undertaking, and world leaders need to look very carefully at how Iran can be made to pay that price. In terms of the step ups that are possible. Now, in particular, we have been calling, the Coalition in Australia for some time for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia and if need be, for Australian laws to be changed for it to be listed as such. That is a type of step that many countries could take, should take and ought to take with some urgency. Iran sponsors terrorism. It behaves through the IRGC like a terrorist organisation. It of course wields that not just against Israel or against others in the region with whom they disagree. It wields that against its own people in the oppressive regime that operates within Iran, too. Those types of steps and actions should absolutely be contemplated across the world in terms of a strong response.


Tom Connell: And does it mean if those actions are serious enough and Israel sees that, they should then say, we don’t need to retaliate to make this a full-blown war? Is that the hope that if Israel sees its serious action, it doesn’t need to escalate this in the conflict sense?


Simon Birmingham: There are many things for Israel to weigh out of this. Its regional relations are critical in that regard. Just last week, we had Penny Wong talking down the prospects of Israel having normalised relations with other Arab countries in the region. Yet the reality is Israel has successfully pursued normalised relations for a long period of time and particularly stepped that up under the Abraham Accords that saw breakthroughs with countries such as the United Arab Emirates in recent years, and they’ve been huge steps forward. It’s widely accepted that the timing of the October 7th attacks was intended to put a brake and a division in the discussions of normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia, so we should take some heart out of the fact that Saudi Arabia played a role in terms of the defence and deterrence of wider regional conflict in actions over the last few days. So, these are factors for Israel to weigh in terms of how they respond. It is still important for them to remove the immediate threat to Israel of Hamas and terrorism within Gaza, and we should continue to support them in doing that. We should also see a concerted global effort to have Iran’s disruptive actions, have a response to Iran’s disruptive actions, a strong response, one that does seek to ensure that Iran cannot continue, not just to threaten Israel, but to be such a sponsor of terrorism and disruption across the region, across the world, and indeed also through its support of Russia and its war against Ukraine.


Tom Connell: Nearly out of time. Just one final topic briefly on this. Ukraine is starting to seemingly strain under this pressure from Russia. Is the Australian government doing enough? And if not, what specifically would you like to see in terms of assistance?


Simon Birmingham: No, Tom, I don’t believe the Albanese Government has been doing enough. Australia has slipped from being the leading non-NATO contributor down that list in various ways as to how you measure it. We’ve missed opportunities in terms of making commitments for helicopters being retired by the Australian Army to be gifted potentially to Ukraine. There remain some opportunities for tanks potentially being retired by the Australian Army to be gifted. There needs to be stronger, faster support from Australia. We also need to see the package of support get through the US Congress. If Ukraine is seen ultimately to lose because a lack of will and a lack of strength from democratic nations around the world, well, that won’t just be a loss for Ukraine. It will be a loss for all democracies, and it will be interpreted as such by those who seek to threaten democratic systems around the world. That’s why we should be as strong as possible in in our support and looking at how we can leverage Australian defence industry assets and other capabilities to deliver Ukraine the support, the armaments, the equipment where possible, to assist their continued defence.


Tom Connell: Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Thank you.