Topics:  Protestors on Parliament House; Reports Israeli Ambassador reprimanded;

12:50PM ACST
4 July 2024


Kieran Gilbert: While the protest was unfolding, I caught up with the foreign affairs spokesperson, shadow, Simon Birmingham, the Coalition’s representative.


[Pre-recorded interview]


Simon Birmingham: People can stand against actions or governments. They can stand in arguments for peace or otherwise. But this type of antisemitic messaging that divides our country has no place, should never have been tolerated and sadly, has been let to get out of control.


Kieran Gilbert: Under the coat of arms, the banner “war crimes”. We obviously know the broader issue they’re campaigning on, but the suggestion of Australia being complicit with that by some, by hanging that under the coat of arms, it’s quite appalling this protest as that one was at the war memorial.


Simon Birmingham: Kieran, that’s just it. It comes in the same week as we have seen war memorials desecrated and graffitied in ways that are totally, totally reprehensible in ways that should have been universally condemned by our Parliament. And yet we have the Australian Greens who actually voted against parliamentary motions to condemn the graffitiing of our war memorials. Everybody should just pause and reflect on that for a moment. The Australian Greens aren’t just warm, fuzzy environmentalists. They have defended the graffitiing of our national war memorials and defend this type of extreme behaviour.


Kieran Gilbert: Now this and now this, quite clear. And as you said, you know, a very concerning breach of the Parliament.


Simon Birmingham: I have no doubt the Greens will defend these actions as well, just as they defend the anti-semitic messaging, too. And this is something that needs to permeate deeply into Australian society and Australian voters. Because many people think when they’re casting a vote for the Greens, that they are sending a well-meaning message on the environment, but they are actually empowering extremists and extremism, and it’s getting out of hand and this needs to be condemned. Sadly, it won’t be by the Greens. And of course, it’s important that all political parties stand up to that. And Labor, whose preferences often helped to put Greens into the parliament, need to cease doing preference deals with the Greens and need to stop enabling them to enable these extremists.


Kieran Gilbert: As you said, we live in a democracy, a place of free speech, free protest, that’s one thing. But what’s- in this motivation behind these protests? Do they really think they’re convincing more of the community or the electorate about the merits of their cause? Because clearly this sort of thing alienates people.


Simon Birmingham: Well, from a community level, what I despair about there is they just further drive deeper and more entrenched divisions. And it’s why the government’s mixed messaging since October 7th and changes in positions haven’t helped. They’ve made a bad situation worse. The likes of the Greens, as I said, have empowered this type of behaviour, appallingly so. And so, there’s a range of confounding, compounding factors that I think are taking a difficult situation, making it worse. We, of course, have seen Prime Minister’s mishandling of his own caucus in relation to matters in the recent couple of weeks as well. All of it creating a much messier situation than if there had been clear, consistent moral clarity on all issues since October 7th. Standing by the parliamentary motion that had bipartisan support then, standing by a long-standing position in relation to a two-state solution that is fully negotiated and settled between the parties and, of course, standing clearly against anti-semitism all of the time in all of its forms.


Kieran Gilbert: And we can see those of the protesters up on the roof and getting rid of them now is the challenging thing because they’re risking their safety. But then the officers and the authorities need to be careful not to risk their own in trying to remove them. They’re standing on the top of the roof is clearly not a safe thing for a security guard or police officer to walk up there and try and wrestle them back.


Simon Birmingham: We stand in defence of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. But that’s got to be done in ways that don’t put other people in danger. That don’t create massive inconvenience for other Australians as well. Plenty of Australians have found themselves stuck in hours long traffic jams or chaos as extremist protesters have glued themselves to roads or done other things. And that, I think, drives people to be fed up with these types of protests and their views.


Kieran Gilbert: Now, just finally, the government’s called in the Israeli Ambassador to say that Australia won’t support a war on Hezbollah. Isn’t it responsible to say you don’t want to see the war spread more broadly than what it is this, this calamity?


Simon Birmingham: Kieran, none of us wish to see the war in Gaza spread into a broader regional conflict. But how do you stop that is important. And you stop that by standing clearly against the terrorists. Hezbollah continues to rain rockets into Israel, seeking to kill Israelis, and they have caused the displacement of thousands of Israeli residents from northern Israel. They are acting in complete defiance of undertakings that have been given in UN resolutions passed that should see no arms in those parts of Lebanon. And the reality is that defiance creates the threat. Now Australia should be clear cut. Our position should be support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defence against terrorists, listed terrorists, like Hezbollah. And if the Albanese Government has undermined that position then they need to be transparent about it. They need to explain why, and they should have the guts to front up themselves. What we understand from the reports is that a junior minister was sent to deliver those messages to Israel. A trusted democratic partner, friend and long-standing and a key relationship of Australia rather than the Foreign Minister or the Prime Minister, having the courage to do so. They need to explain themselves why they didn’t do so, why they’ve taken this position. Frankly, they need to reverse the position and be clear they still support Israel’s right to self-defence against such terrorist groups.


Kieran Gilbert: Simon Birmingham, thank you as always, I appreciate it. Thanks very much.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks Kieran, my pleasure.