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Speech on the Motion on Israel/ Hamas Conflict

I rise to speak on the motion regarding the deplorable act of violence perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on the Israeli people. The attacks in Israel last week shocked and horrified the world. Innocent women, men, children and elderly people were murdered indiscriminately in the most brutal and barbaric way—murdered by Hamas terrorists. Almost 1,400 people in Israel were killed as they went about their everyday lives, and hundreds more were grievously injured. The horror of these attacks is almost beyond comprehension—almost. The word 'terrorist' is often heard on the nightly news, but, in the case of Hamas, it is clear that their aim was to spread as much terror and as much horror as possible. It feels like there are almost no words strong enough to condemn the horror and murder inflicted upon innocent Israelis by Hamas. But I stand here this evening to once again condemn in the strongest possible terms the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. There is never a justification for terrorism, and terrorism must never be glorified.

For many, the horror continues, with 199 hostages having been taken and, reportedly, being used as human shields by Hamas. Their terror continues, as does the terror of those that love them. The hearts of the nation of Israel and the Jewish diaspora is breaking. Hamas must allow all hostages to be returned safely to Israel with no exceptions. Israel has the right to defend itself and to rescue its hostages, but, despite the immense grief and anger, the response cannot stray outside of international law. To paraphrase the words of our Prime Minister today: 'Humanitarian law must always come first. International law must always be upheld. The protection of innocent lives must come first. Every innocent life matters—otherwise, are we different?'

The world is now looking on in horror as a humanitarian crisis unfolds inside Gaza where, for over a week, there has been a total blockade of water, food, electricity, medicine and fuel, affecting millions of Gazans. This morning we woke up to hear about the devastation and death of hundreds of people in the main hospital in Gaza City when it was struck by a rocket. It's clear that innocent civilians in Gaza are being killed—innocent women, innocent men and innocent children. If you believe in human rights, you believe in human rights for all. Hamas does not represent, speak or act for many of the people inside Gaza. Close to half of Gaza's population are children. For their sake, we need to see an urgent de-escalation from both sides. There are Australians and family members of Australians also in Gaza and the West Bank. Our prayers are also with them.

The UN Secretary-General has called for three things: the immediate and unconditional release of hostages; an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; and to immediately allow unrestricted access of humanitarian aid to respond to the most basic needs of the people in Gaza, the overwhelming majority of whom are women and children. As Guterres says, too many lives and the fate of the entire region hang in the balance. I'm also proud of the strong leadership of our foreign minister and Prime Minister, who have also called for Israel to protect civilian lives in Gaza City as the Israeli Defence Force seeks to rescue those who were taken as hostages by Hamas. Some of Australia's closest and strongest partners have also called for restraint and de-escalation, including the UK and the EU.

I also commend the Australian government's actions today, including its swift move to organise repatriation flights out of Israel and help, where it can, to get Palestinian Australians home. When our planes fly there, rather than sending empty planes, those planes should be filled with medical supplies, food and other items needed to sustain life in a humanitarian crisis. Those supplies should be made available to all those in need. I was also pleased to hear today the government's announcement of extra funding to help keep Australians of all faiths safe in their schools, in their places of worship and in their faith based community centres. All Australians deserve to live freely and safely in their own country.

This is a time of intense fear, intense grief and intense anger for so many, but let us try and maintain respectful speech with one another so that the grief does not spread. Overwhelmingly, we live in harmony here in Australia. People, no matter their background or faith, should feel safe in Australia. To the people of Israel and Gaza, our hearts are with you.