Matters of Public Importance – Israel Embassy





Subjects: Israel Embassy

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Notwithstanding the last speaker, the previous speakers in the opposition have not been able to acknowledge, or won’t admit to, three things about this MPI. No. 1: they won’t acknowledge that the government’s policy is actually a reaffirmation of the longstanding bipartisan policy of successive Australian governments that has been in existence for decades. No. 2: they won’t acknowledge that it was actually they, the opposition, when they were in government under Scott Morrison, that, in 2018, decided to do foreign policy on the run, breaking and breaching decades of bipartisanship, and for what? For a pathetic attempt at short-term political gain. And No. 3—and this is a general point: as you’ve seen in the first couple of months of government, our foreign policy is based on a sensible approach to the national interest, not a personal political interest, not a short-term political gain in a by-election. In this case, our foreign policy is in alignment with the international community’s broad agreement that Jerusalem is a final status issue that should be resolved as part of any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian people. Let’s be very clear: the position of successive Australian governments has been that there can be no lasting peace that does not address that final status of Jerusalem, and, as the Prime Minister said earlier today, he will not and his government will not undermine that approach.

This goes back in history; I’ll reach back to 1967, to when your own Liberal external affairs minister, Paul Hasluck, called for the commencement of ‘an effort to build long-term peace’ and outlined that in relation to the future status of Jerusalem. I’ll talk about how, even more recently, your former Prime Minister John Howard said himself in a joint press conference that the status of Jerusalem is something that would be resolved by the parties in discussion. And, of course, former Liberal foreign minister Julie Bishop said something similar:

This wasn’t changed in the Gorton government. It wasn’t changed by Malcolm Fraser. It wasn’t changed by Bob Hawke. It wasn’t changed by John Howard, Julia Gillard or Malcolm Turnbull—or Tony Abbott for that matter. But it was changed by Scott Morrison, the exception amongst all those prime ministers. He decided, ‘Oh, I’ll exploit the sensitivity of this issue for a short-term political purpose,’ when he decided to drop in the media during the by-election for Wentworth that he was going to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and he was trying to do this, of course, so that he could win the by-election in Wentworth for Dave Sharma. Scott Morrison said at the time he was persuaded by the arguments of Dave Sharma, leaving no doubt in all of our minds that this was simply a cynical attempt to get Dave Sharma re-elected in Wentworth. It didn’t work. They lost the by-election. The voters of Wentworth saw right through that political stunt, and they lost the by-election.

This confirms our suspicion about what we know about Scott Morrison in doing this the former Prime Minister, after that by-election, announced that he was backing down and not moving the embassy at all. He scrubbed it. The fact that he backed out of it and didn’t move the embassy once the by-election was over tells you everything you need to know about how cynical the political play was. He didn’t just make this announcement out of conviction; it was done as a political stunt, it was done as a political tactic and it was a pathetic attempt to play into the hopes and expectations of both Israelis and Palestinians and their communities.

Let me be very clear: the Albanese Labour government does not do that and will not use sensitive issues to play political games. You’d think those opposite would have learnt the lesson—that group over there, that mob over there. You’d think they’d run a hundred miles away from Scott Morrison— and the former Prime Minister’s political tactics. The member for Cook—you’d think they’d run a hundred miles away from it. But no: they have come in with this MPI, playing the same old political games, trying to get some short-term domestic political runs on the board.

Here’s the craziness of it. When you ask their shadow foreign minister what their position is, he says: ‘Well, we haven’t decided that. The proposition is at least a couple of years away. It’s not necessary until the next election.’ When you ask the opposition leader, he says, ‘Oh, we’ll make that decision or announce that policy in the run-up to the next election.’ It’s all political games with this mob, but this is too important to play those games. Our national interest, the region’s interest, the world’s interest must focus on making a substantive effort to reach peace through negotiations between the parties, and Australia can play that role under an Albanese Labor Government.