The price to Labor for supporting Israeli war crimes and apartheidNov 22, 2023
What rejoicing greeted the Federal Election result last year, when the corrupt and callous Coalition, under Scott Morrison, was swept from office. Surely now Australians would get political leadership whose priorities would align with their own. Instead, they’ve had to stand and watch as Australia’s federal government – a Labor government – has given unconditional support to the Israeli occupation forces to slaughter Palestinians in their thousands.
Speech at a public meeting to be held at the Westella Renaissance, Lidcombe NSW. Date TBC.
Comrades and friends,
We gather here tonight in the heart of Lidcombe, on Dharug land, and pay our respects to their elders, past, present and emerging. United in our horror at the carnage being visited on the people of Gaza, we grieve for the fallen, and demand an immediate and lasting ceasefire. The dead must be buried; the wounded receive medical care – and the political future must be carefully considered, both in Palestine and closer to home.
Because the voters of Lidcombe, and the suburbs roundabout, make up the electorate in the federal division of Watson. A quintessential Labor seat – named, indeed, after the party’s first Prime Minister, over a century ago.
What rejoicing greeted the Federal Election result last year, when the corrupt and callous Coalition, under Scott Morrison, was swept from office. Surely now, the people of Watson would get political leadership whose priorities would align with their own. Leadership that would restore values of justice and a fair go, both at home and abroad.
Instead, they’ve had to stand and watch as Australia’s federal government – a Labor government – has given unconditional support to the Israeli occupation forces to slaughter Palestinians in their thousands.
(Cries of ‘shame!’)
Shame indeed. Of course, that’s not the full story. The people have done much more than stand and watch. They’ve taken to the streets of Sydney, and other cities, in their thousands, to demand an immediate ceasefire. And within Labor, voices have responded.
It fell to two senior MPs who are Muslims – Ed Husic and Anne Aly – to complain about collective punishment, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, being inflicted on the people of Gaza.
Later, Foreign Minister Penny Wong emphasised the importance of using force in a proportionate and discriminating fashion. “How Israel defends itself matters”. It became her mantra.
These statements – inadequate and belated as they were – should be seen as achievements: achievements by the massive demonstrations and the anger expressed on the streets at the mounting toll of life and limb.
But these are weasel words. Yes, Australia voted, at the UN General Assembly this month, in favour of a committee motion labelling Israeli settlements on occupied land as an obstacle to peace. Of course they are – and, the resolution went on to say, they’re also a war crime in themselves. That same Geneva Convention baldly states: “An occupying power must not move any part of its population into the territory it occupies”.
So – a vote on the right side, at least – and at last. But what’s missing? The self-same thing that’s always missing, in Australia’s responses: any suggestion that real, material support for Israel is in any way conditional on changes in behaviour.
If the occupation forces, pounding Gaza, fail to heed the warnings issued by Penny Wong, what will happen? What will we do? If the illegal settlements in the West Bank are not dismantled forthwith, what part of Australia’s policy will change?
There’s no proposal to switch off the flow of signals intelligence from the Pine Gap listening base, in the Northern Territory, which is being directed straight to the Israeli military. (Gasps from crowd). Oh yes.
Australia’s weapons industry takes a major role in the global production line of the F35 warplane. Israel has dozens of them – all busily engaged in bombing and pounding hospitals, universities and refugee camps. Will we start to withhold the supply of spare parts for engines, wheels and brakes?
So it’s time for a change of tack. We’re gathered here tonight to switch the focus of our action, from speeches and banners in Hyde Park, to the streets, pubs and clubs of Lidcombe.
This is where our campaign begins, to deprive Labor of its parliamentary majority. Could there be a Palestine solidarity candidate for Watson? Or simply a movement to cast informal ballots? Tactical questions, yet to be determined. But this is where we’ll be, over the next eighteen months to the next Federal election.
The seat is held by a wide margin. Tony Burke came in last time over 20,000 up on his Liberal challenger. He took up his post as Minister for Industrial Relations in the Albanese cabinet.
And let’s be clear: this is not an attack on him. No: this is nothing less than a groundswell from Labor’s heartlands, with one overwhelming message: you can’t be ‘Progressive Except on Palestine’.
So we serve notice on Tony Burke and Labor here tonight: that winning margin in Watson is under threat. That majority in the House of Reps – a much narrower majority – is on the line. From now on, you can have your support for Israeli war crimes and apartheid – OR you can win elections. Not both.
Of course, there’s a risk of getting a right-wing government. I’m sure very few of us here tonight would welcome that.
We don’t want a government that squanders billions on nuclear submarines for war with China, while starving public schools and health facilities of proper funding.
We don’t want a government that signs off on over a hundred new oil, coal and gas licences, putting our climate and our planet at risk.
We don’t want a government that stands idly by as banks and supermarkets pass on massive profits and dividends to their shareholders, while ripping off the Australian public.
We don’t want a government that enacts Stage 3 tax cuts to channel yet more money into the pockets of the already rich.
And above all, we don’t want a government that colludes in the slaughter of Palestinians, and the denial of justice, a fair go and a lasting peace.