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Wednesday, 24 March 2004
Page: 21840

Senator NETTLE (3:56 PM) —Pursuant to contingent notice, I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion relating to the conduct of the business of this Senate, namely a motion to give precedence to general business notice of motion No. 818.

I will start my contribution by reading out the text of Greens notice of motion No. 818. It reads:

That the Senate—

(a) condemns the Israeli government for:

(i) the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, by the Israeli army,

(ii) the illegal assassination of political adversaries, and

(iii) the continued illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and the oppression of the Palestinian people;

(b) recognises the need for:

(i) a genuine commitment to a peaceful resolution in Israel and Palestine from all parties in the conflict, and

(ii) the international community to actively pursue strategies to assist in the peaceful and just resolution of the conflict; and

(c) calls on the Government to:

(i) express the strongest condemnation of Israeli assassination raids to the Israeli Government,

(ii) urge Palestinian groups to show restraint in response to these attacks, and

(iii) work with friends in the international community to redouble efforts to bring a peaceful and just settlement to the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

It is disappointing that it has been left up to the Greens to move this motion in the Senate, because it should have been the Minister for Foreign Affairs of this country putting forward such a motion. The Australian government has so far refused to join the voices around the world that are condemning the assassination that occurred this week. Kofi Annan said that the killing contravened international law and would not help the Middle East peace process. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that the assassination was `unacceptable, unjustified and very unlikely to achieve its objective'. The EU foreign minister, Javier Solana, said, `This type of action does not contribute at all to create the conditions of peace.' But the Australian government has refused to condemn this action.

In fact this morning I heard that the Australian government had voted against the United Nations Commission on Human Rights holding a meeting to debate a resolution about the assassination. The UN resolution that they were to debate read:

... notes with grave concern the implications of such targeted assassinations, liquidation and murder of political leadership by the Israeli occupation forces on the overall situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the possibility of a fresh wave of violence ...

The Australian government opposed this motion even being debated. Incidentally, it also opposed in the United Nations a resolution condemning the construction of the so-called security wall that cuts off Palestinian villages from their fields and takes more land from the occupied territories. The region has already been pushed into further spirals of violence since the assassination earlier this week.

The Palestinian people have suffered an illegal military occupation for 37 years. The Australian government and the Australian Senate must not remain silent. The Greens motion in no way endorses the views or the actions of the assassinated leader of Hamas. This parliament should not fail to condemn violent action. It should not fail to stand up for peace because of a fear of false accusations about supporting suicide bombing. This parliament should condemn the assassination as we have and will continue to condemn suicide bombings. To sit mute after this assassination is to imply endorsement for a strategy that will result in more suicide bombings. The editor of Rupert Murdoch's Telegraph in London described the attack as `not an antiterrorist action, but more of a show killing'.

The peaceful resolution of the injustices in the Palestinian territories is central to so much global insecurity, particularly in the Middle East. Australia has to do more to assist in achieving a just resolution. The refusal to condemn this assassination and the ongoing occupation in Palestine will consign the children of Israel and Palestine to oppression and violence for many years to come. The Greens find that utterly unacceptable. Therefore, we are moving this motion rather than the foreign minister, who should be moving it. We urge all senators to support the motion.