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Wednesday, 24 March 2004
Page: 21844


Senator BROWN (4:15 PM) —Firstly, I want to congratulate Senator Nettle on bringing forward this motion. It is one of the most difficult matters that can be dealt with by parliamentarians anywhere in the world, and I agree with Senator Nettle that to sit mute after this assassination is not the response this parliament should adopt. Senator Nettle has brought forward a motion which condemns the Israeli government's assassination of Sheikh Yassin and I endorse that, as do many people around the world—including in Western democracies. The opposition has said it could accept the words `absolutely opposed'. I think that would have been a good thing to bring to Senator Nettle before she brought this motion forward. The fact is nobody in this parliament approached her to amend this motion, and that leads me to the conclusion that nobody wanted this matter debated because of difficulty of it.


Senator Stott Despoja —That is not fair!


Senator BROWN —I acknowledge the Democrats; I am referring to the big parties. It should be the government, as Senator Nettle said, putting forward the motion. It should be couched in terms which are going to contribute to the global debate on this vexatious matter. One of the threats that has come out of the assassination of Sheikh Yassin—who I note was out of step with Muslim teaching and the asseverations of Muslim leaders elsewhere in the world who are opposed to terrorist acts and suicide bombings—is a commitment by some Hamas leaders to extend the actions of Hamas internationally. You only have to listen to news broadcasts talking about link-ups with al-Qaeda to see how fraught the escalation of terrorism is between Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian authorities and to see that the rest of the world has to intervene—in particular, the United States of America. The need for that is urgent, and I agree with Senator Stott Despoja that this parliament should be setting aside time to debate it in a constructive fashion.

If the government agrees that it does not support targeted assassination, then let it bring forward a motion that is couched in those terms and the Greens will engage in that debate. One cannot get away from the feeling that there is no other motion here because the government and the opposition do not want to engage in a debate on the matter simply because it raises passions in our own community. If we do not face up to it and do not try to contribute to the global debate, and we are not clear about eschewing violence and terrorism from both sides and targeted assassination—`liquidation' as it is horribly called by a democratic government like Israel—then it is terrorism; the same as suicide bombings in buses is terrorism. Other people were killed with Sheikh Yassin. What about them? It has got to stop, and the world has got to move to stop it.

When you hear that moves in the United Nations to debate the matter were not supported by the Australian government, you see a failure of nerve and a failure of will to intervene. What we need is nerve; a determination to stand up for peaceful resolution and a determination that Australia will be involved, because inevitably we are involved. Whatever people might think of this motion and however they vote on the question now before the Senate, it is healthy that we are engaged in this debate and that we take part in it. In fact, that is our responsibility.