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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5254

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (21:49): At the commencement of my contribution to this debate I would like to congratulate the member for Fremantle on her contribution to the grievance debate tonight and say that I endorse every word that she says and I know how committed she is to this particular cause.

My contribution revolves around a visit I made in April this year to Palestine with the Friends of Palestine. On that delegation were Maria Vamvakinou, Sussan Ley, Melissa Parke and myself.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): You should refer to members by their electorates, not by their names.

Ms HALL: My apologies. It was a delegation of four members of parliament. At the onset of this trip to Palestine I was overwhelmed by the hospitality that was shown to us and I thank Izzak Abdulhadi, Patricia Abbott, the Palestinian Legislative Council public relations department for their hospitality.

I came away from that visit convinced that one of the imperative issues facing the world is the need for a two-state solution in Israel. It is something that this government is committed to and something that I think we all should work very hard to achieve. It was a unique experience and my predetermined idea of what I would experience when I arrived in Palestine was quite incorrect. Nothing I had read about, nothing I had seen prepared me for what I encountered in Palestine. We entered Palestine via the Allenby Crossing and that was quite an experience. It took us 4½ hours to traverse that crossing but once we entered Palestine we were greeted by some very hospitable, optimistic people. What surprised me was the strength of the economy, the strong sense of business, a strong business community that exists there, the entrepreneurship and the fact that the Palestinian people were very keen to develop trade relationships with our country, and some already have quite strong trade relations with Australia. This is a people who want freedom and their freedom will also ensure the freedom of Israeli people.

I did not quite understand what occupation meant until I arrived in Palestine. As a person who has an aversion to arms and guns and any sort of conflict, I was overwhelmed when I was confronted with people with guns over their shoulders and that this was an everyday occurrence. The first checkpoint I arrived at I found quite confronting because it was something that I was not used to, something that I had not experienced. So there were firearms at checkpoints and the Palestinian people accepted this as a very normal state of affairs, but I found it quite confronting because I saw it as something right out of the ordinary, an abnormal way of life, yet the Palestinian people accepted and live under those circumstances.

The first time I saw the wall that has been built to separate Palestine and Israel I was really surprised. I had read about it. I had heard about it. It has even been talked about in this place. But seeing it demonstrated to me the complexity of the situation—how the wall acted as a barrier and how it separated Palestinian people who had worked various plots of land for most of their lives and were now unable to move from where they lived to their agricultural lands. That was something I did not expect to see when I went to Palestine. I did not expect it to be the way it was.

There is not only the barrier created by the wall but a barrier of bureaucracy: the need to get a permit to travel, the need to stop at a checkpoint—everything you do whilst you are there is encompassed in that bureaucratic system. In the infrastructure there is a dual road system and a dual system for accessing water, one for the Israeli people and one for the people from Palestine. There is very, very good health care. I was really impressed by the hospitals that I visited, the quality of care that was available and the expertise of the doctors, but there are also a number of barriers that need to be circumvented within that system.

The Israeli settlements and the housing demolitions have created a lot of angst within Palestine. I was very, very fortunate to visit Gaza. I learnt that there are 1.2 million refugees living there. Eighty per cent of the people in Gaza live in poverty. I visited the United Nations food distribution centre, a job creation program for fishermen who were unable to fish outside the three-kilometre limit and then a hospital. I saw the wonderful programs that were being run there by UNRWA.

One of the real highlights of my visit to Palestine was visiting an UNRWA school. Human rights were incorporated into the curriculum. Human rights were being used as part of the learning tools. One young person after another in the classroom stood up and told me how human rights taught them to respect each other and about the impact that that had on their ability to learn. The principal reported to us that, since human rights had been incorporated into the curriculum, the learning outcomes for the young people at that school had improved enormously. We also visited a number of other important areas, particularly in Gaza.

I must say that it convinced me that it is time for the occupation to end. It is time for Palestine to become a state. It is time for the Middle East conflict to end. There is a vote in the United Nations in September, and I think it is time that this conflict was put to rest, not only for Israel and Palestine but for the rest of the world. Until we have peace, and lasting peace, in the Middle East, it has an enormous impact on each and every nation in the world. It will benefit Israel. It will benefit Palestine.

Both Israel and Palestine have a right to exist. We here in Australia believe in a two-nation solution. It has been supported by governments of both persuasions. There was a motion debated in the House last week stating this. A two-party solution means recognition of both parties and it means that both parties have the right to exist. Israel and Palestine live side by side. They need to live side by side in secure, recognised boundaries and respect and accept each other, and this will lead to a peaceful coexistence. It is time for this conflict to end. It is time for this occupation to end. It is time for both sides to respect each other. I commend my contribution to this House. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The time for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Main Committee adjourned at 22:00 .