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Thursday, 15 October 2015
Page: 11428


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (09:30): Yesterday I had the pleasure of welcoming to Parliament House Mr John Salisbury, who had just completed a 10-day trek in support of recognition of Palestinian statehood. John is a passionate advocate for the rights of the Palestinian people and, like the majority of Australians, he believes strongly that this parliament should follow the lead of the 136 of the 193 member states of the United Nations who have now recognised the state of Palestine.

John's advocacy on this issue stems from a longstanding interest and passion for human rights. As a member and supporter of Amnesty International for the last 25 years, John has advocated and fundraised for a range of human rights issues. However his deep concern for the injustice that continues to be suffered by the Palestinian people has guided and driven his advocacy for Palestinian statehood. John tells me that he felt that he had to do something in order to draw the nation's attention to this cause. He said, 'I am an ordinary Australian citizen, a small businessman by profession. I do not have any direct connection to either Palestine or Israel. I am not Muslim or Jewish. But I do recognise the injustice of human rights violations when I see them.' John's trek was inspired by a similar walk undertaken by a former Israeli soldier and current University of Wollongong academic Dr Marcelo Svirsky. Dr Svirsky walked from Sydney to Canberra last year, with John also participating in that walk. John began his walk at Sydney Opera House on Sunday, 4 October and, after covering over 300 kilometres, arrived at Parliament House on Tuesday afternoon, raising awareness as he talked to the many people he came across in his travels as well as collecting additional signatures along the way. He has collected about 1,100 signatures. I have these petitions, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I will be presenting them to the Petitions Committee shortly. In John's words: 'It is embarrassing to be complicit in the continued occupation of Palestine. In the last 12 months Sweden, France and the Vatican have recognised the state of Palestine. Australia is very far behind on this issue.'

Of course the flow-on effects of not recognising Palestine must also be acknowledged. There are a large number of Palestinian refugees currently displaced in Syria, and their absence of any statehood continues to be a barrier to living a peaceful life. Their neighbours in the Middle East do not grant Palestinian citizenship and an absence of a state has implications for the UNHCR referral to countries and therefore for their visa applications. In light of this, John's advocacy is one to be commended. He has used his retirement to bring attention to an issue that is at the forefront of conflict in the Middle East. John has received messages of thanks for his efforts and support and commendations not only across Australia but also across the world. I want to join with everyone and thank John for his wonderful contribution to this very important cause, which does require the attention and support of this parliament. (Time expired)