Urgency motion

28 February 2024

The Government has been very clear on the matter of defence exports to the State of Israel, and the facts have been laid out in the Senate and by Defence officials in Senate estimates as recently as the last round only a few weeks ago, but I want to take the opportunity to reiterate what the government has already made very clear. Australia has not supplied weapons to the State of Israel since the conflict began and for, at least, the past five years. Let me repeat that, so there is no confusion. Australia has not supplied weapons to the State of Israel since the conflict began and for at least the past five years.

Australia has a stringent export control framework, which is designed to ensure our military and dual-use items are used responsibly outside of the Commonwealth of Australia. This framework applies to a wide range of goods and technology, including items used for civilian and commercial purposes, and, as such, export permits should not be confused with weapons sales. Defence undertakes a rigorous assessment of each export application. This includes determining if there is an overriding risk that the export may be used in ways contrary to Australia’s national interest or international obligations. If this risk is identified, Defence refuses the permit. As a matter of course, this framework accounts for changes in the strategic environment to ensure exports continue to align with our international obligations—noting that Australia is a party to and fully implements all major international arms control treaties, including the Arms Trade Treaty. I would also note the proactive steps that this government is taking to reform and strengthen Australia’s export control framework. The committee I chair, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee, is holding a hearing this Friday on the Defence Trade Controls Amendment Bill 2023, which will strengthen Australia’s export controls framework.

The Hamas-Israel conflict is a deeply distressing issue for many in our community here in Australia, and one where people hold very different views—as is their right. It is only right that our language matters on such issues and matters before us and the truth underpinning them. It’s important that we maintain that respect for each other. People come to Australia because they want to live in a country that is peaceful, tolerant and respectful. We must also work together to ensure that distress in our community does not turn into hatred. As community leaders, we need to be careful about how we say or articulate our points in this place. But sadly, time and time again, there are senators who peddle a false narrative on blatant misinformation.

The Australian Government provides information in the interests of transparency, but sadly we continue having interjections from the Australian Greens. The Australian Greens deliberately misinterpret that information for political campaigns. This only divides the community and undermines trust in public institutions. We have seen the cost of that around the world.

Repeatedly, we have heard Defence officials advise that Australia has not supplied weapons to the State of Israel, despite the Australian Greens continuing to ignore that advice. For the past five years, not a single weapon has been sent over there. Yet we hear the Greens continue to incorrectly conflate export permits with the sales of weapons.

Australia has a stringent control framework which ensures that military and dual-use items are used responsibly outside of Australia in ways that do not violate human rights. It has been a long-held practice of successive Australian governments to seek to be transparent on these matters, as well as balancing national security considerations and commercial sensitivities.

All Australians have a right to be safe and feel safe, but everyone should also engage in peaceful and respectful dialogue, not reproduce overseas conflict in Australia. I call on all senators to ensure that they are respectful in the debates in this place.