Urgency motion

6 February 2024

I want to make a short remark with respect to the urgency motion before the Senate this afternoon. The government won’t be supporting this motion that has been brought forward by the Australian Greens regarding the International Court of Justice matter brought by South Africa concerning the State of Israel. We do so because Australia is not a party to the matter that South Africa has brought to the International Court of Justice. Indeed, the ICJ has not invited interventions from other states, a point that sometimes has been missed in some of the commentary of late.

This motion shows, with the greatest respect, sheer ignorance to the reality of what is actually before us today. Australia respects the independence of the International Court of Justice. We respect the role that it plays in the international legal system and the maintenance of an international rules-based order. It’s with this respect it also follows that we expect every single state around the world will act in accordance with the rulings of the court. I note in particular that the Court has already made a ruling on provisional measures in the matter, a ruling that constitutes merely an interim decision, not a final determination.

I stood here in October of last year to condemn without qualification the horrific terrorist attacks that were committed by Hamas against many people in the State of Israel on 7 October. What happened on that day will always be remembered in the hearts of many with great sorrow. Since that time, the Australian government’s position has been unequivocal and consistent. There is no justification for terrorism. There can be no excuse for what happened on that day. Like any other state, the State of Israel has a right to defend itself, and, in doing so, like any state, it must have regard for international law.

Whilst not a party to the matter brought by South Africa to the ICJ, that does not mean that Australia isn’t continuing to work for peace in the region. Indeed, although not a central player in the Middle East, we are a respected voice, and with that voice we are able to advocate, and have said so many times, for sustained peace. Throughout this conflict the Australian government has been consistent in calling for civilians to be protected. We have consistently called for more humanitarian aid into Gaza and unimpeded passage for relief for those in great need. We’ve also used our voice to advocate for the immediate release of hostages, the delivery of humanitarian assistance, respect for international humanitarian law, caution at the prospect of regional escalation, and a sustainable ceasefire—a ceasefire which cannot be one sided.

As Australians, we mourn the loss of innocent life in all conflict and pursue enduring peace in the region. That is our shared goal. Therefore it remains our view that such peace can only be achieved through a two-state solution where security and dignity for both parties is guaranteed.