By Tanya Plibersek

19 October 2023




LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. As war rages between Hamas and Israel, there are protests right around the world, now. We've even seen protests here in Australia. In the middle is Muslim and Jews here in Australia who are feeling that they need to have extra security at their places of worship. And that has been supported by the government this morning. Joining me live now is the Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek. Thanks so much for your time. We've also heard from Ed Husic this morning, who's a Muslim Western Sydney MP, and he has expressed the sentiment that he feels that all Palestinian people are being punished because of the actions of Hamas.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: I think the actions of Hamas were truly horrific. And what we saw with that attack on Israel, with families trying to protect tiny babies being slaughtered in their homes, young people at a music festival just being indiscriminately murdered, were horrific beyond belief. But Australia, like most other countries, is saying while Israel has a right to defend itself, it also has to avoid civilian casualties in doing so. Follow the rules of engagement and avoid civilian casualties.

​We know that the people of Gaza are suffering and more than half of them are under the age of 19. So, as Israel defends itself, it must avoid civilian casualties. And I noticed just earlier, Laura, you were running the story that the Australian Government has committed $50 million to upgrade security here in Australia for places of worship, for synagogues and mosques and schools, religious schools and other institutions. I would certainly say to people in Australia who are hurting, I know that on both sides there are a lot of people who are concerned about relatives overseas in Israel, in Gaza. They're shocked by what's already occurred, they're hurting, that we need to come together as an Australian community and continue to work for safety and for peace.

JAYES: Indeed, and are you getting feedback through your electorate office and as you move around the country that there is this anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim sentiment that is clashing at the moment?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yes, I'm certainly getting that feedback, and I know people in my own community are worried about anti-Semitism, they're worried about Islamophobia. They certainly don't want to see Australians feeling anxious here in Australia about their own safety. There's a lot of hurt, a lot of trauma in our community at the moment and we absolutely need to work together in the best way we can to look after each other and to urge peace in Israel and in Gaza, to urge peace, and to - particularly to avoid further civilian casualties on either side.

JAYES: Indeed. At what point does Cabinet have a discussion, I don't know, you can't go into Cabinet discussions, but at what point is there a broader conversation in government about the role that Australia can play, military or otherwise? But also, is there an active consideration about taking Palestinian refugees, for example?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, as you say, I'm not going to talk about what we discuss in Cabinet, but Australia has already offered $10 million of humanitarian aid to Gaza. I note that the US Government has made a substantial contribution, announced just recently as well, and that the scenes of destruction there are extraordinary and there will be an extraordinary amount of rebuilding required. It is reassuring to hear that finally; humanitarian aid looks like it will be able to flow into Gaza. There are an enormous number of people who have been displaced from their homes there, and that will be only the beginning of what's necessary.

JAYES: Just before I let you go, I wanted to ask you about a motion that Peter Dutton has just moved in the House. He wants to suspend standing orders to actually push forward a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse in indigenous communities. Now, this is not something that Labor has acquiesced to in the House. Why not?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, because we don't need a Royal Commission to know that we need to act on family violence and child sexual abuse. And Peter Dutton was part of the government that in 2014 cut $500 million from programmes to support Indigenous communities. Since coming to government, our government has invested more than $500 million, about $590 million in programs on domestic violence and domestic and family violence and to protect women and children. And about $260 million of that is specifically for Aboriginal women and children. We are investing to turn around a problem that the previous government knew about.

​Your very network, Laura, in 2018, was running a campaign, Save Our Children. Peter Dutton could have joined in then when he was part of the government and actually done what your network was calling for at that time. Instead, he was part of a government that cut resources to do exactly - to protect women and children. They cut family and domestic violence services. They cut services in schools. Peter Dutton is part of a party that has been in government for 21 of the last 27 years. If there are failures, perhaps he should look first at what he failed to do when he was in government.

JAYES: Okay, we'll see where that debate goes. As you can see on the corner of your screen, that is happening in the House right now. We'll have to leave it there. Minister, thanks so much for your time.