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Speech on the need to restore UNRWA funding

On Wednesday 7 February 2024, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about the urgent need to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) so they can continue their humanitarian work in Gaza. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


I second the motion. Before I finish speaking this morning, another child in Gaza will have been killed. That is the urgency of this motion, why it must be passed as soon as possible and why we need to suspend standing orders to do so. This parliament must, must, rescind its of the ongoing genocidal invasion of Gaza. Israel's actions, which this parliament has endorsed without our support, have led to the death of thousands upon thousands of innocent children, of teachers, of nurses, of journalists, of pregnant mothers and babies, almost 28,000 people in total. Over a million are displaced from their homes and are starving in unimaginably appalling conditions in camps that are also flooding, with one toilet for every 500 people and one shower for every 2,000 people.

I'll quote from a recent Guardian article:

Babies are born on the ground in the wilderness, umbilical cords cut with whatever sharp object there is to hand, and tins filled with hot water keep the newborn warm. C-sections, painful in the aftermath even when drugs are plentiful, are being performed without any anaesthesia at all, by surgeons who do not have any water to wash their hands, let alone sterilise them, and no antibiotics for any resulting infections.

There are humanitarian agencies there trying, against all the odds, to prevent the deaths and improve the conditions on the ground, and one of the largest has just had their funding suspended by this government. The government responded with sickening speed to these allegations, apparently without evidence, and deprived two million Palestinians of help that they desperately need yet, despite the mountains of evidence, including what was presented to the ICJ—the explicit genocidal language used by Israeli officials repeatedly and proudly—Labor has not withdrawn support for Israel nor called for a permanent ceasefire, nor supported South Africa's heroic actions in the International Court of Justice, nor committed to ending military exports to Israel. What possible explanation could there be for this? Does this government just not value Palestinian lives?

In the Senate yesterday, the foreign minister had the gall, the nerve, to say that the government has taken a constructive approach to this conflict. What a sick joke. The needs of the people in Gaza, the need for basic supplies to stay alive, for a roof over their head, has not suspended in Gaza. This government must restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and uphold Australia's obligation under international law to prevent genocide. This again is why this motion is so urgent, and it needs to be considered immediately.

The only way we will stop this carnage and stop the horror is through international pressure. Australia has a big role to play and a huge responsibility. Labor is sitting on its hands while this genocide unfolds and Labor will be judged harshly by history for this cowardice.

As I speak today, as parliament continues to sit today, more Palestinians in Gaza, around half of whom are children, will be killed. This is the urgency of this situation. This parliament must correct this mistake. It must not continue to support Israel's genocidal actions in Gaza.

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