Mal Brough, Member for Fisher
Mr BROUGH (Fisher) (21:10): The subject I wish to raise tonight is not one which lends itself to a five-minute address. Just before the budget I travelled to Israel as part of a delegation with the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council. For me it was incredibly illuminating and also sobering. There are many members in this place who have travelled to Israel to learn about the complexity of an issue and a region that affects everyone of us. As recently as today, we in this House have reflected on ISIS and the radicalisation of Islam and the impact it has on us. In Israel I met with all sides—Arab Christians, Jews and Arab Muslims. I travelled to Ramallah, to Gaza and up to the border with Lebanon. I got an appreciation of the challenges faced by these people and also the strength of this society and community.
There are a couple of observations I would like to make and put on the record which I think cemented my own views before I travelled. First of all, we say all the time in this place that the first duty of the parliament and of the government is to protect its people—and border protection has been at the forefront of our thinking in recent years. For the Prime Minister and government of Israel, the reality is that you have literally 15 seconds between receiving a warning and missiles landing in Beersheba, a place known so well to many Australians. The playgrounds have bomb shelters in them. By law, every house has to have a bomb shelter. This brings into stark relief what these people are dealing with each and every day, yet they get on with their lives.
One of the things that struck me on this one-week trip is that something stands out. I defy anyone to come up with a comment by an Israeli official that they wish to obliterate the Arab world, that they wish to destroy the Palestinian people, that they wish to attack Iran, that they wish to take out those forces in Lebanon just for the sake of it or that those people do not have a place in society. Those words do not exist—because it is not the belief of the Jewish people. But, sadly, there are Persians and Arabs who actually believe that no Israeli, no Jew, has the right to be in the nation of Israel. Everyone we spoke to on the Israeli side, and many of the Arabs, wants to see the two nations living side-by-side in harmony. I too want to see that. But how does the government of the day deal with the Palestinian Authority? Is it Fatah or is it Hamas? If you are on the Gaza Strip, you are dealing with a different body than if you are on the West Bank.
It was less than 12 months ago, when the rockets were raining down, that the tunnels that were going to deliver killers into the suburbs and towns of Israel were discovered and destroyed. Because of the international ramifications—as well as the implications for our people and our nation—of the radicalisation that is occurring in this part of the world I think it behoves those who have declined the opportunity to travel to Israel and learn about it to now do so and open their minds in relation to some attitudes which they hold dear which they may find confronting when they are confronted with other facts.
With my last couple of comments I wish to comment about the young people that we met—the university students and the young military personnel who have responsibility beyond their years but have such a joyful life, whether it is working in the IT sector and the start-ups, in the military or in the universities.
They have a responsibility. They have a love for life that they cherish, and I understand their desire to protect their homeland—a homeland of thousands of years. What they are doing there needs the support of all Australians, as do the Palestinian people, but at no stage should we ever desert the Israeli people and the Jewish people's right to have their homeland.