THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
THE WORLD, ABC
FRIDAY, 1 AUGUST 2014
Subject: conflict in Gaza.
BEVERLEY O’CONNOR, PRESENTER: The Opposition says Australia has a critical role to play at the UN given its temporary role as chair of the Security Council when it comes to Gaza. We spoke to Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, Plibersek, thanks Tanya Plibersek. Tanya Plibersek, thanks for talking to The World. Have you been concerned up until now how little effect the United Nations actually has had?
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Well I think everybody's concerned that the conflict has lasted as long as it has and that the death toll has been as high as it is. It is important that Australia as a member of the Security Council express a view and do what we can to assist in bringing about a lasting ceasefire and moving of course to a permanent peace. We can’t afford a situation where we have just three days of peace and then the bombardment starts again. As I said before, the civilian death toll has been extraordinarily high, we’ve seen reports now of over 1300 dead and the majority of those unfortunately civilians, and many many of those are children.
O’CONNOR: Let’s talk about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. What role do you think Australia should be playing.
PLIBERSEK: So the immediate priority is a ceasefire and ensuring that that ceasefire lasts, but there will be a massive task of rebuilding as well. Gaza was already experiencing social and economic deprivation, a very serious level of unemployment and very difficult economic circumstances. Of course that is exacerbated by this now – a massive task of rebuilding. I was pleased to see that the Government had donated $5 million last week for humanitarian causes in Gaza but I guess I have to point out that this only just replaces the $4.5 million that was cut from Australia's usual overseas development assistance to the Palestinian Territories in this year's Budget, in the most recent Budget. So there's only an extra $500,000 from Australia after all of this devastation. I think certainly Australia could increase its contribution to the rebuilding of Gaza that will be critical.
O’CONNOR: Is it a financial priority, though, for the Government when you see both sides of this conflict not taking a step back?
PLIBERSEK: Well I guess it's never the kids who are making the decision for their Governments to go to war and when I see footage of the incredible toll this is taking on civilians in Gaza who have lost their homes, schools have been bombed, hospital facilities and so on, I think there is an opportunity for Australia to help in the reconstruction. It is important for both parties to stop the hostilities. It is important for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel, for them to stop using their tunnel system to try and get into Israel but, equally, it is critical that Israel shows restraint and does not continue the military offensive that has cost so many lives.
O’CONNOR: And also of using course we hear that Hamas is using their own civilians as human shields, they're placing their armoury within schools, right next to families and homes. This is an ongoing problem in terms of who to believe in this conflict.
PLIBERSEK: Well, of course if any civilian facilities have been used to hide rockets, there were reports during the week that that's the case, of course that's unacceptable. Absolutely 100 per cent. But it is also so important to understand that the capacity for Israel to retaliate has to be restrained because the collateral deaths, the number of civilians who have been killed in this conflict is completely unacceptable.
O’CONNOR: Tanya Plibersek, The thanks so much for talking to The World.
PLIBERSEK: Thank you.