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2GB Sydney with Chris O’Keefe, 24 November 2023


Chris O’Keefe: I’ve got Senator Sarah Henderson on the line, she’s the shadow education minister in Canberra.

Senator, I will ask you this question and this is without notice because we have just seen it come through but this is Mehreen Faruqi, she is clearly a Greens Senator, she sits in the same chamber as you.

She’s at this protest today and she’s standing in front of a girl who has a sign that says: `Keep the world clean’ with an Israeli flag that is going into the bin.

If that is not antisemitic then I don’t know what is.

Senator Henderson: Well, Chris good afternoon and I’m horrified to learn of that particular sign being displayed at the protest.

That is pure hatred against Jews and it is pure antisemitism. I have to say I am disgusted in the Greens.

Yesterday we saw in Melbourne a protest, the School Strike for Palestine, where chants like `From the River to the Sea, Keep Palestine Free’, now that is a call for the destruction of Israel and that is why I have so strongly called for no student to attend these protests.

They fuel not just division in our community, but antisemitism and I condemn the Greens and other activists including the Australian Education Union which has basically green-lit the opportunity for students to attend these protests. Using them, manipulating them, treating them as political pawns and it is just unacceptable.

Chris O’Keefe: Mehreen Faruqi spoke at the protest. She is a Greens senator, Sarah Henderson?

Shouldn’t they be telling the kids to stay in the classroom? Isn’t that the whole idea of school? You go and learn.

Senator Henderson: Absolutely. They should be saying, students please stay in school. Not only are students being used as political pawns – it is also potentially unsafe. Only a number of days ago in Sydney, we saw a pro-Palestinian protest in Botany turn violent. There were two dozen arrests and frankly, school principles who encourage or condone attendance of students at these protests are breaching their duty of care to students.

I think the Greens have become so irrelevant, and actually incredibly irresponsible in their conduct because we have seen such an alarming rise in antisemitism in this country.

So many Jewish people are living in fear. Jewish communities cannot believe what is happening around them and this just make things worse.

Chris O’Keefe: What would your message be to the parents of these children?

Senator Henderson: Well, in allowing them, if they have, it may well be in some cases parents don’t even know their children are going to these protests. But for those parents who have taken their children to these protests, taken them out of school. I would say, `Please understand that school is for education. Please do not drag your children into a protest that has been driven by activists, driven by the likes of the Greens and the Australian Education Union’.

They are manipulating children and frankly they are brainwashing children because I am sure there are students there who don’t even know what `From the River to the Sea’ means. And to hear that there were signs, like the one you just described of pure hatred against Jews is absolutely disgusting.

Chris O’Keefe: And a Senator who sits in your chamber is sitting there taking photos of it, like, fair dinkum.

Senator Henderson: I haven’t seen the vision myself so I will reserve judgement, but it sounds pretty dreadful from what you describe Chris.

Chris O’Keefe: Well, I will send it to you senator and if there is any mechanism of a censure or any mechanism of anything you can do in the senate, itself, I think the Jewish community would appreciate it. I think, tasteful, civilised society also would appreciate it, senator I better run…

Senator Henderson: If I can just make this point. There are strong anti-vilification laws in each state and territory in this country. This is pure hatred. This is vilifying the Jewish community and Australian Jews. Why hasn’t action been taken? Like what we saw from the Sydney Opera House protest – where there were no arrests. And now we learn today that the only person apparently who was removed was a man carrying an Israeli or a Jewish flag.

That is absolutely terrible. I do acknowledge Chris Minns, the Premier, who has been very strong and done a much better job than Jacinta Allan the Premier of Victoria who only a week ago was basically saying students have a right to protest.

So at least the Premier of NSW has been more responsible. But frankly I think the police and the authorities really need to look closely at this conduct and take appropriate action. There must be consequences for this type of hatred in our community.

Chris O’Keefe: Senator Sarah Henderson, appreciate your time.

Senator Henderson: Chris, thank you so much, great to talk to you.

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