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Victorian Labor Premier must put the safety of students first

It is more than a month since Hamas terrorists brutally attacked innocent Israelis.

Since this time, with no end in sight to this horrific conflict, we have seen an alarming rise in antisemitism – here in Australia and around the globe.

This is causing deep deep fear amongst Jewish Australians – including school students who don’t feel safe walking to school, or university students who hide in the shadows on campus, who dare not display symbols of their faith.

Whether it’s hateful signs, appalling chants at protests, families in fear of sending their kids to school or shocking attacks on businesses, all Australians must stand up to this abhorrent antisemitism.

This morning I attended the ‘Bring Them Home’ rally outside Parliament House in Canberra.

On display were the details of 239 men women and children taken hostage by Hamas – their names and faces, empty prams, and empty shoes.

I thank the group United with Israel – and those Jewish Australians who gathered to share their stories.

They included a group of Jewish university students from ANU here in Canberra – who spoke about how they feel unsupported and frightened.

I raise particular concerns about Jewish students because they are the ones being targeted, particularly at universities.

One student told me he had been verbally abused and even spat on in recent weeks. He said he felt university administrators and the student union were not taking proactive measures to protect those of the Jewish faith.

Another student told me she would rather stay at home than head to classes.

This is happening in our country – and it is devastating.

Every Australian including those of Jewish faith has the right to feel safe in their own country.

Despite the assurances I have received from the Minister for Education and Universities Australia, not enough is being done to guarantee the safety of Jewish students at Australian universities.

Tomorrow at Melbourne University students and staff are holding a pro-Palestine protest – calling on the university to cut its ties with the US defence company Lockhead Martin and rescind the IHRA definition of antisemitism which the protestors claim is being used punitively to suppress political activism.

So what measures is the university delivering to keep Jewish students safe tomorrow? Why would any Jewish student risk attending a lecture at Melbourne Uni?

Next week, a group called Free Palestine Melbourne is encouraging a Melbourne-wide school walkout.

The Albanese Government must act to ensure that no school participates in next week’s proposed ‘School strike for Palestine’.

Students should not be used as political pawns by any group. Our kids need to be in school.

This protest is not only completely unacceptable, but risks heightening antisemitic behaviour across communities. That’s why I called on Minister Clare to ensure that no school participates, and also asked the minister to obtain such assurances from state and territory education ministers.

I am pleased to say that Minister Clare has made it clear he opposes this school strike, but I am horrified that Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan has defended this planned schools walkout in support of Palestine.

This extreme left-wing premier – just like her predecessor Daniel Andrews – has defended the so called democratic rights of students to come together and hold this rally, which is a disgrace.

This puts Victorian school children arguably in danger.

I believe this premier has shown a flagrant disregard for the safety and welfare of these children – and demonstrates that she is not up to the job.

I also condemn the Greens statement – the statement from Senator Allman-Payne – which has called on the Minister for Education Jason Clare to retract his comments – and I am not going to dignify the Greens’ comments by making any further reference to them.

I make the Coalition’s position crystal clear – we stand resolutely with Israel and its right to defend itself from the ongoing terrorist attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah, and its supporters in Iran and elsewhere.

The Albanese Labor Government needs to live up to the commitments it made in supporting the bipartisan motion of the 16th October in Australia’s Parliament, which unequivocally backed Israel’s inherent right to defend itself, and called for the hostages to be released.

The Albanese Government needs to explain how it is upholding those commitments when it fails to lay the blame for Palestinian deaths at the feet of Hamas terrorists using civilians and civilian infrastructure as human shields.

While the loss of any innocent life is a tragedy, there is no moral equivalence between the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians by Hamas and Israeli actions to disable the terrorist organisation Hamas.

I refer to the terrible protest that occurred outside the synagogue in Melbourne last Friday night – in Caufield.

These types of scenes are abhorrent in our country.

And I raise serious concerns that some in this place have not condemned this protest for what it was – an abhorrent act of antisemitism.

As I say, the safety of all Australians is paramount. Many Jewish Australians have not ever witnessed or experienced the type of antisemitism which is now happening in our country.

The Albanese Government should not mince words. It should condemn antisemitism when it occurs, without qualification or drawing any equivalency by suggesting, as occurred with the Caulfield protest, that there should be no Islamophobia – when clearly there was no Islamophobia on display outside the synagogue in Caulfield.

And I say to Victorian school students – please don’t allow yourself to be used as pawns by those who seek to drag you into this terrible terrible protest that’s planned for next week.

And I say to the Victorian premier – please retract the comments that you have made – to safeguard the security and safety of all school students in Melbourne.

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