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Peter Dutton labels Penny Wong’s Palestine speech ‘most reckless act’ by a foreign minister in two decades

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Katina Curtis
The Nightly
Peter Dutton says Penny Wong’s speech edging towards recognising a Palestinian state is the ‘most reckless act’ by a foreign minister in two decades.
Peter Dutton says Penny Wong’s speech edging towards recognising a Palestinian state is the ‘most reckless act’ by a foreign minister in two decades. Credit: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Peter Dutton says Penny Wong’s speech edging towards recognising a Palestinian state is the “most reckless act” by a foreign minister in two decades, claiming she added to “a national moral fog which has made anti-Semitism permissible”.

But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Senator’s Wong’s speech opening up the possibility of recognition was consistent with Australia’s long-held position on a two-state solution in the Middle East.

He repeatedly said on Wednesday that nothing had changed in Australia’s stance.

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Senator Wong stopped short of committing Australia to recognising a Palestinian state during a speech on Tuesday night but said a secure and prosperous future for Israelis and Palestinians would only come with a two-state solution.

She cited British Foreign Minister David Cameron’s comments that recognising Palestine statehood could be an “irreversible” step towards the two-state solution.

Mr Dutton, whose Opposition has staunchly stood by Israel since the October 7 attack from Hamas, hit back with his own speech on Wednesday night to a Liberal Party fundraiser event in Sydney.

He said it was Arab Palestinian leaders who had repeatedly rejected a two-state solution and that such a resolution was not conceivable until Hamas was defeated because of the existential threat it posed to Israel.

“This reality makes the Foreign Minister’s remarks last night utterly illogical, ill-timed and inappropriate,” Mr Dutton said.

“For a crass domestic political win, Penny Wong has irreparably damaged our relations with our ally Israel – an ally who has shared intelligence with us and thwarted terrorist attacks against our own interests, including against members of the Australian Defence Force.

“It is the most reckless act of a Foreign Minister I have seen in my 22 years in the Parliament and it has weakened our international standing.”

Mr Albanese said there was no change in position.

“We have consistently said that we need a long-term political solution in the Middle East, which is the right of Israel to continue to exist within secure borders,” he said.

“A way of ... that security being enhanced is obviously it being recognised by other states in the region.

“In order for that to happen, there needs to be as well a two-state solution, justice for Palestinians in a way that is secure for Palestinians and secure for Israelis.”

Mr Albanese said it was very clear that Hamas should not have any role in a future Palestinian state because it was a terrorist organisation and not a legitimate party.

Shadow foreign minister Simon Birmingham said a two-state solution could only be possible with security and confidence that the right of each party to exist would be respected by the other.

“To suggest that it could be achieved through some fast-track process is naive and dangerous in the way in which the terrorists will view that as a win for their activities,” he said.

Senator Wong pre-empted this response in her speech at the ANU National Security College conference, saying those who claimed recognition was rewarding an enemy were wrong.

“The simple truth is that a secure and prosperous future for both Israelis and Palestinians will only come with a two-state solution,” she said.

Mr Dutton also used his Tom Hughes Oration on Wednesday night to attack the Government for allowing ”an anti-Semitic rot afflicting our nation, our society, and our institutions”.

The Opposition laid into Penny Wong after she claimed Palestinian statehood was the key to ending conflict in the Middle East.
The Opposition laid into Penny Wong after she claimed Palestinian statehood was the key to ending conflict in the Middle East. Credit: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

He suggested there had been few arrests of anti-Semitic protesters because police are worried about stoking tensions in Muslim communities and likened the protests outside the Opera House in the days after the Hamas attack to “a Port Arthur moment” in social significance.

Senator Wong warned on Wednesday morning that Australia gained nothing by reproducing the Middle East conflict at home.

“People are increasingly struggling with how to discuss this with their fellow citizens, and we’ve seen anti-Semitism, we’ve seen Islamophobia, we’ve seen language and behaviours that shows that people are losing respect for one another,” she said.

“That is dangerous for our democracy ... We gain nothing by shouting each other down, and we gain nothing by delegitimising or belittling one another, and there’s been far too much of that in the discussion.”

This echoed similar warnings from Mr Albanese and other senior ministers over the past six months.

ASIO boss Mike Burgess also cautioned last year that leaders should consider the implications for social cohesion of their statements because of the direct connection between inflamed language and inflamed community tensions.

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