Interview with Natalie Barr, Sunrise

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Hamas-Israel conflict, Australia’s vote at UNGA.

Natalie Barr: Welcome back. Australia has broken ranks with the US and the UK to vote in favour of a Gaza ceasefire. The resolution at the UN General assembly was backed by 153 members, with the US, one of ten countries voting against it.

Matt Doran: Joining us this morning from Jerusalem is Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tim Watts. Morning to you, Tim. So, the government abstained from a similar UN vote that was in October. Can you explain to us why the change in position now?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, we've had a consistent position through this conflict. We've said that Israel has a right to defend itself in the face of this horrific terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7. But we've also said that it is vital that innocent civilian life is protected and international humanitarian law is complied with. Now, there was recently a seven-day humanitarian pause that was broken by the United States, Egypt and Qatar and agreed by the parties. We saw 105 hostages released by Hamas in that period, and we saw vital humanitarian supplies being provided to people that desperately needed them. Now, what this resolution in the UN really does is have 152 countries of the world coming together and saying that they want to see those pauses continue. We think there are vital steps on the pathway to a permanent and sustainable ceasefire. But that permanent, sustainable ceasefire, it can't be one-sided. We need to see the release of hostages. Hamas not using civilian infrastructure to launch terrorist attacks. And we need to see Hamas not using humans and innocent civilians as human shields.

Natalie Barr: So, the opposition has slammed this decision. They're saying you're incredibly weak, and it gives Hamas time to regroup. That's been the argument against a ceasefire all along, hasn't it? What do you say to that?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, Nat, we don't view this very serious international issue through the prism of domestic political politics. We engage with the substance of the issue as it is now. Hamas must be dismantled. It cannot play any role in the governance of Gaza after this conflict. I mean, it's not possible to have a durable, sustainable ceasefire with a party that doesn't acknowledge the right of the other party to exist. But that dismantling of Hamas cannot come at the cost of the enormous toll on innocent civilian life that we have seen in Gaza. So, we want to see this immediate humanitarian ceasefire put into place so that we can get back to that pause that was agreed between the parties in November. See the parties providing humanitarian support to people that desperately need it. I mean, 60% of dwellings in Gaza are either damaged or destroyed. Eight out of ten people have been displaced. It is a dire humanitarian situation and it really does need to be resolved.

Matt Doran: Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Tim Watts. Thank you for your time this morning.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thank you.

Natalie Barr: Thank you, Tim.

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