Press conference, Adelaide

  • Joint transcript, E&OE
  • Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister of Australia
  • Peter Malinauskas MP, Premier of South Australia
  • Kyam Maher MLC, South Australian Attorney General, South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs
Subjects: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum; Israel-Hamas conflict.

Part of this transcript has been redacted in accordance with Digital Transformation Agency guidelines.


Journalist: Prime Minister, have you got an update on the number of Australians stuck in Gaza?

Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thanks for the question. Before I answer that, can I just say thank you to Julie Bishop, as well as Tanya Hosch, who joined me for an online forum with the Advertiser last night. And Julie Bishop articulated the perspective that actually is the traditional Liberal perspective, which was that the Voice was bipartisan policy until only recently under Mr Dutton. And she set out, if I may say so very eloquently, why she, as a Liberal, as a former deputy leader of the Liberal Party and as Foreign Minister for five years, set out why she is supporting the Voice and why she is supporting the Yes campaign.

But to the terrible events in Israel, I thank you for the opportunity to make a couple of comments. The numbers I had as I walked into this were nineteen in Gaza, but obviously the situation on the ground is evolving. I do want to say this to Australians in Israel, we have a flight that is leaving Friday, that is today Israeli time. We are working on other flights. I would urge anyone who wishes to leave, to not delay. I would urge anyone who wishes to leave to ensure they are registered with us, that is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register with us and we will seek to make contact with all who are registered and wish to leave about the available flights. But I again say to people, if you wish to leave, I would urge you not to delay.

Journalist: What can you do though for people who are in Gaza?

Minister Wong: I think the Prime Minister made some comments about that this morning. Obviously, the situation in Gaza is extremely difficult. We are engaging with Egypt, as is the US, about seeking to establish humanitarian corridors. But obviously, the situation on the ground is extremely difficult.

Journalist: Have you had any contact with the family of four from South Australia who are trapped there?

Minister Wong: I haven't personally. I understand that there has been some contact, but I'm not in a position to add anything further on that.

Journalist: INAUDIBLE Do you still support them?

Minister Wong: Obviously we have a situation where there are hostages and I call upon those, I called for the release of those hostages. This is a very difficult situation and I note that the United States and other parties, are seeking to establish humanitarian access and humanitarian corridors and Australia supports those efforts.

Journalist: Are you concerned about some of the language that's being used, as ASIO is, about the nature of the language being used by some public figures, some broadcast outlets about the situation in the Middle East, that might be inflaming the situation back here in Australia as well?

Minister Wong: Yes, I am. I think, ASIO has outlined, very clearly to all of us, why this situation requires calm leadership. It requires us to seek to bring Australians together, not to divide them. People come to this country because we are tolerant, we are accepting, we are respectful and we need to work together, all politicians, to hold that. This is not a time for certain politicians to be seeking to play to fear and division in the community. It is time for all of us to say 'we stand against all hatred, all prejudice, there is no place for anti-Semitism as there is no place for discrimination and prejudice of any kind'. It's the time for us to come together. We know this is distressing for the Jewish community. We know there are many in Australia who have very strong views about the Palestinian aspirations. And I would say this, one of the great tragedies, apart from the horrific nature of Hamas's actions, one of the great tragedies of what they have done, is they have pushed further away the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian peoples.

Journalist: Do you refer then to the Opposition in particular?

Minister Wong: People can work out who seeks to divide, who seeks to bring people together. I'm for unity.

Journalist: Minister, just responding to the South Australian family that claims they are having issues getting out and that the government is not listening to them, how do you respond to those concerns?

Minister Wong: I would say, we are doing, I know and I've spoken to our Ambassador in Tel Aviv, I've spoken to the Head of Post in Ramallah. I know that the department is working as hard as we are able. It is a very volatile and difficult situation but, and I'm not in a position to go into any further details about individuals.

Journalist: Minister, the Opposition is accusing Labor of being weak on Israel, and there are suggestions western Sydney Labor MPs like Chris Bowen and Tony Burke should speak out in support. What do you make of that?

Minister Wong: Well, I refer to my earlier answer about unity and I refer people to the comments of the Prime Minister, my own comments, the speech I gave in Melbourne to the Australia-Israel Business Council. Our position is clear and we ought not have people in this country seeking to make division where there is none, at a time where are such difficult issues in the Australian community. Thank you.


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