Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 1 December 2023


SUBJECTS: Israel-Hamas conflict; Operation Sovereign Borders

NATALIE BARR: It’s been revealed there is growing pressure on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to be more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. There are reports Education Minister Jason Clare is a key player in that push, telling a group of Arab Australians he is advocating for them in Cabinet.

Mr Clare’s electorate of Blaxland has one of the largest populations of Muslim Australians in the country.

And Jason Clare joins us now along with Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.


SUSSAN LEY: Morning.

BARR: Jason, are you pushing for the Prime Minister to be more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause?

CLARE: There’s no difference between my position and the Prime Minister’s. I think any right minded Australian was appalled and condemned that terrorist attack that happened on October the 7th and we are still waiting for all of those hostages to be returned.

But as I’ve said on the show a couple of times now, Hamas is not Palestine. There are a lot of innocent people that are caught in the crossfire. And all of those dead bodies that we see on our TV every night, if you’re a Jewish Australian or if you’re a Palestinian Australian that’s different, because those people often are their family and that’s why they’re angry, that’s why they’re scared, that’s why they’re asking for a bit of compassion from us.

A good friend of mine, a Jewish friend of mine who was in Israel on October 7, was in Tel Aviv when the terrorist attack happened, and was caught in a bunker to keep safe. When she got back to Australia the first thing she did was go and see her Muslim friends and wrap her arms around them. We need a little bit more of that in Australia at the moment rather than these awful protests.

We can’t change what’s happening on the other side of the world, but we’ve got to keep this country together, and that means all of us turning the temperature down a little bit and working – Jewish Australians, Muslim Australians, Christian Australians, all of us – to keep this country together.

BARR: Yeah, I think you’re right, it is a very, very difficult situation and it’s been very heated. But Jason, I’m just checking whether you have been pushing the Prime Minister to be more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause?

CLARE: All of us, and I’m sure that this is true for Sussan as well.

BARR: And, not all of us, I’m talking just about you, and you have done that, that’s just the question.

CLARE: But what I’m saying…sorry to interrupt, I apologise. I think all of us want a just and enduring peace in the Middle East.

BARR: Of course.

CLARE: And that involves a two-state solution where Jews and Palestinians are both safe behind secure borders in two countries. Now we’ve been hoping and praying for that to happen for years, for decades. I know Sussan has been a key part of that campaign as well. I fear that the terrorist attack on October 7 just pushed that back into the never never. But a just and enduring peace, where people are safe and are not subject to the sort of terrorist attacks that we saw on October 7, or the check points and all the problems that besets that part of the world now, is what we all want. And I hope that’s what comes out of this.

BARR: Yep. Sussan, what do you think about this? Have you heard that this is the case, that the Government has not been strong enough on one side?

LEY: Nat, excuse my croaky voice, it’s been a very big week in Canberra. Look, the humanity in this situation is the most important thing and I have despaired at the lack of humanity from Hamas to the Palestinian people of Gaza. And we have to remember that using those people as human shields in this conflict has triggered some pretty awful results.

And I agree with Jason about bringing the domestic issues to the fore here, because right here in Sydney where I am, where Jason is, we have to remember that there are Jewish Australians who are fearful to show the symbols of their faith, to get on their school buses, to worship at their synagogues. And this is a lack of social cohesion that I have never seen in the finest multicultural country in the world.

So I’m calling on everybody to I agree Jason wrap our arms around our fellow Australians and remember that what we have in this country is incredibly special.

CLARE: 100 per cent.

LEY: And we can’t afford to lose it.

CLARE: 100 per cent.

BARR: You’re right, it’s unique. Look, just on something else that is being raised this morning. There are fresh concerns that Australia could see an influx of asylum seekers following that recent High Court ruling that let out the detainees, and that smugglers, people smugglers are now telling people overseas, particularly in Indonesia, that it is easy to live in Australia, that you can be let free. Jason, are you concerned about this?

CLARE: Well we know people smugglers will tell lies. I think there’s plenty of evidence of that over the years. But the truth is, and I made this point on the show this time last week, that if you try to travel to Australia by boat then you’ll be turned back, or you’ll be sent to a third country like Nauru or you’ll be sent back to your country of origin. They’re the facts and they can spread all the lies they want but it’s important for us to get out the truth.

BARR: And we know that’s the truth but are you concerned that that’s the vibe, that’s what’s being told in Indonesia now? Like we did ask you last week that that’s the fear. Are you hearing that?

CLARE: Yeah, but I’m not the Minister for Home Affairs so I don’t get those security briefings. But it doesn’t surprise me that people smugglers, criminals, are going to try and lie to make money.

But it’s important that we use the opportunity on programs like Sunrise, that have got so many people listening and watching, to tell the truth, which is that if you try and get on a rickety boat and come to Australia, you’ll get turned back, or you’ll get sent to a country like Nauru or you’ll get sent back to your country of origin. And important to point out here, that was the policy under the former government, it’s the policy under us.

BARR: Yep, okay. Sussan, obviously that is a big concern, isn’t it?

LEY: Jason, you’re not the Minister for Home Affairs. I think you’d actually be a much better Minister for Home Affairs than we have. Unfortunately the people smugglers are tuning into the chaos in the Australian Parliament where we have Ministers for Immigration and Home Affairs who seem completely unable to bring forward the strong legislation that is needed for the Australian Government to make a really definitive statement about people smuggling, about what happens to you if you come to Australia.

I mean we’ve just seen this complete chaos with do we have preventative detention? First the Minister says we don’t need it, then says we won’t leave Parliament until we legislate it and so on. So we are watching this. I was there in those Rudd Government years when the boats came. We need to watch this really closely.

BARR: Okay. And then we’ve got the Opposition voting on, you know, part of the legislation yesterday, so definitely two sides on this. Thank you very much, we’ll see you next week.

CLARE: Thank you.