Asking the Attorney-General tough questions about the appalling antisemitism of the AHRC

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Wednesday 5 June
Federation Chamber

My questions are about what the Attorney has done about the failure of his portfolio agency, the Australian Human Rights Commission, to appropriately deal with the rise in antisemitism since the 7 October.

The Commission is the institution charged with protecting Australians from racism.

But for six months after 7 October, the Commission failed to call out antisemitism despite a 738% increase across Australia.

At Senate Estimates last week, when asked if she had specifically referenced antisemitism in relation to the 9 October Opera House protests, the President could only say that “All of our material … refers to the impact on all of the community”.

In the past, the Commission has made specific statements about the negative experiences of Australian Muslims and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, among others.

Although the President had rightly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when repeatedly asked to condemn Hamas she failed to do so.

The Commission has repeatedly failed to stand up for Jewish Australians by specifically and singularly calling out the antisemitism which has been rife since 7 October.

Has the Attorney General spoken to the President or any Commission staff about why the Commission has repeatedly failed to call out the rise of antisemitism in Australia since October 7? 

If so, when did he first speak to the Commission?

What undertakings, if any, did the Commission give about what the Commission would do?

If he has not raised these issues with the Commission, why he has not done so?

“From the river to the sea”

The phrase “from the River to the Sea” calls for the violent destruction of the state of Israel and the Jewish people.

The Prime Minister agrees it is an extremely violent statement which has no place on our streets.

A bipartisan motion in the Senate condemned the use of the phrase.

So what does the Attorney-General say to his new Race Discrimination Commissioner who, at Senate Estimates last week, echoed the weak US University Presidents and failed to condemn the phrase “river to the sea” and instead said he would “have to look at the context”?

AHRC staff and consultants

There is systemic racism against Jews at the Commission as evidenced by the statements and actions of their staff and contractors.

That includes the head of Hue Consulting who was engaged to prepare “anti-racism” material but was involved in the doxing of 600 Jewish creatives and publicly urged her followers to, quote, “let these f…ing Zionists know no f…ing peace”.

There’s the Commission lawyer who publicly says that Jewish people as a group are not entitled to “cultural safety”, who describes Israel as a “violent settler colony” that engages in “white supremacy” and suggested that the terrorist attacks of October 7 could “make sense”.

Referring to Jewish people another staff member wrote “what are they without Zionism. If we take it away, their violence their toxicity their racism, what is left of them as a people?”

There was the call by Commission staff in relation to the 7 October Terrorist attacks to “acknowledge Israel’s occupation of Palestine as the source of the violence, and embed an acknowledgement of Israel’s apartheid, occupation and genocide in all communications regarding this matter.”

There’s the engagement of a group alleging Israeli officials are “calling for the genocide of a whole population” and leading “free Palestine” chants at the Annual Human Rights Awards presentation.

Has the Attorney-General expressed concern to the Commission about the apparent systemic racism against Jewish people among their staff and contractors?

Has he spoken to the Commission about their employment and contracting policies to ensure those are engaged by the Commission are not biased against Jewish Australians?

Has the Attorney asked the Commission to undertake an audit of its staff and contractors to establish whether anyone else has engaged in acts of racism against Jewish Australians?


Government policy is to have the Commission undertake a two-year general inquiry into racism on campus which includes First Nations people, antisemitism and islamophobia.

Does the Attorney-General believe that the level of campus antisemitism is not significant enough to have its own standalone inquiry?

Given the problems of campus antisemitism before 7 October identified by the Australian Jewish Students experience survey where:

  • 64% of Jewish university students had experienced antisemitism on campus.
  • 57% of Jewish students had hidden the fact they were Jewish.
  • 19% had stayed away from campus because of antisemitism.
  • When antisemitism occurred 61% who made a complaint were dissatisfied with the outcome.

Given the massive increase in antisemitism on campus which includes:

  • Jewish students being spat on and taunted with swastikas
  • The office of Jewish staff members being urinated on
  • Academics saying “jews don’t deserve cultural safety”
  • Academics denying the Rapes on 7 October took place.
  • The failure of university leaders to deal properly with antisemitism including dealing with encampments
  • Vice Chancellors implying that hate fuelled protests are just the price Jewish students have to pay for free speech.
  • And a collective statement from 39 university Chancellors which was so weak it did not even mention the words “jew” or “antisemitism”.

Given the failure of the Commission President to call out antisemitism and condemn Hamas.

Given the Race Discrimination Commissioner could not condemn “from the river to the sea”.

Given the systemic racism in its staff and contractors.

Does the Attorney believe the Commission is really the appropriate body to undertake an inquiry into antisemitism on campus?

Or does he agree with the opposition, non-Green cross benchers and every Jewish organisation in the country that only a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus can deal with this matter properly?

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