Motion to suspend standing orders to debate the Private Members Bill to establish a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus

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Thursday 6 June
House of Representatives

Mr Speaker

I move — That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as

would prevent the following from occurring:

(1) private Members’ business order of the day No. 32 relating to the Commission of Inquiry into Antisemitism at Australian Universities Bill 2024 being called on immediately;

(2) debate on the second reading of the bill continuing for a period of no longer than one hour, with the time for each speech limited to 10 minutes;

(3) questions then being immediately put on any amendments moved to the motion for the second reading and on the second reading of the bill;

(4) if required, a consideration in detail stage of the bill, with any detail amendments to be moved together, with:

a. one question to be put on all government amendments;

b. one question to be put on all opposition amendments; and

c. separate questions then to be put on any sets of amendments moved by crossbench Members; and

d. one question to be put that the bill [as amended] be agreed to.

(5) when the bill has been agreed to, the question being put immediately on the third reading of the bill; and

(6) any variation to this arrangement being made only on a motion moved by the Manager of Opposition Business.

I am moving this motion to suspend standing orders because we cannot wait another day and watch the level of antisemitism continue to build on our campuses unanswered.

We need to put the inquiry in place before Second semester begins at the end of July.

There should be nothing surprising to anyone about this Bill.

I have been talking about a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus since November last year.

On 3 May I announced I would be preparing this Bill.

On 16 May the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Henderson, along with several non-Green cross benchers in the House and the other place wrote to the Prime Minister calling on the Government to establish a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus. Other cross benchers also wrote separately to the Prime Minister asking for a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus.

On Monday 3 June I introduced the private members bill for a judicial inquiry into antisemitism on campus that I now seek to have debated.

Antisemitism on campus is not new. The problems of campus antisemitism before October 7 was identified by the Australian Jewish students’ survey, including that 64 per cent of Australian Jewish university students experienced antisemitism on campus and 19 per cent stayed away because of antisemitism.

The massive increase in antisemitism since October 7 has included

  • 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 that the rapes of October 7 occurred,
  • 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 didn’t even mention the words ‘Jew’ or ‘antisemitism’

If this motion is successful then we will debate a Bill which provides for the establishment of a Commission of inquiry with Royal Commission powers led by a current or former Judge to inquire into antisemitism on university campuses.

The inquiry would examine incidents of antisemitic activity on campus both before and after 7 October 2023.

It will consider whether the response of university leaders, regulators, representative organisations and others has been adequate.

Jewish Communal organisations support this Bill for a judicial inquiry and they reject a general antiracism inquiry by the Human Rights Commission.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which is the federal representative body of the Jewish community in Australia, has said they “wholeheartedly endorse” my bill.

They have said and I quote

“A judicial inquiry, as originally called for in May by Mr Leeser, would allow Jewish students and staff to give evidence in a closed hearing, without having to fear reprisals from the fanatical fringe of anti-Israel or Jew-hating students, or victimisation from anti-Israel and antisemitic faculty members. There would be no opportunity for political grandstanding by any party, and the sole focus would be on getting to the truth.”

Unfortunately, the Government’s plan is to have not a stand-alone judicial inquiry to deal with antisemitism on campus but to have a general anti-racism inquiry running for two years dealing with racism against First nations peoples, antisemitism and islamophobia.

Can I say as a Jewish Australian I am so sick and tired of his government, the human rights commission, universities and other bodies in Australia being unable to say antisemitism without saying islamophobia in the same breath.

To fail to singularly identify and call out the particularity of antisemitism and indeed the largest increase in antisemitism in our history is itself antisemitic. 

And it creates some sort of narrative which is deeply dangerous for our social harmony of Jewish-Muslim conflict here in Australia when so much of the antisemitism is actually propagated by the Militant Socialist Left

Islamophobia is a bad thing and it should be called out and it must be called out and properly dealt with.  After the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 there was heightened islamophobia in this country. And no one was saying at that time we can’t mention islamophobia without mentioning antisemitism in the same breath.

But the level and scale of antisemitism at the moment is unprecedented in the history of this country – a country which has been a home to Jews since the First Fleet and which has the wonderful reputation of being one of the few countries on the planet with no formal discrimination against Jews.

But we have to tell the truth.

There is only one community who was subjected to those vile Opera House Protests where radicals and jihadis sought to do harm to one community and that’s the Jewish community.

Only one community had its artists and creatives doxed and that’s the Jewish community.

Only one community has been subject to drive through in its suburbs and that the Jewish community.

Only one community on campus is having its students spat at and taunted and its staff offices urinated on and Vice Chancellors standing by saying “that’s just the price you have to pay for free speech” and that’s the Jewish community.

Jewish Australians are so sick and tired of the moral equivalence particularly because so many Jewish Australians are always at the forefront of pushing back against bigotry against other groups in this country and yet at our time of need we feel abandoned.

Martin Luther King said “in the end we remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

And you can’t blame the Jewish Community for having no confidence in the Human Rights Commission given the commissions record.

Remember the Commission is a body which is designed to prevent racism and stand for social harmony but for more than six months said nothing about the largest increase in antisemitism in the history of Australia.

At senate estimates the President of the Commission has repeatedly refused to call out antisemitism and condemn Hamas.

And the new race discrimination Commissioner, the person who would be running the Government’s inquiry, could not condemn the phrase “from the river to the sea” – a phrase rightly condemned by the Prime Minister and a bipartisan motion in the Senate. The Race discrimination Commissioner said he would have to “see the context”.

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

This includes the head of Hue Consulting, who was engaged to prepare antiracism material but was involved in the doxing of 600 Jewish creatives and publicly urged her followers to ‘let these effing Zionists know no effing peace’.

Or the Commission’s lawyer who publicly stated that Jewish people as a group are “not entitled to cultural safety “and suggested the terrorist attacks of 7 October could “make sense”.

Referring to Jewish people, another staff member wrote: “What are they without Zionism? If we take that away—their violence, their toxicity, their racism—what’s left of them as a people?”

Then there was the call by commission staff, in relation to the 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” from the commission.

This is why Peter Wertheim from the ECAJ has said:

“Sadly, the Jewish community cannot have confidence [in] the inquiry to be conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission … The AHRC’s record of public statements and action in the face of the unprecedented surge of antisemitism that has occurred in Australia, especially since 7 October 2023, has been conspicuously deficient. The recent record of some of the people associated with the Commission has also featured a shocking level of bias.”

Yesterday the Prime Minister had fine words to say about the need to deal with antisemitism. Words which I hope every member of this House could support

He said

“There is no place for antisemitism, … in our communities, at our universities, or outside electorate offices…No-one should be targeted for who they are. The targeting of people because they are Jewish … [is] completely unacceptable.”

Today this is the opportunity for all members to give effect to his words by supporting this urgency motion and supporting passage of this Bill.

At their best, universities are life changing places where people get an education and improve their opportunities in life. 

It’s where the next generation of leaders are formed.

They are about the future of this country.

That is why it is so important that antisemitism does not take hold.

Its why students need to be taught about the evils of antisemitism. That is why it is always important to reject antisemitism however it manifests.

That it’s not OK to be a bystander.

If we are not teaching this to the next generation then we are setting our society on a course for a future based in conspiracy not fact. On othering not personal responsibility. On social discord not social harmony.

What happens on campus today sets the tone for the Australia of tomorrow.

We cannot have a situation in this country where Jewish Australians staff and students are being given a message on campus that says “You are not welcome here”.

It is time to Support this motion and say “enough”!

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