Doorstop at Grove of Nations

Transcript
01 Nov 2017
Jerusalem, Israel
Prime Minister
Israel visit; New York terror attack; Citizenship: Two-state solution
E&OE

PRIME MINISTER:

Lucy and I have been very honoured by the very warm welcome we have enjoyed here in Israel.

I've had very, very productive discussions with the Prime Minister, with the President and, of course, with the Opposition Leaders this morning as well.

The visit to Yad Vashem as I’m sure you all know is one of the most moving, confronting experiences anyone can have anywhere in the world.

As I said, when I signed the book at the end, all the oceans of the world can't contain our tears but all the world’s steel can't match our determination standing with Israel and the Jewish people to resolve never again. 

The Holocaust, this unspeakable crime against the Jewish people can never be forgotten and it is a reminder never again why the State of Israel must be strong, why its territorial integrity must be defended and why we work together so closely and more closely all the time.

In the fight against terrorism around the world tight collaboration, we share the same values and we have the same threats to our democracy and our way of life.

On that point, I want to express our very great sadness at the shocking terrorist attack in New York, which has coincided with another terrorist attack in Kabul.

Our prayers and love are with the victims and we are resolved more than ever to defeat terrorism and keep our people safe.

Now, on the subject, on that particular subject, as you know, the attack in New York was a truck attack - what they call in Israel a drive-down attack. You would know that we recently released a strategy document, a very substantial strategy document and planning document for protecting Crowded Places from terrorist attack in Australia.

This was something I initiated last year after the Nice truck attack and we had considerable assistance and co-operation with Israeli authorities in preparing that Crowded Places Strategy and the strategies and techniques to protect Crowded Places was one of the many security topics that I discussed with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

So its  been a very strong visit and, of course, it has been framed by that extraordinary charge of the Australian Light Horse. 100 years ago those young Australians and their horses, many of which they brought from Australia, captured the town of Beersheba from the Ottoman Turks that enabled then the liberation of Palestine, which enabled then the creation in the years to come of the State of Israel.

It was that victory in Beersheba, that Anzac victory at Beersheba paved the way for the State of Israel.

Perhaps beyond the imagination of the young men who were so brave on that day, but they defied history with that courageous charge, they made history and they fulfilled history.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce says he can’t be certain if there are more dual citizens or not in the Parliament. Do you agree? And if so, do we have to have some sort of audit for certainty.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is very important to remember that every member and senator has an obligation to comply with the Constitution.

Now, any member or senator who believes that they are not in compliance with the Constitution, who believes they may be a dual citizen, should take steps to confirm that and if they believe that is the case, then they can take steps to ensure that it is referred to the High Court.

The only body that can declare somebody disqualified from the Parliament for this reason is the High Court of Australia and, of course, ultimately it's the only body that can resolve disputes about it.

But the obligation is a personal one on each member and senator.

After all, when you run for Parliament, you sign, you tick a box on the form which says you're not in breach of Section 44.

JOURNALIST:

Given this issue has been dragging on for months now, Prime Minister – given this issue has been dragging on for months and Senator Parry says he only raised a few days ago to report this. Is that explanation deceptive or just dumb?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, Senator Parry, I'm disappointed that Senator Parry didn't make public this issue, this issue some time ago, quite some time ago.

JOURNALIST:

When did you first learn about it?

PRIME MINISTER:

I learnt about it probably about the same time you did on Tuesday, yesterday.

So it was - so he chose to delay his reporting of it, he should have reported it much earlier and it could have been referred to the High Court together with the other matters that were dealt with, the other citizenship by dissent cases.

JOURNALIST:

Does that mean he should repay any wages from the time he should have declared it?

PRIME MINISTER:

There are past practices for dealing with those issues and I'll leave that to the Finance Minister. They've been dealt with in different cases in the past.

But, look, the fundamental point, though, and let me go straight to this point you raise of an audit – I mean - what is an audit? Does that mean that somebody is going to undertake extensive genealogical research on every Member of Parliament and Senator? Undertake extensive research into foreign laws?

The fact is every member and every senator has a personal responsibility and an obligation to comply with the Constitution.

And so everyone should ensure that they are in compliance and if they're not, they should say so and if there is a question of doubt, then, of course, it can be referred to the High Court.

JOURNALIST:

How worried are you if one senator can keep it hidden for four months that others aren't doing the same?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I expect every member and senator to take their obligation very seriously and to - if they feel they're not in compliance with the Constitution to say so.

You have got to remember these issues are not without some complexity.

It is not just a question of where your parents were born or were your grandparents were born.

The reality is about half of all Australians were either born overseas or have a parent born overseas so the High Court's decision is of great significance and huge impact on millions of Australians, potentially.

But the important thing is that it's the responsibility of each member and senator to examine their own affairs, form a view and if they feel that they are not in compliance with the constitution, they should say so.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, is there an obligation on you though to go back to all those MPs-

PRIME MINISTER:

Pardon?

JOURNALIST:

Is there an obligation on you now though to go back to all of your MPs and all of your senators and request more information?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the point is the senators and members are not - the senators and members who have put their hand up and said that they have, that they are not in compliance of the Constitution are the ones that have done so.

So the reality is it is a personal responsibility of each member and senator and the only body that can actually make a finding that somebody is not qualified to sit in the Parliament is, in fact, the High Court. That is a critically important point.

Senator Parry has made a decision, he believes it's clear-cut and he's resigning from the Senate.

But it will still have to go to the High Court to confirm that he was disqualified and may well be a very short hearing and then to make a decision as to how the vacancy will be filled.

So Senator Parry's case will have to be referred to the High Court when the Parliament resumes.

JOURNALIST:

Barnaby Joyce has backed a call from Wacka Williams for him to become President of the Senate? Are you open to that going to a National, not a Liberal?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a matter for the senators and the Liberal Party as the larger party in the Coalition has always chosen from its senators the President when we are in government.

JOURNALIST:

Did you raise the issue of Israeli settlements with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes I have. We discussed the settlement issue and the peace process at some considerable length and I look forward to - as I have with other Israeli leaders during my visit - and I look forward to discussing that with the Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah later today.

JOURNALIST:

What did you say and do you see them as undermining the two-state solution?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Australia supports a two-state solution - that's to say it is two states for two peoples.

Obviously, agreement has to be reached and the boundary line has to be agreed, but it's not for us to draw that line, that is a matter to be negotiated between the parties. I look forward to-

JOURNALIST:

Do the settlements undermine that process?

PRIME MINISTER:

Again, I will - that is a matter between the two parties, where the lines are drawn. But they, obviously, it has to be negotiated.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, you are clearly quite good mates with Benjamin Netanyahu and have embraced him literally here in Jerusalem. Considering that the Israelis turned yesterday into some extent into a day of nationalism, flag waving on the streets of Beersheba, how does that fit into the context of you now going to the Palestinian authority and trying to engage them in a conversation about Australia’s policy for a two-state solution?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t see any conflict there at all. I don’t, I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make.

JOURNALIST:

Well a lot of the, with respect, a lot of the Palestinian families say that the role the Palestinians played in that battle was largely overlooked, that it was very much focused on this giving birth to the Israeli State when many Palestinians fought alongside the allied troops and hoped that they would perhaps have self-rule. So there is some concern about the extent that it was an Israeli event in that sense. What are your thoughts on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, Beersheba is an Israeli city. We are in the State of Israel. Israel are our hosts and we, they have been warm and generous hosts and I want to thank again the Prime Minister and the people of Israel for the very warm welcome they have given all of their Australian and New Zealand visitors.

JOURNALIST:

Do you accept that the West Bank is occupied?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, again, I have had some very productive discussions with the Prime Minister and other Israeli leaders and I look forward to discussing this with the Palestinian Prime Minister.

Now, just before we go, I just want to, I thought you might ask me about this, but I want to just restate the absolute commitment that Australia has to ensuring the territorial integrity, the peace and safety of the State of Israel.

This is a remarkable, a miraculous country. Its achievements are extraordinary in every respect. It faces overwhelming odds and yet it has prospered out of the darkness, the unspeakable darkness of the Holocaust and those oceans of tears, look at what has been created here in Israel – it is a great, this is a great achievement. It is a triumph of hope and determination and optimism and passion over the worst evil imaginable.

And we are very good friends. Our relationship, our collaboration gets closer all the time and I am very honoured to have been the first Prime Minister to visit Israel since, Australian Prime Minister, since 2000. And of course in this year, 2017, PM Netanyahu was the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit Australia. So it is a great year in stronger and stronger relations between Australia and Israel.

Thank you all very much.

[ENDS]