PM accuses Dutton of weaponising anti-Semitism

Paul Osborne, Kat Wong and Andrew Brown |

Security agencies are concerned about the potential for protests to turn into something sinister.
Security agencies are concerned about the potential for protests to turn into something sinister.

Anthony Albanese has accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of seeking to weaponise anti-Semitism, urging greater social cohesion as the Israel-Gaza conflict continues.

Responding to a coalition motion in parliament which criticised the government’s response in dealing with the conflict, the prime minister hit back, saying he had been consistent in his views in calling for unity.

“The weaponisation or attempt to weaponise anti-Semitism in this chamber and make it a partisan issue is, frankly, beyond contempt,” he said on Wednesday.

“I make no apologies for standing up against anti-Semitism and I will do it unequivocally … I have a track record on this and I’m proud of it, but I also have a track record of standing up for the rights and for justice of Palestinian people.

“I make no apologies for being a consistent supporter of a two-state solution, and I make no apologies for trying to bring communities together, not divide them.”

Mr Dutton had called on the prime minister to not depart Australia for the APEC summit in San Francisco until he had assured Jewish Australians would be protected in the community.

“The prime minister should not leave this country until the national cabinet has been convened to provide assurances and support and comfort and safety to people of the Jewish community,” he said.

It comes as six federal electoral offices across the country were the target of pro-Palestinian protests involving bloodied replicas of Gazan corpses.

Those targeted included Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and fellow Labor MPs Ged Kearney and Peter Khalil.

Protest outside Richard Marles' office
Federal electoral offices across the country were the target of pro-Palestinian protests.

A swathe of protests have been held across the country since Hamas, which is a declared terrorist organisation in Australia, attacked Israel and killed 1200 people on October 7.

Since then, Palestinian officials say Israel has killed more than 12,000 in Gaza in a military operation seeking to destroy Hamas.

Cabinet minister Ed Husic, one of two Muslim ministers in the government, said too many Palestinians had died.

“The numbers absolutely are causing people deep concern. I have been worried for quite some time that Palestinians would shoulder the burden,” Mr Husic told ABC TV on Wednesday.

“Hamas should be held to account. But I’ve got to say, 4000 children losing their lives, they are not Hamas.”

Peter Dutton
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says Jewish Australians are fearing for their safety.

Mr Dutton said his key concern was the rise of anti-Semitism in the community.

He has written to Mr Albanese proposing a meeting with premiers and chief ministers to ensure greater social cohesion and a crackdown on anti-Jewish behaviour.

“I fear that there will be a significant act within our country which will cause harm to people in the Jewish community, or the community more broadly, at a time when temperatures are rising,” he told reporters.

In his letter, Mr Dutton said Jewish Australians feared for their personal safety.

Mr Albanese met with the Israeli ambassador in Canberra on Tuesday and is expected to discuss the war on the sidelines of the APEC summit later this week.

A YouGov poll released in early November found a majority of Australians were in favour of a ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Greens successfully moved a Senate motion to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the civilian lives lost in Gaza, as Israel’s airstrikes and blockade on food, water, fuel and medicine stoke the growing death toll. 

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John has continued to push the government to call for a ceasefire in the region.

“Children and families have faced horrific death, injury and suffering. People in Gaza are experiencing relentless bombing, those that survive the bombing have increasingly limited access to electricity, food or water,” he said.

“This cannot go on.”