Australian MPs plead for social cohesion amid fears over Israel-Hamas conflict reverberations

This story by Josh Butler first appeared in The Guardian on 16th November 2023.

Federal MPs have urged their political colleagues and other Australian leaders to promote social cohesion rather than division in the wake of the Gaza conflict, saying both Jewish and Middle Eastern communities must be supported amid fears of a “tipping point” in multiculturalism.

On Thursday afternoon the House of Representatives debated social cohesion as its daily matter of public importance, hearing numerous contributions from independent and Labor MPs concerned about reverberations of the Gaza conflict. The debate took place 24 hours after Albanese accused Peter Dutton of “weaponising antisemitism” in a different heated parliamentary debate, after the opposition leader attempted to link criticisms of the government’s response to the Gaza conflict and the release of detainees from immigration detention.

The independent MP Zoe Daniel, who proposed the debate, said she was concerned about antisemitism and rising anxiety of Jewish people, as well as feeling “heartsick” at thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza.

“The two feelings can coexist; indeed, they must,” Daniel said.

Daniel acknowledged Australia had limited ability to influence events in Gaza, but said leaders had a responsibility to encourage “multi-partisan calm”. She said that she, and many other MPs, had faced threats, anger and hate in recent weeks.

“Australia, I believe, is facing its greatest test since multiculturalism was instituted by Malcolm Fraser and Petro Georgiou in the 1970s. It has stood the test of time until now. Let it not fail … we must pull back from this tipping point,” she said.

Labor and crossbench MPs, most representing suburban and particularly multicultural electorates, were the contributors to the debate, with no Coalition or Greens voices speaking.


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