Television Interview, Sky News Afternoon Agenda

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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12 October 2023

SUBJECTS: Hamas-Israel conflict.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Live now to the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite. The Prime Minister says the Government's taking the safety advice and ongoing advice from Defence, but at this moment, those repatriation flights look like they will be on with the support of Qantas, Matt?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: G'day, Kieran. Firstly, can I say that the Australian Government and the Australian people stand with the people of Israel during this difficult time in the wake of this shocking terrorist attack, the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians in Israel, and we wholeheartedly condemn it. And the Australian Government is doing all that it can to assist not only Australians, but Australians with relatives and friends that are in Israel. And as Andrew mentioned, there'll be three repatriation flights. The first will take place on Friday, another one on Sunday. They will be from Ben Gurion Airport in Israel directly to London. There'll be a third flight next week and we'll continue to monitor the situation. And if there's demand there, then we'll look to put further flights on. We'll do as much as we can to assist those Australians with relatives and friends in Israel and those that want to return home.

GILBERT: In terms of the reaction here, we've seen a criticism of some of the elements at the pro-Palestinian rallies. Are you worried about more rallies planned over the next few days? And are you surprised by the encouragements of some in politics, including the Greens Party, which are promoting some of these events?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: I am. People shouldn't be promoting these sort of events. As the Prime Minister said, these rallies shouldn't go ahead. There's a moral issue here. It's completely insensitive and tone deaf to be holding these types of rallies at this time when there are many Australians of Jewish faith who've had relatives that have either been killed or a hostage. It's completely insensitive. And then, of course, there's the legal issue and the upholding of Australian law. And the rally that's planned for Sunday will be illegal under the law because it hasn't properly been authorised. And people should not go to that rally because it will be illegal and arrests will be made.

GILBERT: And just to pick up on a couple of probably fringe elements, but they are still representatives of our Parliaments. One senator from the Greens saying it was a disgrace to illuminate the Parliament in the colours of the Israeli flag. It's hard to fathom the lack of compassion for those affected here, regardless of the view of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over so many decades. Surely there's enough room for compassion for those people, those civilians slaughtered here, Matt?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, exactly right. Kieran whatever your view on the Middle East and its politics is, now is not the time to be making those insensitive comments. Think of the people of Jewish descent in our communities who are now worried for their relatives, who've had friends and relatives that have been killed and many of those images have been cast onto our screens and people have seen it on a daily basis. Think about the feelings of people in our Jewish community and show some respect, show some restraint and basically show some love for other Australians in their time of need.

GILBERT: Yeah, there's no doubt about that. The criticism levelled at the Prime Minister for not convening a National Security Committee earlier, what's your reaction to that? Was the government flat footed?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Look, the Government has done all that it can and as quickly as it possibly could, Kieran, to show our support for the people of Israel and Australians of Jewish descent. As soon as we were alerted to this, the Prime Minister was on the phone to the Israeli Prime Minister offering help. The Defence Minister Richard Marles has contacted the Ambassador here to offer assistance and indeed the Prime Minister has put a call into the Israeli Prime Minister as well to offer our thoughts and our assistance as well. We've done as much as we possibly can as quickly as we possibly can and the priority at the moment is to get those Australians who are in Israel and Australians with family and friends in Israel home as quickly as possible. And we're working on that as a priority. If there's other requirements that come from the Israeli Government or advice from the Australian Defence Force for assistance, we will take that as quickly as possible.

GILBERT: Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite. Talk to you soon. Appreciate it.



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