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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22 November 2023

SUBJECTS: Hamas-Israel conflict; Community safety; School strike; NZYQ High Court case.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: And that was the IDF spokesperson responding to the risk of Hamas regrouping during this pause in hostilities. Let's bring in the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite, to get some reaction to this and some other stories today. This is a welcome development, the fact that there'll be a temporary humanitarian pause, this is what the government's been calling for?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: It is a welcome development, Kieran. I think that all Australians and people throughout the world want to ultimately see peace and stability restored to Israel, and this appears to be a step in that direction. The second thing to say is that the Australian Parliament passed a resolution on the 7th of October calling for the immediate release of all of the hostages that were taken by Hamas. This arrangement will see 50 hostages released, predominantly women and children, released over the course of the next five days, with the potential for more to be released and further humanitarian pauses to take place. And it's a welcome development. I know that Qatar has been involved in negotiating this arrangement and hopefully we're going to see the release of all of these hostages because that's what the international community wants.

GILBERT: Yes, well, the Israeli government, as you alluded to there, suggesting that if there is for every further ten hostages released, there would be a further pause in hostilities. So, hope, we hope that there will be more released over coming days, Assistant Minister?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, that's exactly right. There's an incentive built into this arrangement for Hamas to release all of those hostages. If that pause on hostilities is going to continue, then Hamas will have to release further hostages. And the 50 is a welcome development, but that leaves about another 200 still in captivity that should be released as quickly as possible.

GILBERT: The Prime Minister gave a forceful reminder of his support for the Jewish community and for Israel. He spoke at the reopening of the Holocaust Museum in Melbourne. The Opposition Leader says it's a time for moral clarity on these matters. Is that what the PM provided in that speech today?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: I think the PM provided what all Australians want, and that's a sense of unity, that we condemn acts of violence and anti-Semitism and the division that we've seen in the Australian community. And no one should try and seek to use the conflict in the Middle East as an opportunity to divide the Australian people. And we've seen some shocking situations of anti-Semitism across Australia, including in my electorate here, which I've condemned. And I think the Prime Minister's forceful words today are a timely reminder that peace and stability and harmony in our society are fragile things and they require leadership and they require all Australians to abide by that wonderful covenant we have here in Australia of respecting people of all faiths and all cultures and all ethnic backgrounds.

GILBERT: Your colleague Jason Clare said that the classroom is the place for students and that's where they should remain tomorrow, not at this strike for Palestine, this school strike for Palestine. What's your message to parents or families that might be considering supporting their kids to get out of school and to go to this thing?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: I appreciate that younger Australians want to have a voice in international affairs and want to have their say and that's fine, but it shouldn't happen during school hours. The school system is there to educate younger Australians and if kids are going to take time off school for these sort of things, then obviously it's going to affect their education. And I would have thought that perhaps a better way for kids to express their opinions would be to try and stoke up a conversation in the classroom, particularly those in high school, about these issues with their teachers, and have a sensible debate about the issues and allow people to put their points of view, just as we do in a democracy. And that's a way that I think that younger Australians can express their views without having to jeopardise their education and take days off school.

GILBERT: Finally, Clare O'Neil, the Home Affairs Minister, indicating the Government is looking at all options when it comes to that cohort of people that were released from detention, including preventative detention orders. Do you think we might see some movement on that as early as the beginning of next week when Parliament returns?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: As Clare's outlined, the priority for the Government at the moment is keeping Australians safe and that's why we passed those urgent measures through the Parliament last week to ensure that we have the mechanisms in place to try and keep the Australian people as safe as possible. This is something that we're continually monitoring, Kieran, and as the Home Affairs Minister said it may require further measures to be put in place, including those preventative detention orders. Now, they predominantly relate to anti-terrorism situations and stopping terrorist acts, so there may be some legislative reform required, but that's being looked at at the moment and if there's the need to put further measures in place, then the Government won't hesitate to act.

GILBERT: Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite, talk to you soon.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Pleasure, Kieran. Thanks mate.


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