One of the Albanese government’s most senior ministers is the latest to break ranks on Australia’s steadfast support of Israel and throw their support behind Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
Tony Burke, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for the Arts, on Friday posted video of an interview with ABC Radio National breakfast host Patricia Karvelas in which he supported a local council’s decision to fly the flag of Palestine outside its offices.
‘I completely support the Canterbury-Bankstown Council’s decision to raise the Palestinian flag and this is why,’ a caption on the video read.
The City of Canterbury-Bankstown has voted to display the Palestinian flag outside council offices until a ceasefire is declared in Palestine.
In the interview, Ms Karvelas asked Mr Burke if he supported the move, to which he replied: ‘I support the decision completely’.
‘You need to understand in my part of Sydney people are watching everyday death. They’re watching everyday images sometimes of people they know, often of children,’ he said.
Mr Burke is the member for Watson, which incorporates suburbs in Sydney’s west.
‘I had a professional woman say to me the other day she has never seen so many bodies of dead babies in her life,’ he said.
‘If I go through the suburbs across from Belmore, Lakemba, where I live in Punchbowl through to Bankstown, pretty much everybody knows somebody who has lost someone.’
Mr Burke said until the Canterbury-Bankstown Council made that decision to fly the Palestinian flag ‘there was no where in Australia where those colours were being acknowledged as worthy of grieving’.
In support of Palestinians, Mr Burke said ‘we can’t say we only grieve for certain people who are slaughtered’
Mr Burke stressed that the flag was not the Hamas flag, but the one of Palestine, and that ‘gives the chance that there is recognition and not selective grief’.
‘We can’t say we only grieve for certain people who are slaughtered. We can’t have a situation as a nation where we only formally acknowledge particular deaths,’ he said.
Mr Burke is the third member of the Albanese government who has come out in support of Palestinians over the past few weeks.
Senior federal minister Ed Husic last week said Palestinians were being ‘collectively punished for Hamas’s barbarism’ in a bold statement condemning Israel’s reprisals in Gaza.
Federal minister Ed Husic (centre) last week said Palestinians were being ‘collectively punished for Hamas’s barbarism’
West Australian Labor MP Anne Aly immediately backed Husic, saying it was ‘difficult to argue’ that Palestinians, including 1,000 children who had been killed, were not being ‘collectively punished’.
Aly, the early childhood education minister, suggested Israel could be investigated over whether it had committed war crimes.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese however has stood by US President Joe Biden in his support for Israel at a lavish state dinner this week.
President Biden welcomed Mr Albanese to the White House on Thursday, emphasizing the two countries’ alliance against the backdrop of violence in Israel and Ukraine.
‘Together we’re standing with Israel against Hamas’ terrorism. We’re standing with Ukraine against Putin’s tyranny,’ Biden said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured right with Boe Biden) stood by the US President in his support for Israel at a lavish state dinner this week
From left to right: Jodie Haydon, Anthony Albanese, Joe Biden and Jill Biden at a state dinner this week
Ahead of the Oval Office meeting, Mr Albanese praised Mr Biden’s involvement in the Israel-Gaza war in a speech to several thousand people on the South Lawn outside.
‘All Australians condemn the atrocities, terror and pitiless brutality of Hamas,’ he said.
‘And Mr President, we applaud the personal resolve you have brought to this troubled part of the world.’
Meanwhile, pro-Israel supporters on Friday lashed out at Melbourne’s Federation Square after about nine Palestine flags were seen hoisted at the popular city landmark.
It is not known at this stage who raised the flags.
A ‘Vigil for Gaza’ will be held from 7pm for two hours at Federation Square, organised by the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Casey Friends of Palestine and Free Palestine Melbourne, according to a Facebook event.
Since Hamas’ surprise October 7 attack, Israel has waged a relentless campaign against the terrorist group in the besieged Gaza Strip.
More than 7,000 Palestinian civilians are estimated to have been killed so far, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry, while the remainder of Gaza’s two million-plus population face a dire ongoing humanitarian crisis.