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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Opposition leader Peter Dutton has accused Foreign minister Penny Wong of “irreparably” damaging Australia’s relations with Israel “for a crass domestic political win.”

In a swingeing attack on Wong, Dutton on Wednesday said her implying the Albanese government was preparing to recognise a Palestinian state had weakened Australia’s international standing.

“It is the most reckless act of a Foreign Minister I have seen in my 22 years in the Parliament,” the Opposition Leader said.

In a Tuesday speech, Wong took Australian policy a small step towards embracing recognition of a Palestine state ahead of a two-state solution, as a pathway to a lasting Middle East peace.

She said the international community was “was now considering the question of Palestinian statehood as a way of building momentum towards a two-state solution”.

On Wednesday, when asked if Australia was willing to recognise Palestine as a state, Wong said the government had made “no such decision”.

“The discussion I want to have is to look at what is happening in the international community where there is the very important debate about how it is we secure long-lasting peace in a region which has known so much conflict,” she told the ABC.

She stressed what needed to happen immediately was for Hamas to release the hostages and for a humanitarian ceasefire.

Wong’s comments on Palestinian recognition have further widened the partisan split over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Amid a strong reaction from sections of the Jewish community against the Foreign Minister’s comments,

Dutton said the government’s policy positions “have exposed a clear prejudice towards Israel”.

“The Albanese Government has failed to provide the moral clarity which distinguishes the lawful from the lawless, which differentiates civilisation from barbarism, and which discerns the good from the evil,” Dutton said, delivering the Tom Hughes Oration.

In a hard-line speech, Dutton accused Anthony Albanese of failing to grasp the gravity of the rise of antisemitism in Australia.

He said while no one was killed during the October 9 pro-Palestine protests, the “events at the Sydney Opera House were akin to a Port Arthur moment in terms of their social significance”.

Albanese could not see the danger that antisemitism posed to Australia’s social cohesion and way of life, Dutton said.

“The Prime Minister and members of his government have downplayed the unprecedented level of antisemitism afflicting our country by dishonestly treating it as analogous with other forms of prejudice.”.

Dutton said what should have been a clear-cut condemnation of antisemitic incidents from Labor had been clouded by moral equivalence.

“What remains is a national moral fog which has made antisemitism permissible. Penny Wong made that moral fog denser last night.”

Dutton said a future coalition government would bring “the full force of the law” down on Australians who incited or chose violence.

“Non-citizens who incite or choose violence should have their visas cancelled and be deported.

“We will have a zero-tolerance approach for the intolerable behaviours of the few who threaten the Australian achievement for the many.”

Dutton also warned against the danger of “a new generation of Israel haters and anti-Semites” arising, pointing to hundreds of students skipping school to attend pro-Palestinian rallies in November

He said that in classrooms and lecture theatres, young people were “being increasingly taught ‘what to think’, not ‘how to think’”.

“The anti-Israel hate which is being force-fed to young Australians doesn’t only increase incidents of antisemitism – as reprehensible as that is.

“It conditions young minds to reject the liberal democratic values which underpin the Australian achievement.

“Nothing short of a societal-wide effort is required – from parents in homes, educators in schools and universities, and political leaders across governments – to reject the forces of indoctrination and to bring about a renaissance of education.

“That starts with a renewed focus on teaching the basics.

“A Coalition government is committed to seeing a prioritisation on reading, writing and maths, including through explicit instruction teaching.

“We also need to ensure our students have a better grasp of the horrors of the Holocaust as well as the age-old, enduring and shape-shifting nature of antisemitism.”

Dutton said Australians “have had a gutful of the politics of division and the preoccupation with difference”.

“A Coalition Government under my leadership will rebuild our national confidence and camaraderie by focusing on the things which unite us”.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Albanese government has ‘irreparably damaged’ Australia’s relations with Israel: Peter Dutton –