Sunrise host Natalie Barr has had a fiery exchange over the federal government’s failure to declare the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel an overseas terrorist act.
Ms Barr confronted Education Minister Jason Clare after it was revealed the opposition wrote to the Prime Minister in December urging the government to formally rule the event as a terror incident.
“We can’t underplay that but this is one of the worst terror attacks the world has ever seen, they came, they raped, they murdered, is it an oversight by your government?” Barr questioned.
Firing back, Mr Clare argued Labor had repeatedly condemned the October 7 massacre and flagged that Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil was considering an official designation.
“The Prime Minister called this out as a terrorism event and condemned it. You’ve heard me say that on this show a number of times,” the minister said.
“The Minister for Home Affairs is looking at this at the moment. I just don’t want us to confuse this with any argument that we’re not providing financial support to Jewish Australians…and Muslim Australians who are affected by it, because that is certainly not true.”
It has been more than three months since Hamas launched a surprise assault on southern Israel killing about 1200 people and taking 240 hostages. Since declaring war on the militant group, Israeli forces have bombarded the Gaza Strip killing at least 24,600 people and wounding over 60,000, according to Palestinian health officials.
The Coalition has ramped up pressure on the Albanese government to list the initial Hamas attacks as an overseas terror event to allow Australians impacted by the event to access financial assistance.
Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley argued the Prime Minister should “immediately” approve a formal designation to assist victims.
“I cannot understand why it has not been designated, and I don’t think Jason can either. I don’t think he’s able to make excuses for his Home Affairs Minister. But his Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, needs to fix this today,” she said.
Appearing on ABC Radio Sydney, Anthony Albanese declared that Australia’s support for the existence of the state of Israel was “completely unconditional”.
“Our position is very clear. We want a long term political solution here with Israelis and Palestinians able to live side-by-side in peace and security,” he said.
“One of the things I’m concerns about is the disruption to our harmonious society and I don’t want people to bring some of that conflict here.”
Mr Albanese’s comments came after Foreign Minister Penny Wong concluded a three-day diplomatic tour of the Middle East where she held talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
Speaking later on Friday, opposition foreign affairs spokesman James Paterson said it was “unconscionable” that the government did not declare the event as a terror attack in October.
“I think they need to pull their finger out and get this done,” Senator Paterson said.
“We’re not talking about a lot of money here. There’s a grant of up to $75,000. It pales in comparison to the $46m that has been given to Gaza.”
A Home Affairs spokesperson said the government was considering further ways to support Australians and their family members affected by Israel-Hamas conflict.
“The horrific Hamas attacks on 7 October were a terrorist act,” they said.
“We are committed to supporting Australians and we will continue to do so, consistent with the advice of our national security agencies.”