Dissident voice

Labor MP Josh Burns opposes government UN vote

'I have received messages of support for from some of my colleagues. But I also felt it was important that I speak up for my community and that's what I've done'

Federal MP Josh Burns tables the letter.Photo: Screenshot
Federal MP Josh Burns tables the letter.Photo: Screenshot

Macnamara ALP MP Josh Burns has publicly opposed his own government’s vote on boosting the Palestinian Authority’s status at the United Nations.

Australia joined 142 other nations in a non-binding vote calling on the Palestinian Authority to become a full UN member and for the UN Security Council to “reconsider the matter favourably”. Nine countries voted against and 25 abstained.

Burns, who is Jewish, described Australia’s vote as a “miscalculation”, saying we should have abstained.

He said if his opposition to the government’s stance means he is a lone voice inside the ALP, then so be it.

“I don’t believe I am, I have received messages of support for from some of my colleagues. But I also felt it was important that I speak up for my community and that’s what I’ve done,” he said.

“I am who I am, and I will always stand by my principles.”

Burns made it clear he supports the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state, so long as it meets basic preconditions.

“Hamas must have no role in the future governance of Gaza, the Palestinian Authority must be reformed and the reformed PA cannot be an ongoing threat to the people of Israel. If those conditions are met, then absolutely we should [recognise Palestine],” Burns said.

He said he’s spoken with several members of the Jewish community and said people are pretty shattered by the UN vote, and that’s understandable.

“I’m an adult and politics is complicated, and we have to be willing to debate things and disagree respectfully, however, where I do feel that it’s important to break ranks, and to make it clear that I don’t agree with the government’s position then I will do so and I have done that in the last 24 hours,” he said.

Burns believes it’s in the interests of the Jewish community to continue having a voice within the Labor Party.

“I don’t believe it’s in the community’s interest to throw a tantrum. I think it’s in the community’s interest for me to be a strong voice and to ensure that there are people inside government representing the views of the community and that’s what I will continue to do,” he said.

He warned that if the Jewish community has no one left inside the Labour Party, then that will be a “very dangerous and bad place” for the Jewish community.

Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein on Saturday described the vote as “profoundly disappointing and completely misguided as a way to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace following the current Gaza conflict launched by Hamas’ unprovoked mass-pogrom of October 7 last year”.

“As the Government correctly says, Hamas must have no future role in governing Gaza, not least because it is irredeemably and militantly opposed to any two-state peace,” he said.

“Yet there is no doubt whatsoever that many Palestinians see UN recognition of ‘Palestine’ as a major national achievement made possible by Hamas’ wave of barbaric mass violence on October 7. Such recognition thus not only makes Hamas more popular among Palestinians, but also undeniably amounts to rewarding its violent, terrorist methods.

“The world, with Australia’s support, is thus effectively signalling that mass murder, rape, kidnapping, and hostage-taking are acceptable and effective tools for achieving legitimacy and international support.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Daniel Aghion said it was “a sad and shameful day for all Australians”.

“The Palestinian leadership is as autocratic, corrupt and divided as ever, and remains incapable of forming a single government with the capacity to rule over its claimed territory.  It continues to foment fanatical hatred and violence against Israel in the region and around the world,” he said.

“Nothing has changed that would justify the reward that the UN has given the Palestinian leadership, with the Australian government’s backing … One can only conclude that Australia’s vote was driven by domestic political considerations, and not by principle.”

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