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Voters are in favour of sending medical aid to Israel and Gaza but are strongly against offering military help to either side of the conflict as protests at home fuel concerns that war in the Middle East makes Australia less safe.
Australians are split on whether to allow public protests about the conflict, with only 48 per cent in favour after weeks of concern about violence and racial hatred, while most voters oppose using public buildings to fly either the Palestinian or Israeli flag.
The exclusive findings came as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese defended Foreign Minister Penny Wong and her call for “steps towards a ceasefire” between Israel and Gaza, after her remark infuriated Jewish groups that believe a ceasefire would keep terrorist group Hamas in power.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton slammed Wong’s comment as “reckless” and challenged Albanese in question time about his support for a ceasefire, but the prime minister said Wong’s remarks were in line with parliament’s bipartisan condemnation of Hamas and support for civilian life.
Albanese repeated Wong’s remark that any “step on a path to ceasefire” could not be one-sided, highlighting the acute sensitivity of the idea of a ceasefire when the Israeli government believes it must destroy Hamas to prevent the terrorist group killing Israeli civilians.
Wong did not call for a unilateral ceasefire in her remarks on Sunday morning and instead argued for an end to Israeli attacks on hospitals in Gaza, steps towards a halt in the conflict and the release of civilian hostages by Hamas.
With thousands of Australians protesting at public rallies and the police on alert for violence, the latest Resolve Political Monitor, conducted for this masthead by Resolve Strategic, found that 36 per cent of voters believed the conflict in the Middle East made Australia less safe.
Forty-two per cent of Coalition voters felt less safe, compared to 32 per cent of Labor voters and 26 per cent of Greens voters.
The findings reveal greater backing for Israel on the key question of whether Australia should declare in-principle support for either side, with 31 per cent of voters siding with Israel and 7 per cent siding with Palestinians in Gaza.
Another 18 per cent said Australia should support both sides equally, while 45 per cent said the government should take no action in this regard.
The survey also found greater support for Israel on other questions, with 21 per cent of voters in favour of sending food and medical aid to Israel compared to 13 per cent to Gaza. Another 37 per cent backed sending the aid to both destinations and 30 per cent preferred no action.
Asked whether Australia should accept refugees from the conflict, 52 per cent of voters favoured the broad proposition and 48 per cent were against.
Twenty-nine per cent were in favour of accepting refugees from both sides equally, while 14 per cent favoured refugees from Israel and 9 per cent wanted those from Gaza.
Dutton has demanded greater action from the government to support Israel, either through public statements or military aid, since Hamas terrorists killed 1200 Israeli civilians in surprise attacks on October 7.
“I think we should make it clear to Israel, as well, that, if requested, Australia can provide munitions or other support, specialist support, if that’s going to provide support to the resolution of what is obviously a horrible situation,” Dutton said on October 11.
Only 21 per cent of voters support giving military help to Israel and another 4 per cent support sending it to Gaza, while 66 per cent of voters are against offering military aid.
With some Sydney and Melbourne councils choosing to fly the Palestinian flag to show solidarity with the people of Gaza – in one case backed by Employment Minister Tony Burke – the latest survey shows that 68 per cent of voters oppose councils and public buildings flying flags from either side.
Another 8 per cent were in favour of flying the Israeli flag, 5 per cent backed them flying the Palestinian flag and 19 per cent favoured flying both flags.
The Resolve Political Monitor surveyed 1602 eligible voters from November 1 to 5, a period of widespread media coverage of the conflict but before Wong’s statement on Sunday about the steps towards a ceasefire.
While Dutton has urged Albanese to visit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to show Australian support, only 32 per cent of voters supported this idea while another 32 per cent were against and 36 per cent unsure.
Opinions diverged on other overseas travel, with 54 per cent in favour of the prime minister’s visit to see US President Joe Biden in Washington and 38 per cent supportive of his trip to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Labor MP Josh Burns made no criticism of Wong when asked on ABC News on Monday whether her remarks were irresponsible.
“Until Hamas release hostages, and until they stop firing indiscriminately on Israeli citizens, the possibility of a ceasefire is not there,” he said.
“Of course, I want to see this end – I want to see it end as quickly as possible. But we also have to realise that what we’re asking for isn’t going to prolong another cycle of violence.”
Early Childhood Education Minister Anne Aly endorsed Wong’s remarks, and said there should be a “humanitarian pause” as a move towards ending hostilities.
“The fact is that a ceasefire is actually a process of negotiation between two parties to see an end to a war. I think everyone wants to see a ceasefire. Everyone wants to see an end to this war. Show me a person who doesn’t want to see an end to this,” she said on Monday.
The idea of a humanitarian pause gained formal support last Thursday in a joint statement from G7 foreign ministers representing the US, UK, Japan, Canada, Germany, France and Italy, but they did not suggest a ceasefire.
Australia Israel and Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said Wong’s comments were disappointing because a ceasefire would be a victory for Hamas if it did not dismantle the terrorist group’s infrastructure, end its rule over Gaza and require it to release its 240 hostages.
“A ceasefire will only allow the continuation of Hamas’ despotic and corrupt rule over Gaza and years of ongoing attacks on Israeli civilians, with Hamas spokespersons openly saying their goal is to try to repeat the unprovoked, murderous mass-terror wave of October 7,” he said.
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