From The Australian, 14 March 2016, by Jared Owens:
Julie Bishop (L) and Tanya Plibersek
Julie Bishop has lashed her opposition counterpart, Tanya Plibersek, accusing her of hypocrisy over her “hysterical campaign of misinformation” about the government’s approach to Iran.
After Ms Plibersek last week accused the Foreign Minister of turning “a blind eye” to Iran’s human rights abuses and anti-Israel rhetoric, Ms Bishop today noted Ms Plibersek’s own comments describing Israel as a “rogue state” and its then prime minister Ariel Sharon as a “war criminal”.
Amid discussions with Iran over the repatriation of rejected asylum-seekers, Ms Plibersek supported diplomatic engagement with Tehran but warned it was an “oppressive” regime that often “tramples the human rights” of reformers.
“The Foreign Minister has been … so prepared to turn a blind eye to the anti-American rhetoric of the Iranian government, the anti-Israeli rhetoric of the Iranian government, to the human rights abuses, where people are locked up for their sexuality, for following a religion that’s not approved of by the regime, and most particularly, for political organisation against an oppressive government,” she said on Friday.
Ms Plibersek’s comments came ahead of a visit to Canberra this week by Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif, and followed revelations in The Australian that the frigate HMAS Darwin had on February 27 intercepted illicit arms apparently originating from Iran and bound for rebels in Yemen.
Ms Bishop today returned fire over Ms Plibersek’s “hysterical campaign of misinformation”, saying she frequently raised human rights concerns with Iran and she “certainly won’t stand for any anti-Israel rhetoric”.
“Tanya Plibersek … was encouraging us to engage with Iran back in the Ahmadinejad days and she was very critical of Israel and called Israel a rogue state and one of their prime ministers a war criminal, so I don’t think Labor’s in any position to lecture me or the Coalition on how to conduct diplomatic relations that are in Australia’s national interests...Foreign Minister Zarif is coming to Australia and this is an opportunity for me to raise directly with him some of the concerns we have about Iran’s conduct globally, but it’s also an opportunity to discuss areas of common interest.
“We both have troops fighting in Syria and Iraq, Australia has a number of Iranians who are claiming to be refugees and if they have no legal basis for being in Australia they should return to Iran, and now that sanctions have been lifted from Iran by countries around the world I wouldn’t want to ensure that Australian businesses have every opportunity to conduct trade and investment activities with Iran.”
Ms Plibersek today repeated her call for Ms Bishop to outline her Iran policy to parliament, explaining “what engagement Australia will have with Iran, and for what outcome”.
Earlier this year, Ms Plibersek cautioned against assuming the recent nuclear deal with Iran would transform the Islamic republic into a “responsible actor”.
“In opposition, Julie Bishop criticised low-level efforts to engage Iran diplomatically. In 2012, Ms Bishop said she had ‘concerns about (Iran’s) nuclear program’, that its leaders continued ‘to make bellicose statements with regard to Israel’, and that ‘the regime (had) been an active sponsor of terrorist organisations around the world’,” Ms Plibersek said at the time.
“It will continue to act in ways domestically and regionally that Australians find disagreeable, and we must not be naïve about the intentions of Iran’s government and religious leaders.”
Ms Plibersek has previously recanted her 2003 comments about Israel and Sharon, telling The Australian in 2011 that she spoke “injudiciously”.
As an opposition backbencher in 2003, Ms Plibersek said: “I can think of a rogue state which consistently ignores UN resolutions whose ruler is a war criminal — it is called Israel and the war criminal is Ariel Sharon.”
As Israel’s defence minister, Sharon was held [indirectly] responsible for [preventing] the massacre of at least 800 Palestinian men, women and children at the refugee camps Sabra and Shatila in 1982 after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. An Israeli inquiry said he had not taken “appropriate measures to prevent bloodshed” after Christian Phalangist militia allied with Israel were allowed to enter the camps.