Tens of thousands gather across Australia for Israel-Gaza rallies
By Rachel Clayton, Isobel Roe, Yara Murray-Atfield and staff
(See translation in Arabic section)
Separate events calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages have been held across Australia, with tens of thousands taking to city streets.
Israel has rejected growing calls for a ceasefire, saying it would not stop until about 240 hostages taken by Hamas were returned, pushing further into Gaza City in its ground invasion aiming to eliminate the militant group.
The demonstrations in capital cities across Australia attracted high-profile speakers and shut down streets.
Tens of thousands rally for ceasefire in Gaza
Tens of thousands of people gathered at the steps of the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne for a pro-Palestinian rally before moving through the city towards Parliament.
The crowd swelled just before midday when chants ensued, calling for the end to the siege in Gaza and for an immediate ceasefire, with Victoria Police saying 45,000 people attended the rally.
Victorian Greens Leader Samantha Ratnam said civilians in Gaza were "ultimately paying the ultimate, brutal price of war", labelling Israeli offensives "collective punishment".
"The humanitarian catastrophe is beyond our comprehension," she said.
Children and adults draped themselves with the Palestinian flag and hundreds held flags and signs with messages such as "Free Palestine" and "Where's Albo?".
Some demonstrators became upset when one speaker — Margaret Beavis from the Medical Association for the prevention of war — would not say Israel's assault in Gaza was genocide.
Other speakers included Merri-bek Socialist Alliance councillor Sue Bolton, writer Clementine Ford, Palestinian academic Micaela Sahhar and Burgertory chief executive Hash Tayah.
One of Mr Tayah's fast food restaurants in Caulfield South was hit by an arson attack in the early hours of Friday morning. The fire was a catalyst for clashes between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups in Caulfield South that night, which saw racial slurs exchanged, punches thrown and a man hit by a rock.
Police on Friday said repeatedly they did not believe the incident at the restaurant was linked to Mr Tayah's attendance at an earlier pro-Palestinian rally, and did not believe the fire was motivated by prejudice.
Demonstrators pack rally at Sydney's Hyde Park
Pro-Palestinian protests have become a weekly occurrence in Sydney since the Israeli army retaliation against terror attacks by Hamas on October 7.
The event began with an Islamic prayer and heard from several speakers calling for the Australian government to support a ceasefire in Gaza.
A large police presence was on standby as the crowd marched into the CBD, and back to the park.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said the large police presence required for the weekly protests was costing taxpayers.
"It's in excess of a million dollars for a major protest," Mr Minns said.
In addition to keeping the rallies safe, he said, police were also monitoring the events for hate speech and racial vilification.
Speakers have called the Israeli army's action in Gaza "ethnic cleansing" and condemned the bombing of hospitals.
Writer Randa Abdel-Fattah thanked Sydney's Indigenous community for their support of the Palestinian cause.
"Can each of us pledge we will be there on Invasion Day for them," she asked the crowd, to a loud cheer.
Islamic scholar Shaykh Wesam Charkawi addressed the crowd with a message for the Australian government.
"What does Israel have to do to earn one condemnation?" he said. "Is Palestinian blood so cheap?"
Pro-Israeli demonstration says 'no ceasefire until every hostage has been released'
Earlier, demonstrators calling for Hamas to release Israeli hostages gathered across the country.
About 1,000 people held a vigil in Sydney for Israeli hostages, saying there could not be a ceasefire until all were released.
The group sang while holding posters and waving Israeli flags, as well as flags from several other nationalities representing citizens that had also been kidnapped.
President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Jillian Segal, told the crowd the war should continue until Hamas was destroyed.
"There can be no ceasefire until every hostage has been released," Ms Segal said, as the crowd cheered in response.
She condemned anti-Semitism in the local community and said all Jewish people wanted peace in the Middle East.
"One cannot make peace with those who deny one's right to exist," she said.
In the crowd, 12-year-old Noah Stern said she was volunteering to assist the war effort in Israel.
"I'm here to stand for what's right and show everyone in Australia and Israel, that we are standing up for them," Noah said.
Darren Katz said he had been unable to sleep since the attack by Hamas on Israeli citizens on October 7.
"I thought it was really important to get out here. We're proud Australians, we came here 24 years ago, but we're Jewish and we need to stand up for the people of Israel and what they've gone through," Mr Katz said.
Pro-Israel and Pro-Palestine events across Brisbane
In Queensland, Munganbana Norman Miller and his wife Barbara, the co-founders of Indigenous Friends of Israel, had travelled from Cairns to Brisbane to take part in today's pro-Israel rally.
"I see them as family, as friends, and for me and Barbara today, we are meeting new friends," Mr Munganbana Miller said.
"It was on our hearts to be here."
Mr Munganbana Miller called on the Prime Minister to support Australia's broader Israeli community.
"I would like to see him go over to Israel," he said.
Meanwhile thousands of pro-Palestine supporters also gathered in Brisbane's King George's Square, calling for an end to the conflict in Gaza.
Many held signs which read "free Palestine" and "ceasefire now" as they chanted in the city.
The protest garnered high-profile speakers including Greens member for South Brisbane Amy MacMahon.
Among the supporters was Brisbane resident Sameer, who said he has lost 12 members of his family in Gaza.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong told Insiders she was "deeply concerned by the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, as are so many in the world, and by the loss of life".
She reiterated that the government was calling for a "humanitarian pause" and "the next steps towards a ceasefire", saying "but it cannot be one-sided. Hamas still holds hostages. Hamas is still attacking Israel".
Myanmar nationals face lottery in applying for visitor visas, say immigration lawyer
Vicky was planning her wedding in the Hunter Valley last year when she found out that her parents’ application for a visa to visit from Myanmar had been rejected.
After she came to Australia as a student, she had not seen them for about three years because of the pandemic; she was devastated by the decision.
“It took an emotional toll on the entire family,” said Vicky, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her relatives back in Myanmar from being targeted by the country’s military government.
The Department of Home Affairs official who assessed the application said in the rejection letter they were not satisfied that her parents “genuinely intend to visit Australia temporarily”.
Davin Hartanto, a partner at Sydney immigration law firm Albert Arthur Lawyers, sad that ever since the coup two years ago people from Myanmar had been having a tough time getting visitor visas.
“While we appreciate that the government acknowledges the dire situation in Myanmar, and is helping Myanmar people in Australia, it is incorrect for case officers to have a bias or assumption that visitor visa applicants from Myanmar intend to apply for permanent protection visa in Australia,” Mr Hartanto said.
Myanmar’s military junta overthrew the elected government in February 2021. Most rejections cite the “political and economic situation” as a reason why applicants would not want to return to Myanmar.
Vicky said her parents had no intention of abandoning their life there to stay in Australia. Her father was a company director, she said, and her parents had assets including three houses, two cars and significant savings in Myanmar. Her parents’ siblings are still in Myanmar — including Vicky’s aunt who has health problems and lives with them.
The only incentive the rejection letter cited for her parents to stay in Australia was that Vicky and her brother had both settled here.
Now an Australian permanent resident, Vicky and her partner ended up cancelling the Hunter Valley wedding and getting married in Bangkok instead, wasting more than $5000 they had already spent.
Mr Hartanto said his Myanmar clients and their family in Australia felt they were treated unfairly.
While there were some people who applied for visitor visas with the intention of seeking asylum when they arrived, he said, others genuinely wanted to see their loved ones for significant milestones like weddings or graduations then return home.
He said for them, applying for a visitor visa was like “buying a lottery ticket”.
Public scared to fly on airliners with only one pilot, says union
THE vast majority of Australians would feel less safe and be more hesitant to fly on an aircraft with only one pilot, according to new polling.
The new data was released by the Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) and shows that reducing pilot numbers on the flight deck would be extremely unpopular with the public.
Commercial flights are currently required to have at least two pilots but some airlines, manufacturers and regulators are exploring reduced-crew and single-pilot operations to cut costs.
A total of 89% of Australians would feel less safe boarding a flight with one pilot at the controls, according to a Redbridge Group poll of 1022 adults.
That includes 65% who would feel much less safe and 24% who would feel a little less safe. Only 2% would feel safer.
The polling also revealed: 83% would be more hesitant to book a flight with one pilot, 88% believe Australian airlines should rule out single pilot operations, 88% believe the Australian government should mandate at least two pilots on the flight deck at all times for all commercial flights and only 21% of Australians are aware of the push to reduce the required number of pilots on a flight deck.
“It’s clear the Australian public is fiercely opposed to single-pilot flights - and they have good reason,” said Captain Tony Lucas, AIPA President.
“Flying is the safest mode of transport because airlines have redundancy in the form of at least two engines, electric and hydraulic systems, flight management computers, and, crucially, two pilots.
“A single pilot could become incapacitated, fatigued or simply overwhelmed in an emergency at 35,000 ft and 950 km/h.
“Reducing the number of pilots required on the flight deck undoubtedly reduces safety margins for the passengers, crew and the wider public.
“This polling shows the public understands that, and therefore any airline which decides to adopt reduced-crew operations stands to lose customers to competitors offering a safer trip.
“The only safe way to fly is with at least two well-trained and well-rested pilots at the controls at all times.”
Airlines like Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa are working on reduced crew operations. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is also working with manufacturers to study the regulatory changes required for reduced crew and single pilot operations.
On March 27, pilots’ unions from around the world formed a global coalition against single pilot operations; the International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations said “an aggressive corporate-led lobbying campaign was targeting regulators around the world” to try to make single-pilot operations a reality.
Australia strengthens relations with Tuvalu through new treaty
AUSTRALIA has signed a new bilateral treaty with the small Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu which is under threat from rising sea levels.
The deal was announced by Australian PM Anthony Albanese and his Tuvalu counterpart, Kausea Natano, at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum held in the Cook Islands.
The Australia–Tuvalu Falepili Union treaty covers climate change, migration and security; “falepili” is a Tuvaluan word for the traditional values of good neighbourliness, care and mutual respect.
Under the new treaty: Australia will assist Tuvalu during natural disasters, health pandemics and military aggression; Tuvalu will seek Australia’s approval on any security deal it may want to sign with another country and Australia will create a new visa to allow 280 Tuvaluans to migrate to Australia every year.
“I was honoured to sign the Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union with Prime Minister Natano, in response to Tuvalu’s request for a closer relationship between our countries,” PM Albanese said.
On security, PM Natano said his country recognised Taiwan as an independent country and that they had been approached by China to establish diplomatic ties in exchange for dropping their recognition of Taiwan.
Albanese wouldn’t rule out Tuvalu granting Australian military the freedom to pass through its territorial waters.
Tuvalu is situated about halfway between Hawaii and Australia; geographically, it’s positioned both in the Southern and Eastern hemispheres of the Earth and comprises of three reef islands and six true coral atolls. The total land area of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometers and it has a population of just over 11,000 people.
Australia will also support Tuvalu’s climate adaptation interests, including additional funding for the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project which will expand Funafuti’s land by around 6 per cent.
PM Albanese also briefed Forum leaders on his government’s action to reduce Australia’s emissions and build clean energy industries, and announced further investments.
“We recognise the climate crisis is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of people in the Pacific,” he said.
“Australia is committed to enduring partnerships in the region.
“We have listened to the needs of our Pacific neighbours and are committed to addressing shared challenges in partnership with Forum members.
Australia will contribute at least $350m in climate infrastructure for the region, including $75m on off-grid and community scale renewable energy in remote parts of the Pacific.
Australia will contribute to the new Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF), a Pacific-built trust fund that will be established to invest in small-scale climate and disaster resilient projects, and to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the most prominent global climate finance fund, while advocating for GCF financing to the Pacific.
Working smoke alarm helps residents flee townhouse fire - Auburn
Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) is crediting a smoke alarm for saving the lives of two people as fire engulfed a townhouse at Auburn, in Sydney's west.
Around 20 firefighters and six fire trucks responded to the blaze which broke out on Park Road, near York Street, just before 6am today.
Flames consumed the upper-level of the two-storey home, burning so intensely they caused the roof and walls to collapse.
A woman inside the home was alerted to the emergency by a working smoke alarm and was able to wake the other resident.
They made it out safely, without injury.
FRNSW crews battled for almost an hour to contain the fire, preventing it from spreading to four adjoining townhouses within the complex.
The neighbours were evacuated from their homes as a precaution.
The fire was extinguished by 7:30am; however, crews remained on-scene for several hours to douse hotspots.
The townhouse was destroyed by the blaze.
Experts from FRNSW's Fire Investigation and Research Unit (FIRU) are working to establish precisely where and how the fire started.
City lights up to celebrate Diwali
Parramatta’s streets will be filled with the lights, colour, and flavours of Diwali as celebrations kick off across the City this weekend.
Diwali, also known as Deepavali, is a festival of lights and one of the major festivals celebrated by Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs annually. It marks the start of the Hindu New Year.
City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Pierre Esber said the city was the place to be this Diwali.
“From the CBD to Little India in Harris Park, there’s plenty of places to get a taste of Diwali,” Cr Esber said.
“Parramatta is a city that thrives on its multiculturism, and the Diwali festival is testament to the vibrant tapestry of cultures that make up our community.”
Cr Esber said it’s a celebration that everyone from all backgrounds can get involved in.
Join in the Diwali celebrations at PHIVE by:
• Visiting the Journey of Shri Ram exhibition. Running over three weekends from Friday 17 November to Sunday 3 December, the exhibition celebrates Ramayana tradition through traditional art, activities for children, story telling and flower garland making workshops.
• Getting some free henna hand art. Free henna art will be provided between 10am and 2pm each day between Friday 10 November and Sunday 12 November.