Simon Birmingham accuses Labor on being ‘weak’ on Hamas, calls for more targeted sanctions

Labor is “falling behind in the fight against terrorism”, the Coalition has claimed, as they call for more targeted sanctions against high-ranking Hamas officials.

The United States and United Kingdom this week teamed up to announce a fresh round of sanctions against leaders and financiers of the terrorist group and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, prompting the opposition to question why Australia is not in lock-step with its AUKUS partners.

Foreign affairs spokesman, Simon Birmingham, lambasted the government for “leaving Australia lagging behind our allies” and not applying “important sanctions” against the terrorist group.

“Labor’s unwillingness to use the powers it has to target those responsible for and supporting terrorism falls far short of our allies in applying the practical mechanisms that will have real impact in supporting Israel’s campaign to disable Hamas and prevent it from committing such atrocities again,” Senator Birmingham said in a statement.

The latest criticism comes after Australia voted in favour of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire at the United Nations General Assembly this week, a notable split from the US which voted against the resolution, and the UK, which abstained.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday defended the vote as the “right call”, because the “number of casualties are just quite terrible there in Gaza – and every innocent life counts, whether it be Israeli or Palestinian”.

He added that Hamas must be disarmed and could never govern Gaza, condemning “unequivocally the atrocities that occurred on October 7”.

Since the deadly attacks, Australia has issued one round of sanctions against Hamas, compared to four by the US and two by the UK.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong announced stringent counter-terrorism financing sanctions against eight people and one entity linked to Hamas on November 17.

In total, there are eight entities and 11 persons associated with Hamas subject to counter-terrorism financing sanctions.

The entirety of Hamas has been designated a terrorist organisation since March 4 last year, and as such any individual associated with the organisation is subject to sanctions.

Hamas’ paramilitary wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has been designated a terrorist organisation since November 2003.

Australia can impose targeted counter-terrorism financing sanctions, which make it a criminal offence to provide assets to sanctioned individuals or to deal with their assets. It’s punishable by up to 10 years behind bars and heavy fines.

Senator Birmingham said the Coalition “specifically” was calling on the government to “urgently sanction” senior Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar – reported to have played a key role in the October 7 attacks; and the group’s co-founder Mahmoud Khaled Zahhar.

Both have been subject to extensive sanctions in the US and UK.

Senator Birmingham said Australia “should be ensuring that our actions multiply the impact of like-minded nations, rather than risk being a safe haven for the assets or activities of those who promulgate terror”.

“It took six weeks after the October 7 attacks before this Labor government finally imposed counter-terrorism financing sanctions … While the Coalition welcomed these few, belated sanctions, Australia’s response falls well short of that of the UK and the US, both of which have now applied multiple rounds of sanctions,” he said.

“Australia should be working in lock-step with allies to dismantle Hamas’s financial infrastructure, including from external sources and block new funding channels they seek to finance their heinous acts.

“The weakness of the Albanese Labor government against terrorism is of deep concern and must be rectified.”

A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said: “It is the Australian government’s longstanding practice not to comment on potential sanctions”.

“Providing information about potential listings may provide entities and individuals with time to move assets outside of Australia and render the sanctions against them less effective,” they said.

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