I am pleased to be here today to represent Australian trade unions and to add our voice with yours to call for peace, to speak against racism and to call for human rights to be respected and upheld.

This call applies to everyone involved in the conflict we are witnessing in the Middle East.

Today’s announcement by Israel of a ceasefire now needs immediate implementation.

A sustained end to all hostilities. No more bombs, no more murder, no more excuses. An immediate end to the violence.

Our government and all others must pressure Israel and Hamas to make sure this is the end of the war.

The ACTU – and the two million workers we represent – demand that the governments of the world take the action needed to ensure this terrible destruction never happens again.

A just and lasting peace: No solution is just, that allows one side to bomb and terrorise the other into submission; or allows negotiation to be overridden by violence.

1.5 million people live in the Gaza Strip, half of them are children, and two thirds are refugees under United Nations protection. Half of the people of Gaza live in extreme poverty, and most are without a job.

In this latest war, workers in Gaza’s hospitals, schools and police stations have been killed or injured for showing up to work. Ambulance and other health workers have been bombed and fired upon while trying to rescue the injured. Scores of children are among the dead.

We demand lasting justice for Gaza.

For the one and a half million people of Gaza, conditions are desperate. A million are now without power, half are without clean water, and food and medical supplies are rare. Thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of jobs have disappeared.

The deaths and injuries of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as a result of the Israeli military attacks are to be deplored. The military attacks by Israeli on a trapped civilian population are unacceptable by all norms of humanity and international law and should not be tolerated by the international community.

The “deathtoll” are people. Now more than 1200 are dead. This destruction has also been of people’s homes, workplaces and livelihoods, of families and communities. Such destruction causing massive physical, economic, social and psychological damage.

A peaceful end to violence in the Middle East requires a willingness to negotiate. To achieve a lasting peace, requires a commitment to the international rule of law, including justice for both Palestinians and Isrealis.

The Israeli-imposed blockade of the Gaza Strip since June 2007 has decimated the Palestinian economy and forced the Palestinian population into a dependence on food aid. However, even the food aid programs operated by the United Nations have been suspended due to the depletion of stocks and lack of incoming supplies.

The global trade union movement, representing hundreds of millions of workers, adds its voice to demands for desperately needed humanitarian relief.

Trade unionists in Australia, some are here today, are providing urgently needed support for people in Gaza through our agency, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA. We urge you to support this work. And we urge you to tell your friends and colleagues to channel their grief and frustration into this vital and practical support.

Only when Palestinians and Israelis secure the right to live and work in peace and prosperity will we see and end to conflict.

The trade unions of this country demand peace – peace for ordinary people whoever they are, whichever their country, whatever their religion.

It is their right.

We say ensure this is the end of the war

Stop the killing

No more excuses.

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Photos courtesy of Leon Zembekis