SUBJECTS: 34 Novocastrians trapped in Tel Aviv
SCOTT BEVAN, ABC DRIVE: You're with Scott Bevan, thanks so much for your company this afternoon. We're just speaking with Father Greg Barker, who has just returned to the Hunter from the Middle East, but others have not been able to get out, including Hunter people who have been on their own spiritual pilgrimage in that part of the world, that ancient and holy part of the world. And the were caught up in that dreadful situation on the weekend. Well, someone who's been following this, who has been working to try and get some of those local families, local people out of there is the federal member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon and she joins me in the studio now. Thanks for your time.
SHARON CLAYDON MP. FEDERAL MEMBER FOR NEWCASTKE: Thanks, Scott.
BEVAN: How many Hunter residents are you aware of who are caught up over there in the region?
CLAYDON: 34 that I'm aware of.
BEVAN: 34? And what sort of communication have you had with them?
CLAYDON: I've been able to speak to the West family who are thankfully on their way home but it was really very telling to me the sort of, there's both calmness, but anxiousness on behalf of so many people in their voices and being, wanting to be very clear with me, I think, about the needs of that group of Novacastrians and what was happening on the ground. So very, it made it all very, very real and bought it home very, very strongly to me, and then having those conversations with family members, people who are, you know, with different church organisations here in Newcastle now who have all been part of that group of people. So many there are literally hundreds of 1000s of Australians in both Israel and Palestine right now. These are holy lands for so many people, whether you're Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and, and so they are places that people gather from all corners of the earth. And so they're, it's a really, really distressing time for, I think, absolutely everybody.
BEVAN: How hard has it been to get those people out of there? And indeed, how many are still there waiting to get out of there?
CLAYDON: Look, the good case is hopefully we'll have six Novacastrians out of there, on touching down into safe territories within hours.
BEVAN: they're flying to Europe are they?
CLAYDON: Many people are people are just getting out wherever they can. Really. So often, that will be you know, maybe the first port of call might be Dubai. It is a case of getting on whatever commercial flights you can get out there, I think it's very unlikely you would get any kind of direct flight arrangements. So the situation is having to get on a commercial flight out of Tel Aviv, which is where Novocastrians are, and then making those connections home from there.
BEVAN: Was there any thought given or I'm sure there was But was there any movement towards supplying transportation, getting military aircraft over there or partnering with other countries such as the US or any of the European countries with many residents there in Israel as well, to get our people out quicker?
CLAYDON: Yeah, so I'm talking like, several times a day into the Foreign Minister's office, who have direct contact with local authorities on the ground. They're monitoring that situation very, very closely. And, you know, soon. Their advice now is to get out on commercial flights now, everybody who can, but we will be unrelenting in our observations of what's happening. And making sure we're doing everything we can to get safe passage of Australian citizens back home.
BEVAN: So for the Novocastrians who are there, six are out. So therefore 28 are still in Israel.
CLAYDON: They have flight bookings. And they're obviously hopeful, but the reality is that many of these fights get canceled. And so it's a roller coaster road for a lot of people. That was the experience of those that have gone out as well. There were a few false starts. And you know, I really have to pay tribute to the family members back here as well who are doing a lot of that hard work of that constant dialing in, scheduling flights, rebooking rebooking and, and you know, it is heartbreaking work
BEVAN: And frustrating. Some family members have felt that the Australian Government could have and should have done more to get people out quicker.
CLAYDON: I have been listening to that frustration too. I think it is, I just keep reassuring people that there are lots of moving parts. And there are lots of conversations happening. And we're working very closely with local authorities. And it is, you know, our it is a distressing situation for everyone. It's not just obviously my primary focus is on 34 people that I'm aware of from our region, but there are hundreds of thousands of Australians we need to look after as well.
BEVAN: Which circles back to do we need more than just rely on commercial flights which can be cancelled at a moment's notice? Therefore, do we need to get our own fleet over there to get these people out?
CLAYDON: Emergency situations are being dealt with as they arise, absolutely. And, and there are additional resources that have been put into the emergency consulate line. There's a team of people kind of working to assure safety in what is a very, very tense part of the world. I mean, it was not an entirely safe place to visit even beforehand. I mean, there have always been travel warnings in this area. That's no consolation to people there now, of course, but you definitely should not be traveling to this region now. Under any circumstances. We can we're battling to get Australians home now. So we don't want to be putting anyone else at risk.
BEVAN: What was your impressions of and reaction to the pro Palestinian rally that was held in Sydney yesterday afternoon into the evening?
CLAYDON: Look, I think this is a distressing time for so many Australians. And, you know, there were elements I know that this has really fractured the Palestinian community in Australia too. There were elements there that were less than helpful. And it is heartbreaking. My focus for my community here in Newcastle now, I am in touch with both the rabbi at the Jewish synagogue here. The sheiks it my two mosques that I have to reaffirm my personal commitment that I believe the commitment of the people of Newcastle to be peacebuilders. And it's important to me that everybody in this community feels safe, respected, wanted, a place to call home. And that is certainly the message I'm delivering. I know that, you know, there are prayers for peace happening on all sides, on also on all sides. For people of Muslim faith, that means five times a day at the moment. I mean, they're they pray five times a day, as a matter of religious practice. But I know that those prayers are for peace.
BEVAN: And you'll be joining in those prayers.
CLAYDON: I am absolutely, I have explained to all members of my community that anybody interested in building peace and, having opportunities to reflect together and to be joined in our common humanity, I put my hand up for that anytime.
BEVAN: Federal member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon it's a busy month, well it's always a busy time for you, but particularly so with with a whole lot of tense families out there waiting to hear that their loved ones are out of danger. And I appreciate in the midst of all that you've made time to come in here. Thank you.
CLAYDON: Thank you and, look, people who are feeling anxious should definitely reach out and you know, my door is open. I'll always do everything I can.
BEVAN: Thank you. Sharon Claydon there, Newcastle MP.