Melissa Parke quits as Labor’s Curtin ‘star candidate’ over Israel remarks

“I’ve had 20 years experience in international relations and law including living and working in the Middle East,” she said

“My views are well known.

“But I don’t want them to be a running distraction from electing a Labor Government, which will take urgent and strong action on climate change.

“That’s why I have decided to withdraw my candidacy.

“I look forward to working and supporting the party in other ways.”

The remarks have been widely circulated throughout Jewish communities on the east coast and it is understood Victorian Labor are particularly concerned about the seat of Mcnamara, which has a large number of Jewish voters and which will be vacated by retiring MP Michael Danby.

“There are already 137 nations that recognise the state of Palestine, that is more than 70 per cent of the world,” she said to a meeting of the WA Labor Friends of Labor in March.

“And, inshallah [Arabic for ‘God willing’], Australia will join that consensus once we have a Federal Labor government.

“It’s also time finally for Australia to support an end to the brutal occupation of Palestine and for the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.”

Ms Parke, a former lawyer for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Gaza, said Australia had to break away from its “strategic dependence” on the United States and recognise Palestine as a state, which is contrary to Labor policy.

Labor had been looking to draw Liberal resources to the seat of Curtin in WA after the retirement of the former foreign minister.

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Curtin, which the Liberals hold by a margin of 20.7 per cent, is one of the safest in the country, but sources have suggested the selection of conservative Celia Hammond and the retirement of the high-profile Ms Bishop could reduce the party’s margin.

Ms Parke was a human rights lawyer before entering Parliament in 2007 and a junior minister for several months before Kevin Rudd lost office in 2013.

She was a strident critic of the offshore detention of asylum seekers and delivered several speeches excoriating the Coalition’s “stop the boats” politics, even denouncing her own party for its support of the government’s immigration policies.

In her outgoing speech in 2016, she said the government “falsely accuses asylum seekers of arriving illegally when, as observed by the United Nations and the Australian Human Rights Commission among others, it is Australia that is violating its legal obligations”.

Nathan is WAtoday’s political reporter.

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