TV Interview with Natalie Barr and Matt Shirvington - Sunrise - 03/04/2024

03 April 2024



Subjects: Death of Lalzawmi ‘Zomi’ Frankcom; Hamas-Israel conflict.

MATT SHIRVINGTON, HOST: Well, the Australian Government is demanding answers from Israel following the death of an Australian aid worker. Zomi Frankcom was killed in an Israeli air strike alongside six of her colleagues.

NATALIE BARR, HOST: The Prime Minister has described the incident as "an unacceptable tragedy". The Israel Defence Force has admitted they were behind the air strike and would now conduct a review to determine how the tragedy happened.

For more let's bring in Foreign Minister, Penny Wong. Good morning to you, Minister. Zomi's family have said she was a kind, a selfless and an outstanding human being. What response has Israel given to explain her death?

PENNY WONG, FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, first, can we all pause just to honour the life of Zomi Frankcom. She was a woman whose life was dedicated to the service of others. I want to express on behalf of so many Australians to her family our sympathy, we mourn with you. And what we would say as the Australian Government about these events is they are outrageous, and they are unacceptable.

Zomi was an aid worker in a conflict zone who died as a consequence of an attack. She ought to have been protected. I spoke to the Foreign Minister of Israel overnight, made clear we condemn the strike and expressed to him the outrage of the nation.

SHIRVINGTON: Israel has taken responsibility for the air strike. They say they'll investigate. What's your reaction to that pledge?

FOREIGN MINISTER: We expect, as I said to Foreign Minister Katz last night, we expect a full investigation and we expect full accountability. Then this needs to have – these events, these tragic events are unacceptable and there needs to be full accountability from the Israeli Government for what occurred.

BARR: Following the Hamas attacks last year, you said, ‘we stand with Israel and reiterate its right to defend itself,’ that was obviously, you know, after the October 7 attack. Has that position changed now that we are sitting here this morning with a young woman dead?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Look, I am deeply concerned, as so many are, about the loss of civilian life in this conflict. I am outraged by the death of an Australian citizen, and I have said publicly, as has the Prime Minister, we want an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

We have said directly to the Netanyahu Government that their actions are meaning that they are losing support amongst many countries, and I would say again what I've said to them directly, that the Netanyahu Government must change course.

I would also say, we continue to expect Israel to comply with international humanitarian law, and that includes the protection of people who are delivering aid.

SHIRVINGTON: It's very hard to stop Australians from going over and helping. We're very good at it. We have great humanitarians that work in conflicts all over the world. How many are in Gaza? Do we know the number of Australians that are helping out there, and are you asking them to come home?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I don't know the exact number of Australians who are working either in or with, you know, charities, NGOs, UN organisations who are working in Gaza. But you're right, Australians are – you find Australians all over the world working for humanitarian organisations, you find Australians working to deliver aid, to deliver medical supplies, working to provide medical assistance, and those Australians are doing something for their fellow human beings. That's what Zomi Frankcom was doing, and she ought to have been protected.

BARR: The US continues to support Israel with military aid giving the country billions of dollars annually. Given this latest attack on these aid workers, do you think the US should reconsider elements of their support for Israel militarily?

FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, I can only speak for the Australian Government, which is we do not provide weapons to Israel, and we have not provided such weapons for, I'm advised, the last five years.

SHIRVINGTON: Daniel Hagari, the Israel Defense Force, put a statement out saying that they'll get to the bottom of it, they'll be transparent with the findings. When would you like to know what happened here?

FOREIGN MINISTER: As soon as possible. I think Zomi's family and friends deserve that accountability to be expeditious, that is to not have to wait for a lengthy period to get the answers. People deserve answers in a circumstance where, I think it's seven aid workers were killed in this strike; obviously one, Zomi Frankcom, an Australian citizen, but there were others, both Palestinians and also reports of other foreigners, foreign nationals.

BARR: Yeah, just amazing young people, as you say, doing their job to help other people. Minister, we thank you very much for your time today.

FOREIGN MINISTER: Thanks for having me.


Media Contact:
Foreign Minister's Office: +61 2 6277 7500

Authorised by Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia.