20 June 2016

ECAJ 2016 Federal Election Questionnaire

20th June 2016

As the elected representative body and voice of the of the Australian Jewish community, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry is determined to ensure that our community is engaged in the political process and informed about the policies and views of the main parties contesting the 2016 federal election.

To this end, we asked the Coalition, the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Greens, the Jacqui Lambie Network and the Nick Xenophon Team to answer specific questions about issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community, including matters relating to our physical security and our freedom to practice our faith, and on Australia-Israel relations and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The complete responses of each party can be accessed via our website, together with a comparative Table of key extracts from each party’s answers.

We wish to convey our appreciation to each of the parties for their co-operation and comprehensive responses, which will serve to inform both our community and the broader public ahead of the forthcoming election. We encourage everyone to read all of the responses carefully and to make their own assessments. The following observations are intended to highlight points which we believe will be of particular interest to members of the Jewish community.

Communal security
At present, on the basis of security assessments by law enforcement agencies, the Commonwealth Government provides direct assistance to Jewish and other religious schools to meet part of their security costs. No financial assistance is provided for other vulnerable facilities including community centres, museums and synagogues. In the case of non-school Jewish institutions, such costs are met entirely by the Jewish community itself.
Both the Coalition and Labor have now pledged to extend the category of communal facilities which are eligible for security funding assistance.
The Coalition has announced the establishment of a $40 million Safer Communities Fund, part of which will in part be directed to “community organisations that are facing security risks associated with racial or religious intolerance.”
Labor has also acknowledged the need to “support necessary improvement to security in the wider community” and has announced that it will commit $500,000 to “significantly upgrade security at the Beth Weizmann Community Centre in Melbourne.
The Jacqui Lambie Network supports extending security assistance to Jewish communal facilities.
The Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team have both indicated that they would support commonwealth funding for communal facilities where the merits of doing so have been established.

Education
The Coalition, Labor and the Greens have all promised to increase funding for independent schools, including Jewish schools.
Labor and the Greens are in favour of full implementation of the Gonski reforms.
Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie would maintain current levels of funding for independent schools, including Jewish schools.

Racial Vilification
All parties have stated they do not support repeal or amendment of sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Labor and the Greens have affirmed their steadfast support for the Racial Discrimination Act and highlighted their role in opposing previous attempts to repeal or weaken sections 18C and 18D.

Israel
Palestinian Statehood
The Coalition and Jacqui Lambie Network have expressly rejected recognition of a Palestinian State other than in the context of a negotiated peace agreement with Israel.
Labor has confirmed that, as resolved at its 2015 National Conference, the Party would consider recognising a Palestinian state if the next round of peace negotiations fails to yield a two-state solution.
Nick Xenophon has reiterated his support for a two-state solution but has not stated whether he supports recognising a Palestinian state other than as a consequence of a negotiated peace agreement.
The Greens recognise a Palestinian state.
Australia-Israel relations
Every party with the exception of the Greens explicitly supports greater bilateral relations between Israel and Australia at all levels, including government, business, cultural, academic and people-to-people. The Greens have stated that any bilateral relations should promote peace, democracy, human rights and other values and that Australia’s relationship with Israel should reflect these principles.
BDS
BDS is not the policy of any political party in Australia.
Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie have both stated that they do not support BDS.
The Greens have affirmed that BDS is not the policy of the Australian Greens.
Labor has forcefully repudiated BDS, referring to prior consistent statements to this effect, and has also branded BDS as “harming Palestinian people economically” and “unhelpful to the Middle East peace process.”
The Coalition states that BDS is a “blatantly antisemitic campaign” and has denounced those who support it “… including university academics, trade unions, members of the Labor Party, the Greens and Local Government.”
The Coalition and the Jacqui Lambie Network have also stated that in addition to opposing BDS they are opposed to MPs providing political or other support for individuals or organisations which promote BDS.

Religious Freedom
Shechita
The Greens have not stated whether they are in favour of maintaining existing laws concerning religious slaughter of animals in Australia and have called for “greater accountability and transparency in all Australian abattoirs”.
All other parties have confirmed that they are in favour of maintaining existing laws relating to kosher slaughter.
Freedom of Conscience
All parties are in favour of religious ministers retaining the right to decide for themselves whether they wish to solemnise any marriage.
The Greens support the repeal of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.

Antisemitism
The Coalition, Labor and the Jacqui Lambie Network accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)-endorsed definition of antisemitism, which also recognises antisemitism in the context of extreme attacks on the State of Israel, involving for example, Holocaust inversion or the denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
Nick Xenophon and the Greens have issued general condemnations of antisemitism without adopting the IHRA-endorsed definition.