23 June 2016

Response to the Election Questionnaire, from Dr Bill Leadbetter, Labor for Hasluck

The following is the response to the Jewish Community Council Questionnaire, received from Dr Bill Leadbetter, Labor for Hasluck.
1.  Safety and Security
The Jewish Community is increasingly concerned about the safety and security of community members and assets. (Refer to Appendix 1 – Jewish Community Security.)

Do you envisage any changes to government support and funding of Jewish-community security? If so, what changes?

The Jewish community has a legitimate concern about the safety and security of its members and institutions. I have seen Australian synagogues defaced with vile graffiti; I can remember the concern when Central Synagogue in Sydney burned down in 1994 that it had been arson and not (as proved subsequently) an electrical fault. I have been privileged to teach, meet with and know the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. It is a disgrace that any racial, religious or ethnic group in Australia has a need to feel concern about the physical safety and well-being of its community. If and where it can be shown that members of the Jewish community face concerns for their safety and security I commit to working with existing law enforcement to ensure the community's protection. I also commit to assisting and advocating for increased government aid for necessary security infrastructure, particularly around sites like synagogues and schools

2.  Private Schools

Do you envisage making changes to government funding of our Private Schools? If so, what changes?

My position on this is consistent with the Labor Party position on school funding, both private and public

3.  Religious Freedom

Observance of the Jewish religion and customs include the ritual circumcision (“brit milah”) of male children at the age of 8 days, and observing Jewish dietary laws (eating food that is rabbinically-certified as kosher). Do you envisage making changes to any of the following? If so, what changes?
·         regulation of brit milah
·         regulation of kosher slaughter (“shechita”)
·         regulation of kosher certification
I have very firm religious convictions of my own. When I lived in NSW, they led me to involvement in the NSW Council of Christians and Jews, which I chaired for two years and of which I was also President. I believe in a co-existence that goes beyond mere tolerance but is founded in mutual respect. That includes the practice of brit milah and respect for dietary laws, so, I do not envision supporting any changes to these practices. I believe in the freedom to practise one's own religion and culture within the law, and would not support any changes in those areas.

4.  Israel

Our community overwhelmingly supports Zionism as the modern political movement for the self-determination of the Jewish people; and Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Do you support those notions?

I've visited Israel four times, the majority of which in my capacity as a historian and a scholar of the Holocaust. If there's one thing I learned from my career researching and teaching the single greatest crime in human history, it is that the Jewish people need a homeland, a nation of their own, in which they are secure and through which they are in control of their own future.

I couldn't be stronger in my support for Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. That is it's very purpose

Do you support the strengthening and enhancement of government-to-government and people-to-people ties between Australians and Israelis at all levels, including trade/economic, academic and cultural ties?

Simply put – yes, I do.

Do you consider Australian-media reporting on Israel to be fair and unbiased? If not, would you take any specific action or make any statements to promote fair, unbiased reporting?  

There are two kinds of anti-Israel bias that I would argue exist within the Australian media and their reporting of events in the Middle East.

Firstly, there is the explicit anti-Israel bias of certain reporters and outlets, whose journalism contains such errors of fact and such distortions that it can only be deliberate. Far too often the ABC will fall into this trap, particularly their Middle East reporter Sophie O'Neill.
Second, and much more widespread, is the implicit and often unknowing bias demonstrated against Israel by commercial news outlets in Australia, I say unknowing, because many of the errors propagated by these outlets are simply repetitions of claims and errors made elsewhere – often internationally. Under pressure of timelines, diminished resources and research capacities, many journalists and newsrooms today do not have a deliberate bias against the Jewish state but are merely repeating a prevailing narrative.

I don't believe that journalists or news media organisations take their cues on journalistic tone or content from politicians. However, what I can and will do as a member of Parliament is to promote the truth about Israel and Middle East, whether that be through speeches, interviews, media comment generally or my own political material.

Arab leaders have created a culture of death that motivates terrorism. (Refer to Appendix 2 – Incitement to Terror.) Do you consider that Australia could make a practical difference, especially considering that about a third of the Palestinian Authority’s budget is financed by foreign aid? 

The Palestinian people are the highest recipients of UN aid, per capita, of any people group anywhere in the world. The United Nations Relief Works Agency is set up solely to service the Palestinian people – no other people group on earth has a UN agency devoted entirely to them. Despite this, most Palestinians languish in poverty and lack basic educational, health and economic opportunities.
The predominant reason for this is the corruption, misappropriation and rhetoric of the Palestinian leadership. Many if not most of the leaders of Fatah and Hamas are not friends of the poor – they are, rather, friends of poverty.
Australian aid money should never be knowingly spent on corrupt activity, much less be allowed to be siphoned into violent activity. Hamas in particular has been credibly shown to have appropriated international aid money for weapons purchases and the building of terrorist infrastructure; in the process, a good many of UNRWA's staff and facilities have been co-opted into the attempt by Hamas to murder Israeli civilians and attack Israeli communities. While there is, sadly, a limit to the influence Australia has within the UN, I would strongly support withdrawing any aid that can be shown to have been used in this way (be it within the Middle East or in any other context).

There have been calls for unilateral recognition of a “Palestinian” State that does not yet exist. (Refer to Appendix 3 – Unilateral Recognition of a “Palestinian State”.) Will you take any action to oppose Australian recognition of such a unilateral declaration?

In the lead-up to the last National Conference of my party (the Labor Party,) in 2015 attempts were made by some individuals to include unilateral recognition of a state of Palestine within the Party platform. Then-Senator Joe Bullock of WA, himself a strong supporter of the State of Israel and the Jewish community, published an opinion piece in the Australian newspaper condemning the move
I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments he expressed and would vote and speak against any further attempts to push Labor towards such a unilateral recognition of a State of Palestine

 5.  Global Antisemitism
There is a global campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist, including a “Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which is aimed at destroying Israel, in the guise of promoting peace between Israel and its neighbours. (Refer to Appendix 4 – The BDS Campaign.) Will you take any action or make any statements to stop this hateful campaign in Australia and globally?

I oppose the BDS campaign and am pleased that the Labor Party's platform likewise rejects it.
Should there be any attempt to change this position inside the Labor Party I will be one of the first to fight that change.

6.  Antisemitism in Australia

Our community has a high degree of concern about the influence, in Australia, of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist movements such as the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and other forms of de-legitimisation of Israel and the cover they provide for anti-Semites to express their hatred. Do you envisage taking any action in relation to any of the following? If so, what action?
·         Legal protections against promotion of racial hatred and of racially-motivated violence.  
·         Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act.
·         The activities of radical preachers in schools and religious institutions.
·         Public and school education campaigns against violent and/or extremist ideologies.
As an historian, I know where anti-Semitic language leads. There is a necessary link between word, intention and act. I will not be a bystander. I strongly support protections against promoting racial hatred, including the retention of sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act in their current form. I know where tolerance of the intolerable leads, and regard such legislation as a necessary clarification of what freedom of speech actually means.
Labor leader Bill Shorten has likened radical preachers, and those who preach hatred, to predators who target children and teenagers. It’s an assessment with which I agree. To combat this I would urge governments to introduce a program of education in schools; if it's good enough to teach our young children tolerance for those in alternative sexual and gender lifestyles, its good enough to teach our children tolerance and acceptance for all racial and religious and ethnic backgrounds.

7.  Relations with Iran

Iran continues to contravene its international obligations and remains the greatest state sponsor of global terrorism. (Refer to Appendix 5 – Iran: a Rogue State.)

Do you envisage making any changes to the following, without prior public consultation?
·         additional diplomatic representation of Iran in Australia
·         further relaxation of sanctions and expansion of trade

Liberal Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has disgracefully entered into intelligence-sharing deals with Iran, as well as entertaining the establishment of an Iranian embassy in Melbourne. These are decisions with which I strongly disagree.

Along with Labor figures like Michael Danby, I oppose these measures and any others like them.