Don’t fear a post-Howard Aus­tralia, say Jewish lead­ers

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY DAN GOLD­BERG SYD­NEY

IT MAY be the end of the “golden age” of the Jews un­der John Howard’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, but the likely elec­tion of the Labour Party’s Kevin Rudd next week will not her­ald the be­gin­ning of a dark age for Jews Down Un­der.

That is the ma­jor­ity view of Jewish lead­ers and an­a­lysts can­vassed by the JC ahead of the fed­eral elec­tion on Novem­ber 24.

Mr Howard, a staunch sup­porter of the Jewish com­mu­nity and one of Is­rael’s strong­est al­lies in the in­ter­na­tional arena, has been show­ered with awards by ma­jor Jewish com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions.

But polls have con­sis­tently been pre­dict­ing his 11-year reign will be ended by a rein­vig­o­rated Labour Party that an­a­lysts are com­par­ing to “New Labour” un­der Tony Blair and Gor­don Brown.

Al­though Labour’s re­la­tion­ship with the com­mu­nity was strained at the height of the in­tifada, re­la­tions have warmed since Mr Rudd was elected leader last De­cem­ber.

The 50-year-old Queens­lan­der has pledged $A20m (£8.5m) over four years to help fund se­cu­rity for Jewish schools, vowed a Labour gov­ern­ment would not ne­go­ti­ate with Ha­mas, and has called on the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to try Iran’s pres­i­dent at the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice for in­cite­ment to geno­cide fol­low­ing his call for Is­rael to be “wiped off the map”.

As nom­i­na­tions closed last week, six Jews were reg­is­tered as can­di­dates with sev­eral other Labour politi­cians re­veal­ing strong ties to the 110,000strong com­mu­nity.

The most likely of the six to be elected is Labour’s Michael Danby, the only cur­rent MP in the fed­eral par­lia­ment who iden­ti­fies as a Jew. He said he was con­fi­dent a Rudd gov­ern­ment would be good for the Jews and for Is­rael.

Point­ing to Bri­tain’s New Labour, Mr Danby told the JC: “Apart from Blair- Brown gov­ern­ments, there won’t be an ad­min­is­tra­tion which is more sym­pa­thetic to Is­rael on the left-cen­tre side of pol­i­tics [than Rudd’s Labour] un­til Hil­lary Clin­ton be­comes pres­i­dent of the United States.”

Philip Men­des, co-ed­i­tor of Jews and Aus­tralian Pol­i­tics, said a Labour gov­ern­ment was likely to be “as friendly if not more friendly” to Is­rael than the gov­ern­ments of Blair and Brown.

“All the key Labour fig­ures are pro-Is­rael,” he said. “The only anti-Is­rael pos­tur­ing comes from a few on the left. The Labour Party has very sim­i­lar ideas and phi­los­o­phy to the UK’s New Labour.”

But Chemi Shalev, a vet­eran Is­raeli po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor who has spent the last four years in Aus­tralia, told the JC: “Though Rudd can also be con­sid­ered a good friend of Is­rael… noth­ing can re­place the ex­cep­tional warmth and un­der­stand­ing that Is­rael gar­nered dur­ing the Howard years from the PM and his top min­is­ters.”

He ex­pected Labour’s “less gush­ing” sup­port for Is­rael to man­i­fest at the UN, “where Rudd is al­ready on record as dis­so­ci­at­ing him­self from Aus­tralia’s stead­fast sup­port for Is­rael”.

Mr Danby, who is be­ing chal­lenged by an­other Jew, Adam Held, is likely to be joined in Can­berra by Mark Drey­fus, QC. And in Syd­ney, the na­tion’s largest Jewish elec­torate could swing the bat­tle for the mar­ginal seat of Went­worth in Labour’s favour, giv­ing Ge­orge Ne­w­house, a Jewish hu­man-rights lawyer, a seat in par­lia­ment at the ex­pense of En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull, a strong pro-Is­rael sup­porter.

In ad­di­tion, shadow health min­is­ter Ni­cola Roxon re­vealed last week that her fa­ther was a Pol­ish Jew. Colonel Mike Kelly, an­other prob­a­ble Labour MP, is mar­ried to an Is­raeli.

The Jewish com­mu­nity has en­joyed bi­par­ti­san sup­port since Is­rael’s es­tab­lish­ment, with the brief ex­cep­tion of Gough Whit­lam’s Labour gov­ern­ment in the early 1970s.

PHOTO: IN­GRID SHAKEN­OVSKY

Op­po­si­tion leader Kevin Rudd ( sec­ond from left) vis­its a Jewish school

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