AIJAC asks policy questions

June 3, 2016 by Tzvi Fleischer
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The Coalition and the ALP have answered election policy questions posed by The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council.

In keeping with a long-standing pre-election tradition AIJAC sent a series of 13 policy questions to the campaigns of both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, leading the Liberal/National coalition, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, leading the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to help their supporters as they go to the polls on July 2.

The questions – designed to focus on political issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community – deal with matters including Israel and the peace process, communal education, counter-terrorism and communal security, the Iranian nuclear issue, multiculturalism, racial hatred laws and monitoring our public broadcasters. The answers from both campaigns are presented here in full:

 

1. What is the importance to Australia of its relationship with Israel and how can that relationship be strengthened?

COALITION

Coalition leader Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Coalition leader Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

The Coalition Government places a very high priority on the relationship with Israel and recognises its strategic, economic and cultural importance.

Israel is a beacon of freedom and democracy in a region beset with violence and sectarian conflicts. It is a vibrant and tolerant society in an area that lacks freedoms.

Australia and Israel have shared interests in the maintenance of peace and security in the Middle East and beyond.

Israel is a centre of innovation in many spheres including technology, agriculture and medicine, science and research. There are many areas of mutual interest, with Australia also being a leading nation in medical, technological and agricultural innovation.

We have many shared historic, economic and cultural interests that elevate the relationship to one of our strongest and deepest.

ALP

Labor leader Bill Shorten

Labor leader Bill Shorten

Australia and Israel’s strong relationship is based on shared values: a commitment to democracy, freedom, and security. We have common experience as multicultural societies whose citizens come from all over the world. As well as government-to-government ties we have strong people-to-people bonds. Our economic exchange and cooperation in other areas such as science, research and education areas has benefited both our nations.

Expanding our academic, economic and scientific exchange and connections will continue to strengthen our relationship. Shared appreciation of the music, arts and films of our different nations will build greater understanding between our cultures.

 

2. What role should Australia play in the quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the further promotion of peace between Israel and surrounding Arab states?

COALITION

Australia should continue to play a role of supporting the essential direct negotiations that must take place between Israel and the Palestinians to reach a lasting settlement.

Australia must continue to support the right of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to live securely and peacefully within internationally recognised borders.

It is vital that Australia maintains a stance supportive of these negotiations and does not take any unilateral steps that could undermine them, such as the drive by former Labor Foreign Minister Bob Carr and elements within the Labor Party to recognise the State of Palestine.

ALP

Australia should, with agreement of the parties, do all it can to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people, and also between Israel and those Arab nations with which Israel has yet to establish peaceful relations.

We accept that Australia’s role will be most valuable within international institutional arrangements, such as the United Nations and other multi-country efforts supported by both parties.

Labor supports all genuine efforts toward a negotiated settlement between the parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on international frameworks, laws and norms.

Labor remains committed to an enduring and just two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on the right of Israel to live in peace within secure borders internationally recognised and agreed by the parties, and reflecting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to also live in peace and security within their own state.

 

3. Is Australia’s current pattern of voting at the United Nations on the numerous resolutions regularly canvassed on Arab-Israel and Israeli-Palestinian issues optimum for promoting a two-state peace in the Middle East? If not, what aspects of Australia’s UN current voting record would you change?

COALITION

The Coalition Government has changed the voting patterns of the previous Labor government, which had taken a stronger pro-Palestinian stance.

The Coalition’s voting pattern is based on the principle of not supporting one-sided resolutions that criticise only Israel.

If re-elected, the Coalition will maintain this principle and the changed voting patterns.

ALP

When last in Government, Labor based its decisions on United Nations General Assembly resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian dispute on the following two principles:

• Considering each on a case by case basis, each on its merits.
• We consider these resolutions firmly within the context of our very strong adherence to our support for a two nation state solution and our support of the peace process.

If the resolutions are consistent with this approach then we will support them.

The Gillard Government voted to abstain on General Assembly 67/19 in November 2012. Our position on this resolution was outlined at the time:

“The Government’s position balances our long-standing support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and their own state with our concern that the only durable basis for resolution of this conflict is direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

 

4. Australia provides significant funding to the Palestinian territories, much of it channelled through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Should the Australian Government review its aid to the Palestinians, including especially funding to UNRWA, to improve transparency and accountability, reduce corruption and prevent the misuse of funds towards incitement to violence?

COALITION

The Coalition Government has ensured that funding for the Palestinian Territories through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other agencies is under constant review.

The Coalition has consistently sought reviews of all reports of waste, irregularities or inappropriate use of Australian government funds when such instances have been raised.

Oversight of this funding has been significantly strengthened from that which existed under the previous Labor Government.

ALP

Labor believes that effective and transparent aid to the Palestinians can help build the institutions necessary for statehood. In government, and in conjunction with our international partners, we increased Australian aid to the Palestinian Authority following its split with Hamas, and supported the anti-corruption and state building initiatives of former prime minister Fayyad.

We believe strongly that for aid to be effective, it must be transparent. That’s why we have announced that we will legislate for transparency in the aid program. A Shorten Labor Government will restore accountability by reintroducing the annual Ministerial Budget Statement detailing how overseas aid is being allocated by sector, country and region.

 

5. Following the Iranian nuclear deal agreement, how should Australia respond to Iranian violations of international law pertaining to nuclear non-proliferation and ballistic missile tests as well as actions by the regime licensing Holocaust denial? What sanctions should Australia enforce on Iran until the Islamic Republic proves that it can be a responsible member of the international community?

COALITION

We continue to enforce strict sanctions against Iran on arms and related material, certain metals, software and nuclear-related equipment, as well as persons and entities related to these areas.

Australia also continues to enforce restrictions against Iran on ballistic missile-related material and technology.

Australia must continue to work closely with other sanctioning nations, including the United States and the European Union, to maintain an appropriate level of pressure on the Iranian Government.

Iran must face further sanction if it breaches relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

The Coalition Government has consistently raised objections to any support with the Iranian government for Holocaust denial or anti-Israel sentiments, which the Coalition regards not only as offensive but also a threat to international peace and security.

ALP

Labor cautiously welcomed the Iranian nuclear deal, while acknowledging that we have to remain realistic about the deal’s limitations, and noting that we need to maintain a healthy degree of scepticism in our dealings with Iran.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program is focused on only one part of Iran’s concerning behaviours.

Australia must continue to steadfastly oppose Iran’s human rights abuses, its inciteful language towards the United States and Israel, its support of the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and its sponsorship of terrorism.

Labor initiated the Senate inquiry into the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s lifting of sanctions against Iran in March of this year. Labor believes the Government failed to explain changes to Australia’s sanctions policy adequately on Iran, and that this action should have been informed by better consultation prior to the decision.

6. Terrorism remains an ever-present threat in Australia and around the world. How should the Australian Government improve its counter-terrorism operations, its strategies to counter violent extremism and its deradicalisation initiatives, including community-based initiatives to address these issues?

COALITION

The highest priority of government is to keep Australians safe.

The Coalition Government has worked closely with State and Territory Government counterparts to ensure our police and security agencies have the powers they need to mitigate the threat of terrorism. The Government also collaborates with our international partners to counter the cross border threat.

Since 2014, the Coalition Government has introduced several important pieces of legislation that ensure our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies have the powers they require to investigate, monitor, arrest and prosecute home-grown violent extremists and returning foreign fighters. The Australian Citizenship Act was amended so dual nationals who engage in terrorism can be stripped of their citizenship.

Our Government has invested more than $1.3 billion in additional funding to fight terrorism.This funding enables our law enforcement and security agencies to monitor individuals of interest and disrupt terrorist attacks; to strengthen our border security arrangements; and to enhance intelligence capabilities including through retention of metadata.

On the other hand, Labor talks about the importance of national security but did little about it. Even worse, they cut money from defence, security and law enforcement agencies.

The Coalition understands that action must be taken to safeguard vulnerable Australians from terrorist groups and putting themselves or others at risk. Families who fear their children are being radicalised, and teachers and community leaders who are concerned about online grooming by terrorists, are being helped. We are also providing additional support to the e-Safety Commissioner and $40 million in funding Countering Violent Extremism programs that play an important role in reaching young people before they become vulnerable to the evil encouraged by terrorism.

ALP

There is no greater responsibility of government than to protect the safety and security of its citizens.

Terrorism is an affront to all humanity, and Labor will continue to ensure our nation’s security while upholding the democratic rights and freedoms that Australians have for generations fought to protect. Proper resourcing and an effective legal framework that gives our security and law enforcement agencies the powers they need to keep us safe are fundamental to Australia’s security environment.

Labor will continue to fully support our agencies in their vital work to protect the safety of all Australians and defend our nation’s security. Australians expect transparency and accountability in security and enforcement activities to the greatest extent possible, and Labor will continue to champion those safeguard mechanisms. Our physical security should not be at an unreasonable cost to our transparency and accountability safeguards and should ensure that Australians can have confidence in their security and law enforcement agencies.

A Shorten Labor Government will pursue a balanced approach to counter terrorism – drawing on new means, new methods and adapting to new challenges. We put our trust in the expertise, professionalism and skill of our security agencies and emergency services personnel, and we are guided by their advice.

Labor believes early intervention and community engagement, working in combination with strong and bipartisan counter-terrorism legislation, are all key to preventing vulnerable young Australians being groomed into extremist ideology.

As was noted by ASIO Director-General Duncan Lewis in mid-2015, “we understand we can’t arrest our way to success. If there is indeed a silver bullet to solving the issue of radicalisation, it is in the area of social cohesion.”

Countering violent extremism programs need appropriate funding, to support cohesion and provide viable alternatives to disenfranchised young Australians who may be vulnerable to terrorist recruiters.

We must give agencies and communities all the support we can to enhance their capability and to counter the radicalisation of vulnerable youths.

In addition, Labor will build effective partnerships with other countries to respond to common security challenges, including continuing engagement with the United States and Europe, and further strengthening our ties with our Asian and other regional neighbours.

We must also partner effectively internationally in developing responses to security threats. Labor will pursue international engagement to influence positive outcomes for Australia. Under a Shorten Labor Government, Australia will continue to work directly with regional institutions to strengthen their capacity to deal with terrorist challenges in our region.

7. Australia has shown a strong interest in engaging with Israel’s “Start Up” success, with collaborations developing in business, science and medicine to boost innovation. In what ways can the Government further support collaboration between Israel and Australia in the areas of innovation that will benefit both countries?

COALITION

The Coalition Government recognises that Israel is an important export market for Australia’s energy and agricultural commodities. We believe Australia is well placed to export its technical expertise in exploration – particularly in the oil and gas sector, a relatively new industry for Israel but one of Australia’s strengths.

By the same token, the opportunity is there for Australian companies to take advantage of Israel’s knowledge-based industries in biotechnology, information and communication technology.

The Coalition Government’s National Science and Innovation Agenda is supporting Australian businesses and researchers looking to collaborate with Israel on research.

As part of this initiative Australia has selected Tel Aviv as one of five locations for a “landing pad” for Australian entrepreneurs looking to explore innovative market opportunities in Israel in the areas of biotechnology, in information and communication technology, and in education and training. The Coalition’s policy engagement with Israel in the area of innovation and science will ensure our relationship with Israel will continue to strengthen.

In addition, the Coalition Government has signalled its intention to negotiate three treaties with Israel: on Industrial Research and Development; collaboration in Science and Technology, which will place innovation at the centre of Australia’s transitioning economy; and a double tax agreement that will provide greater certainty for investment and enhance the integrity of both countries’ taxation systems.

ALP

Emerging technologies and innovative businesses present immense opportunities. To embrace these opportunities Labor will grow new and emerging businesses and enterprises in the digital economy – securing the jobs of today and creating the jobs of tomorrow.

Labor has a positive plan to foster an entrepreneurial and innovative start-up culture in Australia including: a Start-up Year at universities so students can develop their great business ideas; an Innovation Investment Partnership to bring together venture capital investors, superannuation funds and start-up stakeholders; and setting a goal for Australia to lift investment in R&D to three per cent of GDP by 2030.

Labor also understands that the modern innovative economy is a global one. Labor will introduce two new visa categories that will help attract the best global entrepreneurial talent to help build Australia’s growing start-up ecosystem and encourage international collaboration. The Start-up Entrepreneurial Visa will be provided annually to 2,000 global entrepreneurs looking to establish themselves in Australia, and the Graduate Start-up Entrepreneurial Visa will be provided annually to 2,000 university graduates who have a credible and genuine start-up business idea.

 

8. The Jewish community is particularly vulnerable to terrorism and manifestations of antisemitic hatred. What measures should the Australian Government take to address the significant security costs imposed on the Jewish community by the need to protect Jewish community institutions and schools?

COALITION

The Coalition supports Australians of all faiths being able to express their beliefs freely and practise their religions without intimidation or interference.

The Coalition Government has provided $18 million as part of its Schools Security Program to provide security infrastructure and guards to schools at risk of attack, harassment or violence stemming from racial or religious intolerance.

As well, the Coalition Government has invested $50 million in our Safer Streets Program.

If re-elected the Coalition Government will continue to work with community partners to provide a safer community for all Australians.

ALP

Labor has long recognised the need for the government to contribute to ensure the security of schools and pre-schools that are at risk of racial, religious or ethnically motivated violence.

For this reason, in 2007 the former Labor Government created the Secure Schools Program, which committed $35 million to assist at-risk government and non-government schools to install security infrastructure such as CCTV systems, fencing, lighting and anti-ramming devices. In total this project funded a total of 126 projects at 76 schools and preschools across the nation, many of them Jewish.

At the 2013 election Labor undertook to extend the Secure Schools Program to include a change to the eligibility criteria to enable funding for the provision of security guards.

In March last year, Labor welcomed the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s decision to continue Labor’s Secure Schools Program, which was renamed the Schools Security Programme and also extended to cover the employment of security guards.

As our record shows, Labor supports policies to ensure that every child at school is able to learn in a safe and welcoming environment, within a secure community.

Labor also acknowledges that the threat of attacks extends beyond schools to other parts of our community, and that the Federal Government should also support necessary improvements to security in the wider community. For example, in April this year Federal Labor announced that a Shorten Labor Government will commit $500,000 to significantly upgrade security at the Beth Weizmann Community Centre in Melbourne. This will match the commitment made by the Victorian Labor State Government to protect this important institution in the heart of the Jewish community.

 

9. Would your government consider funding reforms to education, and, if so, what would be the implication for Jewish schools, which have often been inadvertently disadvantaged by previous formulas used for funding allocation?

COALITION

The Coalition Government’s investment in all schools across Australia, including the 18 Jewish schools, will continue to grow from its current record levels, and will total $73.6 billion over the next four years (to 2019-20). That is $16 billion this calendar year, growing to $20 billion in 2020.

Schools funding is increasing. That means that schools which are currently delivering valuable programs can continue to do so.

Jewish schools around Australia are recognised for helping their 9000 students achieve academically and fostering a strong Jewish ethos and culture. We recognise the importance of Jewish schools’ contribution to their students and local communities.

Under the Turnbull Coalition Team, Commonwealth funding for schools will be directed according to need, and tied to evidence-based initiatives to support student achievement, such as improving literacy and numeracy, increasing engagement with science, technology and maths subjects and enhancing teaching quality.

ALP

Labor’s Your Child. Our Future schools policy will make sure all schools are funded based on need – no matter what kind of school they are.

In government, Labor completed the most comprehensive review of schools in 40 years: the Gonski Review. It identified the problems: our results were declining while other nations in our region were improving, and there is significant inequality between schools. It also identified the solution: a needs-based, sector-blind school funding model.

At the last election, the Liberals promised a “unity ticket” on schools. Instead they delivered $29 billion of cuts over the next 10 years. Cuts that will leave every school worse off.

In contrast, a Shorten Labor Government will reverse all the Liberals’ school cuts and complete the Gonski reforms on-time and in-full. This includes investing $3.8 billion more than the Liberals in schools during the 2018 and 2019 school years alone.

Labor will complete the Gonski reforms on-time and in-full so that every student in every school has the resources they need to achieve their best.

 

10. The antisemitic boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel continues to be active in Australia. How should the Australian Government respond to such activities?

COALITION

The Coalition has consistently denounced the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign and those who support it, including university academics, trade unions, members of the Labor party, the Greens and local government.

It is unacceptable that significant elements within the Labor Party, including past and present senior members, and the union movement continue to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, including through the picketing of businesses owned by Jewish Australians.

The role of all Governments should be to show leadership on this issue and reject unequivocally a campaign that is blatantly anti-Semitic.

ALP

Labor strongly opposes and publicly condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This position has been placed on the public record on several occasions, and our National Platform, adopted in July 2015 explicitly “rejects the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.”

Such boycotts against Israel, in addition to harming Palestinian people economically, are unhelpful to the Middle East peace process.

 

11. What steps would your government take to improve racial hatred laws and improve legal protections against racial hatred? In your view does section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act merit amendment or improvement?

COALITION

The Coalition Government will not be supporting any changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act at this time.

The Coalition recognises the diverse range of community views on section 18C. We are committed to act in a manner which promotes social cohesion, not disunity.

The Coalition believes in an Australia where everyone is free to speak their mind, in which rights are accompanied by responsibilities, in which there is absolutely no place for racism.

The Coalition strongly condemns those who attempt to diminish our freedoms in Australia and incite violence and hatred within our community.

ALP

Labor believes that no faith, religion, or set of beliefs should ever be used as an instrument of division or exclusion, and condemning anyone, discriminating against anyone, or vilifying anyone is violation of the values we all share.

Labor will continue to combat racism and expressions of intolerance and discrimination with strength and where necessary, the full force of the law.

The Abbott-Turnbull Government mounted a dangerously ill-conceived campaign to remove the federal protections against racist hate speech contained in section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. That campaign led to Attorney-General George Brandis declaring to the Senate that “people have a right to be bigots, you know”.

The public consultation process on the flawed draft Bill revealed the values of the Abbott-Turnbull Government. Senator Brandis repeatedly refused to make available the public submissions received, including under Freedom of Information. Submitters who did make public their submissions included the disgraced Holocaust denier Fredrick Toben, who supported the Government’s draft Bill, which would allow him to continuing arguing in public that the Holocaust never occurred.

Australians were overwhelmingly opposed to the proposed law, which would have given a green light to bigotry in Australia. Labor stood with thousands of individuals, legal experts and organisations, as well as 155 community groups, calling on the Abbott-Turnbull Government to dump its policy for bigots.

Since backing down on its proposal, members of the cross-bench and the Turnbull Government have sought to continue the campaign against section 18C, with a private Senator’s Bill proposing to weaken section 18C introduced in the Senate in October last year. Neither Senator Brandis nor the new Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, condemned this renewed attempt to weaken section 18C.

Section 18C has served Australia well for almost 20 years and Labor will continue to stand against racism in our society and to uphold the protections against race hate speech in the Racial Discrimination Act.

Labor celebrates Australia as a multicultural and multi-faith community, and acknowledges that multiculturalism has enriched our society and our economy.

 

12. Australian Multiculturalism – which balances rights with responsibilities to uphold core national values – is the policy framework, supported by both major political parties, which anchors a harmonious, ethnically diverse democracy. What concrete policy proposals will your party implement to enhance Australian Multiculturalism?

COALITION

The Coalition acknowledges and supports the immeasurable contributions that migrants have made and continue to make in Australia.

Our rich cultural diversity is the result of over 7.5 million migrants, including more than 825,000 humanitarian entrants and people in humanitarian need, resettling in Australia.

There are so many stories of successful newcomers to Australia whether in business, the professions or other walks of life, and Frank Lowy is one prominent example.

All Australians enjoy the right to celebrate and maintain their cultural traditions. Equally, all Australians have the responsibility to respect the nation’s laws whether in relation to the rights of others or discrimination on the basis of gender or religion.

For the Coalition it is important to secure an improvement in employment and community participation among newly arrived migrants and refugees. We wish to strengthen people’s sense of belonging in Australian society and increase social cohesion and economic participation.

As an example, the Coalition Government is investing $5.7 million over three years to increase the number of community hubs in areas where newly arrived humanitarian entrants and migrants will be settled. The Coalition Government is also investing $5.2 million over three years for a new Career Pathways Pilot program targeting newly-arrived, skilled humanitarian entrants with vocational level English proficiency.

We will continue to support migrants who have chosen Australia to raise their families and live peaceful, engaging lives.

ALP

A Shorten Labor Government will renew investment in Australian multiculturalism, with $28.3 million of new funding to support social cohesion and economic inclusion.

Australia is among the most diverse and peaceful societies across the globe. This is no accident and has been the result of hard work. We cannot stop now. Promoting social cohesion and economic inclusion will see the multicultural dividend grow into the future.

A Shorten Labor Government will create an Office for Multicultural Affairs in the Australian Public Service to improve coordination, policy development, research and evaluation, and program management.

Labor will invest $11.3 million to fund capital works for settlement and community sector organisations. For too long, support for new and established migrant communities has occurred without the necessary infrastructure.

The Abbott-Turnbull Government, in one of its first decisions in 2013, slashed the Building Multicultural Communities program. Even after letters of successful grants had been received by many organisations, funding for excellent projects was snatched away at the last minute.

 

13. The ABC is an important national institution, but questions are being raised by many Australians about its ability and willingness, as a body, to fully meet its statutory charter obligations of balance and fairness. What steps will you take to strengthen accountability and improve complaints procedures at the ABC, and indeed also at SBS?

COALITION

The Coalition Government expects the ABC’s presentation of news and information to be accurate and impartial as required by law. The responsibility for ensuring this occurs, lies with the ABC Board which has editorial independence.

The ABC is accountable to the Parliament for its performance and its adherence to its Charter. The Coalition is aware of the frustration felt by some at the responses they receive when making complaints about ABC news and current affairs coverage.

The Coalition will continue to ensure the ABC and SBS’s performance is rigorously examined through Parliamentary processes to ensure it is meeting all of its obligations to the Australian public.

ALP

Labor believes the ABC is one of Australia’s most important public institutions.

We believe that the ABC plays a very important role in adding to the diversity of news in our media landscape and providing an opportunity for Australian content to be viewed and heard. The ABC also plays a vital role in our regional and remote communities providing news, public announcements and emergency messages.

In Government, Labor implemented measures to ensure the institutional independence of our public broadcasters and their governing boards.

We did this because we value our public broadcasters and believe the public should be able to continue to rely on them for balanced and fair news reporting.

Both the ABC and SBS have a robust internal review process in response to complaints, which Labor believes to be appropriate.

This QandA was prepared by The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council

Republished from the June 2015 edition of the Australia/Israel Review

 

 

Comments

2 Responses to “AIJAC asks policy questions”
  1. Kevin Charles Herbert says:

    Both parties would’ve put little effort into their responses, as they’d only have to consult their US State Department talking points for their ‘considered” views.

    I don’t know why AIJAC bothers with this exercise.

  2. Erica Edelman says:

    The questions are brilliant – focused, unilaterally fair, intelligent
    Erudite and pragmatic
    The answers are stock standard, suburban, well- spun and
    Generically insincere. The ALP whilst appearing interested in
    Israel has been traditionally disinterested at the core (actions speak louder than
    Words..) and whilst the Coalition seems more alert than other parties it is patently
    Oblivious at times to the necessity of intervention thus displaying a kind of
    Inertia that is non productive nor responsive in terms of creating positive outcomes.
    Outcomes that will be good for WORLD PEACE not just for peace in the Middle East

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