Farewell Julia….

September 16, 2009 by J-Wire Staff
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Julia Irwin has retired from Federal politics. She boycotted Prime Minister Rudds’s speech marking Israel’s anniversary. Paul Howes, National Secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, has these farewell words…

Julia Irwin

Julia Irwin

Federal Labor backbencher Julia Irwin has announced she won’t re-contest the ultra-safe south western Sydney seat of Fowler at the next election.

Let me provide the first political obituary; a negligible contribution to south western Sydney and a dangerous contribution to the foreign policy debate.

Julia Irwin’s most ungraceful act came last year. The Member for Fowler chose to boycott the Prime Minister’s speech marking the anniversary of the foundation of the State of Israel.

This was probably the most embarrassing intervention from a backbencher in the current parliament. She said at the time, “I cannot congratulate a country which carries out human rights abuses each day.”

Yet a quick search of Hansard reveals Julia Irwin’s concerns for human rights are a little selective. It seems Julia Irwin believes there are two classes of human rights, for two classes of citizen.

In 2008, for example, Julia Irwin heaped praise on the Cuban Government and its overseas medical assistance programs. But she made no mention of the plight of political prisoners in Cuba, nor the daily repression faced by Cuban citizens struggling to live their lives under the repressive Communist regime.

And Julia Irwin’s moral clarity on human rights seemed also to escape her when she travelled to China in 1999. Ms Irwin was in Beijing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that renowned bastion of robust political debate, the National People’s Congress.

Upon her return from this junket, the Member for Fowler addressed Parliament about her junket, thanking the Chinese Ambassador in Canberra for all his assistance and then turning to the issue of Tibet.

“With regard to reconciliation with the Dalai Lama, the delegation was told that this would require the Dalai Lama to give up any claims for independence for Tibet and to stop separatist activities,” Ms Irwin declared.

“As for Tibetans living abroad, the delegation was told that they were free to enter and leave Tibet and that some 10,000 had done so in recent years, with 2,000 resettling in Tibet.”

Human rights campaigners rejoice! Julia Irwin’s been to China and discovered everything is peachy for the Tibetans! As for political prisoners, human rights abuses and the legacy of Tiennamen Square, the keen humanitarian conscience of the Member for Fowler must have been missing in action.

During eleven years in Parliament, Julia Irwin has given many private member statements on her views of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. In 2005 she gave a short speech where in the space of just a few minutes she accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and setting up “a walled ghetto” and “a concentration camp”.

Comparing the actions of Israel to those of Nazi Germany is the sort of low rent tactic preferred by those who seek to perpetuate rather than resolve the impasse in the Middle East. It is divisive and intellectually lazy.

Many decent and upstanding MPs on both sides of the House are passionate about the plight of the Palestinian people. Many have delivered valuable, thoughtful speeches on the failure of Israel to secure peace.

But Julia Irwin is not one of them. In her short sightedness, Julia Irwin has refused to acknowledge the important role of progressive Israelis and progressive Palestinians. In short, she is more interested in stoking the flames of division than bringing together those who want peace, irrespective of faith and nationality.

Her legacy to the Parliament, her electorate and Labor is not a great one.

I suspect few of her constituents could nominate any local achievements. For the Labor Party which protected her preselection, she has shown no gratitude, biting the hand that fed her.

Her intervention in the House of Representatives this week announcing her retirement was full of vitriol and put the boot into a political party which has kept her and her family in well paid employment for many decades.

However Julia was right to point out many of the flaws that exist in the way the Labor Party operates. The fact that Irwin herself could remain the holder of an ultra-safe seat like Fowler for eleven years is evidence of the fact the maybe the Party could do with some reform.

In our grand Labor family, we tolerate different views and vigorous debate. But Julia Irwin’s never respected our conventions. Her parting contribution only reinforces her utter lack of respect and grace. Hopefully in retirement she can enjoy the company of other exiles, like Mark Latham.

So goodbye Julia, I’m sure someone will miss you, but I doubt that neither your Party nor your electorate will.


One Response to “Farewell Julia….”
  1. Michael Goldstein says:

    In one word – “disgusted”.

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