Labor leader pledges to support Jewish campaign against hate speech
The leaders of the NSW Labor Party and Unions NSW participated in a unique Shabbat service hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies on Friday night.
Held at The Great Synagogue and co hosted by Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton, the event attracted 100 leaders of NSW Labor and the trade unions, including Opposition Leader Luke Foley MP, Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey NSW Labor General Secretary Kaila Murnain, shadow ministers, Members of parliament, union leaders, party officials and Board of Deputies leaders.
Rabbi Elton delivered a brief history of the synagogue and explanation of Shabbat traditions, after which they participated in the Shabbat service and then adjourned into the downstairs hall for dinner.
Board of Deputies president Jeremy Spinak welcomed the guests, after which Foley spoke warmly about the historic connections between the Australian Jewish community and the Labor Party, reiterating NSW Labor’s support for issues of concern to the Jewish community: security, including the Board of Deputies’ campaign to overhaul Section 20d of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act. He spoke with visible emotion about Australia being a safe place for Jews, particularly after the horrors of the 20th century.
Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff closed the function by highlighting “the mandate of Tikkun Olam – Healing The World – which is shared by Labor, the unions and the Jewish community”.
“There is a clear affinity between Jewish and Labor values,” Spinak said. “The response to the Shabbat from the Labor and Union sectors indicates their strong desire to continue this tradition, and we hope this dinner will be the first of many.”
NSW Labor leader Luke Foley pledged to support the Jewish community’s campaign against hate speech and support NSW racial vilification laws.
He said: “Labor will continue to do everything in its power to protect the rights of the Jewish community and to fight against anyone who strives to deprive them of those rights and Labor is pushing for a new offence to replace section 20D of the Anti-Discrimination Act, which has proven to be totally ineffective in preventing people from spreading hate speech or racial violence, much of it directed towards the Jewish community.”
He added: “Despite the fact that there have been about 30 cases referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for face hate there has not been a single prosecution for racial vilification or advocating violence.”
Mr Foley spoke about Labor’s historical support for tough racial vilification laws and fighting hate-speech – and the failure by the previous Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton to deliver on her commitments to strengthen race hate laws.
He also spoke about his support for measures to ensure Jewish communal security and access to Jewish burial space at Rookwood cemetery, which is located in his electorate. He also said he looked forward to the appointment of a manager of the Jewish cemetery section.
Mr Foley was joined by members of NSW union movement and NSW Labor’s caucus, including Shadow Treasurer Ryan Park, Shadow Health Minister and NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair Walt Secord, Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Sophie Cotsis, Upper House MLC Greg Donnelly, Prospect MP Dr Hugh McDermott, Campbelltown MP Greg Warren as well as Federal MP for Macarthur, Dr Mike Freelander and Young Labor president Jennifer Light.
NSW Labor General Secretary Kaila Murnain and Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey also attended.
Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord said: “It was a beautiful service and many of my colleagues remarked that it was their first service in a Jewish place of worship. I also congratulate the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies for their inter-faith work and their efforts to reach out to other sections of the community, including the Labor movement and the NSW Labor Opposition.”