Wentworth candidates address Board of Deputies plenum

July 21, 2010 by Henry Benjamin
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The three major candidates contesting the seat of Wentworth in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, addressed the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies plenum last night…J-Wire filmed the event.

Addressing the plenum were, Malcolm Turnbull [sitting Liberal member], Steven Lewis [Australian Labour Party candidate] and Matthew Robertson [Australian Greens candidate].

Malcolm Turnbull, Matthew Robertson and Steven Lewis Photo: Henry Benjamin

First to speak was former Leader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull photo: Henry Benjamin

He told the meeting that in Australia there was bipartisan support for Israel, a country which “stands in the front line in the battle against terror  – a battle we cannot afford to lose. Australia is one of Israel’s few unequivocal allies.” He said that Australia stood “shoulder by shoulder” with Israel.

Turnbull added that Israel must be in a position to defend itself within secure borders and that it is “geographically vulnerable”. TUrnbull made reference to Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and said that at the time he had expressed hope that it would not signal the start of attacks on Israel from within Gaza. He added that “the fundamental duty of every State, including Australia, is to defend its citizens”.

But his main point was to describe the difference between the strategic issues such as Israel’s right to defend its borders and its right to prevent armaments being smuggled into Gaza and the tactical issues as to how Israel goes about that indicating that it is difficult “to second guess and critique as to how the Israeli Defence Force handles a particular mission.” He said that Israel would always have “unequivocal support from the Coalition”. Turnbull added….”and you know you will always have it from me.”

Malcolm Lewis photo: Henry Benjamin

ALP candidate Steven Lewis told the meeting his introduction to political activism within communal politics when he was taken as a young boy to protest outside the visiting Moscow Circus at the time when it was difficult for Jews to leave Russia. Later in his life, he was to personally visit Russia and witness the plight of the country;s Jews first hand.

Lewis agreed with Turnbull that bipartisan support for Israel is a reality but was jeered by a member of the audience when he said that “the Australian Labour Part has been and remains a friend and strong ally of Israel”. He told the audience of the ALP’s historic links with the establishment of the State of Israel and how Prime Minister Julia Gillard when in charge of the education portfolio introduced Holocaust studies into Australian schools’ curriculum. He highlighted the financial help the Government had given to the Australian Jewish schools.

Lewis added that he opposed the demonisation of refugees and says that as a society “we do not need to go down that path”.

Matthew Robertson pic: Henry Benjamin

Mark Robertson confined his remarks to the Greens’ policy on climate change…he did not refer to Israel or any Jewish issues. But he had to face questions on the Greens’ attitude towards Israel during question time.

Watch the video above…all questions and answers are featured.

Under the rules of the plenum, only deputies are permitted to ask questions…

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