Tony Abbott’s Address to the UIA

March 9, 2011 Agencies
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Opposition leader Tony Abbott was the keynote speaker at a United Israel Appeal function in Melbourne last night.

 

Tony Abbott

J-Wire reproduces his speech:

 

Rarely do I get the opportunity to address such a vast and glittering gathering. It’s an honour to be in the presence of Ambassador Rotem, former minister Sandberg. It’s great to be with my parliamentary colleagues Mark Dreyfus, Michael Danby and, in particular, Josh Frydenberg, the new Member for Kooyong, who I’m pleased to say is the most recent Jewish member of the Australian Parliament and is amongst the most promising members of my parliamentary team.

But I’m here tonight ladies and gentlemen to celebrate the contribution of Jewish people to Australia, to acknowledge the importance of Israel as a bulwark of democratic freedom in a part of the world where liberal pluralism is almost unknown, and then to dwell on some of the more uplifting aspects of Australia’s national character, aspects of our character to which Jewish people have so prominently contributed.

Of course it is almost impossible to think of business and philanthropy in this country without thinking of the great Jewish families who are the household names of business here in this country, but the contribution of the Jewish people to this country goes far beyond business and philanthropy. There is hardly a field of activity in this country that has been untouched by Jewish endeavour, and it’s fitting that, apart from Israel, Australia is the one country on earth that has had Jewish people in the three most important positions of national leadership – head of army, head of the justice system and Head of State.

But Australia’s debt to Jewish people and to Jewish culture goes far deeper, even than that, because Western civilisation itself is inconceivable without our Judeo-Christian inheritance. Everyone who participates in western civilisation is in a sense a Jew. Abraham, Moses and David may not be everyone’s fathers in faith but certainly they are all our fathers in culture. But for them, but for that inheritance, we would not be who we are and what we are and we should always remember that immeasurable contribution to human civilisation.

That legacy of faith and freedom lives on in many parts of the world, but particularly in the state of Israel. Israel is the only well-established democracy in the Middle East. It is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East and yet almost because of these qualities Israel lives under existential threat that is almost

1inconceivable to the citizens of a country such as Australia. And yet to its great credit Israel has never stooped to conquer, it has not compromised its freedom and its values in order to defend them.

Now, I don’t always agree with the Israeli Government, but I always support Israel’s right to exist, its right to exist behind secure borders and I call on the governments of Iran and Syria, I call on movements such as the PLO, Hamas and Hizbollah to recognise this and to do so in language that their own people can understand. I call on the new government of Egypt to maintain the important peace treaty with Israel and I observe that other governments, including the Australian Government, should not overreact to incidents of self defence by Israel and should be slow to judge Israel by the standards of countries that do not face an existential threat comparable to that faced everyday by Israel and its people. And I declare that a Coalition government would never support one-sided anti-Israel motions at the United Nations in a bid to garner support for a Security Council vote.

Israel, ladies and gentlemen, is a far away land but it is hardly a foreign country. It is a country where Australians instantly feel at home. Its values and even its foibles are totally familiar to people from this country, not just those who have strong family and cultural ties directly to Israel. And it is of course, like Australia, one of the successful immigrant societies. And let me for the record rededicate the Coalition to a multicultural Australia and to a non-discriminatory immigration policy because I believe that this country of ours, Australia, is the world’s most successful immigrant society. And I believe that the Jews here in Australia have been the very exemplar of a successful immigrant community.

As individuals they have been at the very heart of our national life, yet they have maintained a distinct identity in ways that are perfectly consistent with full participation in the life of our country. Jewish people in Australia have been simultaneously fully Australian without being anything less than fully Jewish.

Let me also say for the record that extremism is a real threat, even to the most settled of liberal pluralist countries and societies and I am against extremism wherever I see it. I am against Christian extremism. I am against Jewish extremism and of course I am against Islamist extremism, of which there is too much in the modern world.

We must accept that whether it be religious or irreligious extremism, it should have no place in a settled pluralist democracy such as Australia, and I should mention Hizb Ut-Tahrir in this context whose leaders have gone on the public record calling for the killing of Jewish people. It never ceases to amaze me why some of the anti-discrimination watchdogs that we have here in this country are not as ferociously opposed to the utterances of organisations such as Hizb Ut-Tahrir as they are to the utterances of fringe Christian groups, such as the Catch The Fire Ministry, and I say that a Coalition government will not give visas to preachers of hate seeking to enter this country.

A Coalition government would never support policies which made decent Australians feel like strangers in their own country because we are all in this together. In all our diversity, from all of our different backgrounds, of faith, of ethnicity, of gender, of sexuality, we are all in this together in this great Australian enterprise. And let me say that the Jews have been almost a model for other cultures in a country such as Australia.

It is fitting that Mark Leibler, one of Australia’s most distinguished Jewish people should be co-chairing the working group to devise an appropriate form of constitutional recognition for the first Australians, for aboriginal people, because no less an aboriginal leader than Noel Pearson – perhaps the greatest prophet of contemporary Australia – has urged his people to learn from the Jewish experience, to value education, to appreciate hard work, and as Mark mentioned I have seen at close quarters, and at first hand, the work that Noel Pearson has been doing amongst his own people on Cape York. I have seen, because I have taught there, the largely aboriginal school at Coen, which, notwithstanding that, is one of the best schools in Queensland. I have seen the transformation that is beginning to take place at Aurukun, not always one of the finest aboriginal schools in our country, but certainly getting that way because of the work of Noel Pearson.

We need to ensure that some of those values which have been so important in the success of the Jewish community become equally entrenched in other communities – values like a 100 per cent attendance at school, values like 100 per cent attendance at work, taking family seriously, taking your obligations and your responsibilities seriously and, thanks to people like Noel Pearson, I think that those values are becoming more prevalent amongst our first Australians.

May I close these remarks by recalling William Cooper, an aboriginal activist who in 1938 presented what is thought to be the only private protest against the horror of Kristallnacht, an aboriginal elder now remembered at Yad Vashem as a righteous gentile. His gracious and noble act is I believe a tribute to Australians’ generosity of spirit and a sign of the deep affinity between two ancient and resilient cultures.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are incredibly lucky as Australians to have had such a large and strong and long Jewish presence in our country. We are immeasurably enriched by that presence. This I believe is a marvellous celebration of Australia tonight as well as being a marvellous occasion to support the projects of the United Israel Association and Appeal.

Comments

One Response to “Tony Abbott’s Address to the UIA”
  1. Veronique says:

    Then why Tony Abbott are you not actively pushing for the banning of Hizb Ut Tarhir in Australia and the deportaton of its followers when it poses such a threat to Australian security, democracy and freedom. No other nationality, race or religion has tried to change our laws or way of life including jews..

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