Leadership Dialogue hears from Australian politicians

December 9, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Moshe Bar-Siman-Tov, the former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Health, a figurehead in the country’s fight against Covid-19 told the annual Leadership Dialogue that some restrictions should remain in place even after mass vaccinations have been given.

Tony Abbott and Christian Porter

The event, organized by the International Institute for Strategic Leadership Dialogue, now in its twelfth year, is taking place online due to COVID-19, with speakers and panellists joining from Israel, the UK and Australia, as well as the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Bar-Siman-Tov was speaking on a panel titled “Covid-19 Lockdowns: Policy Blunder or New Necessary Evil?” He was joined by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, former Leader of the Victorian Liberal Party Matthew Guy, Sanjeev Sabhlok, a former senior civil servant who resigned from Victoria’s Treasury to protest the government’s pandemic policies, UK’s Lord Eric Pickles and John Spellar MP.

Bar-Simon-Tov said, “There is a game-changer now – the vaccine. Now we should focus our efforts on finding out how to make people go get vaccinated. This is our most important mission now. The pandemic will look totally different.”

He added, “Now we should think – how the day after will look like. Even with vaccination, some of the measures we have taken should stay in case of any future threats to healthcare services. September 11th was a singular event… but the effect of September 11th so many years later is still with us.”

Richard Marles

Guy criticized the Victorian authorities’ handling of the pandemic, saying “the state authorities that manage haven’t been clear on whether we aim to eradicate the virus or manage it.”

Meanwhile, Abbott commented “Lockdown has been catastrophic,” adding “I don’t like the idea that we should live in the fear of death. In the end, what should we really fear is not living life to the fullest.”

Earlier in the day, Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), Danny Danon joined Australia’s Permanent Representative at the UN, Mitch Fifield, UK’s former minister Theresa Villiers and Executive Director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer on a panel titled “United Nations: Growing Influence or Growing Irrelevance?”

Danon said, “I think we should look at what is happening today with Covid-19 as an opportunity to change the narrative at the UN. It brings an opportunity to discuss the important issues and Israel can play an important role. We can offer a lot in terms of security, health, agro-tech.”      

All participants agreed on the importance of the UN, but the need for gradual reform within its institutions. Fifield said, “Reform needs to be practical and realistic… When it comes to multilateralism, nothing just happens. You need to build coalitions, issue by issue, to effect change.” Villiers added that she would like to see reform in “the way in which the UN delivers its aid programs. The bureaucracy and lack of accountability is worrying.”

Israel’s former Consul General to New York, Dani Dayan spoke on a panel analysing the United States following the country’s election last month. He raised concerns over President-elect Joe Biden’s potentially tough policy towards Saudi Arabia, saying “There are very strong forces in his [Biden’s] entourage among advisors, towards being tough towards Saudi Arabia.” Such an attitude he said, “will make Israel feel uncomfortable” and “cast a shadow over all his Middle East policies.”

Dayan was joined by Israeli journalist Nahum Barnea, US journalist David Suissa, academic Bruce Wolpe and former UK parliamentarian Ian Austin.

Today was the second day of the Leadership Dialogue. Yesterday, Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also commented on Saudi relations saying “I think that Saudi Arabia is in favour of developments [with Israel] but cannot take steps unless there is progress on the Palestinian issue. Saudi Arabia is a potential partner for peace with Israel.”

Founded by businessman and philanthropist Albert Dadon, the Leadership Dialogue Institute is a private diplomatic channel fostering closer cultural ties between Australia, the UK, and Israel. Since its inception in 2009, the Leadership Dialogue Institute’s yearly roster has included: Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott, Tony Blair, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert, Salam Fayyad.

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