New Government for Victoria

December 2, 2014 by Michael Danby
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Last weekend, Victorians made history by changing Government after just one term.

(L-R): Premier Daniel Andrews, Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby, Albert Park member Martin Foley & the new Jewish Attorney-General, Martin Pakula

(L-R): Premier Daniel Andrews, Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby, Albert Park member Martin Foley & the new Jewish Attorney-General, Martin Pakula

The Victorian Labor Party under Daniel Andrews will form a new state Government. It is particularly noteworthy that they have a distinguished track record of friendship and support for the Victorian Jewish community; and the state of Israel.

Long before it was clear that he had strong prospects of election, Premier-elect Daniel Andrews is one of many Victorian Labor MPs who visited Israel in 2013. Mr Andrews visited Israel with his wife in December, months after Deputy Premier-elect James Merlino led a strong delegation of Victorian Labor MPs including Albert Park’s Martin Foley, Marsha Thomson, Frank McGuire, Telmo Languiller, Judith Graley, Xavier Williams and Janice Munt. They all presented impressive reports of their experiences to Jewish community organisations, as well as the newly-formed Australia-Israel Labor Dialogue; headed by ACTU Assistant Secretary, Michael Borowick.

On Dan Andrews’ return, the then-Opposition Leader expressed admiration for Israel’s innovation, calling it “a place built on endeavour and courage… Israel, in a word, is bold. The culture demands risk. Even if you fail, you have contributed to the vast bulk of human knowledge. That’s the untold story. That’s the wonder of Israel.”

Premier Andrews repeated his admiration for Israel’s innovation and its start-up culture at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce just a few weeks ago, shortly before his successful election campaign began, outlining the new state Government’s ambition to replicate that Israeli start-up culture with an independent Start-Up Victoria body to support entrepreneurship in the spirit of Israel’s Technion and Weizmann Institute.

In 2011, as the failed Boycott Israel (BDS) movement marched on Israeli Max Brenner chocolate shops around the nation, I organised for a number of prominent politicians around the country to counter this anti-Israel movement by joining the Jewish community for a ‘hot chocolate sit-in’ at Max Brenner. A number of senior figures in the then-Federal Government joined me in different cities around the country. In Melbourne, the new Premier Daniel Andrews, Mr Foley and Labor’s new Jewish Attorney-General Martin Pakula all joined me to defy those who wanted Victorians to boycott Jewish businesses. Nearly the entire Shadow Cabinet joined me during their Parliamentary dinner break. Their message was loud and clear – Victorian Labor will not have a bar of Israel boycotts.

Even braver, this year, as opportunists around Australia were protesting against Israel’s justified but costly operation in Gaza, the very same trio stood by Israel in even tougher circumstances. Martin Pakula joined me to speak at the Victorian Jewish community-organised Rally for Peace, to give a powerful defence of Israel’s right to defend itself. Labor Shadow Minister Martin Foley then read out a message on behalf of our new Premier Mr Andrews, saying defiantly, “The war will end tomorrow, if Hamas stops attacking; and the Jewish State will end tomorrow, if Israel stops defending… My thoughts and prayers are with Jewish families in Australia, some of whom have faced discrimination of the type that is unthinkable and utterly intolerable.” He concluded by saying, “I condemn the actions of Hamas. I pity the loss of life. I pray for peace.” His message was supported by local candidates and members including Caulfield’s Josh Burns, the new member for Bentleigh Nick Staikos, the candidate for Prahran, Neil Pharoah, new Southern Metropolitan representative Philip Dalidakis, and members Martin Foley and Marsha Thomson, all of whom attended the rally on the steps of state Parliament.

Of course, the new Andrews Labor Government will not just support Israel and the Jewish community with words – their actions will speak far louder. A $500,000 direct security grant for Melbourne’s Beth Weizmann Jewish community centre building will protect our hard-working communal organisations – an announcement he made with local Caulfield candidate, Josh Burns, whose strong, local campaign for Caulfield was rewarded with an above-average swing that, at one stage, saw him draw within 1.5% of an historic victory. Jewish member Marsha Thomson, the co-convenor of the Victorian Parliamentary Friends of Israel group, was also part of the announcement. Labor will also provide additional funding for Jewish schools security, something which Federal and State Labor Governments have consistently done to ensure we never see a repeat of the tragic events at the Chabad School in Toulouse in Australia, when three Jewish children and one teacher were murdered at their school by a jihadist terrorist.

We are particularly fortunate in Victoria that the Jewish community will be well-represented by Dan Andrews, Martin Pakula, Martin Foley and their team. It is hard to think of a Government in Australia with such a strong record of friendship and advocacy on behalf of the community and the state of Israel.



3 Responses to “New Government for Victoria”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    There you are, Otto! Give credit where credit’s due to Michael Danby’s bits and pieces here. How many cups of chocolate is a glib cop-out. Perhaps you need immersion time in Victorian politics to get the big picture.
    Warmest regards to you, though …

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    You seem to be on a winner with Dan Andrews, I’m afraid the leaking of the off the record Fairfax journalist conversation with Ted Baillieu, for whom I had a great respect for was my last recollection, I switched off after that.

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    Onya Michael, how many cups of chocolate did you say !!!????

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