THURSDAY 31 OCTOBER 2013
Authorised by the
Parliament of New South Wales
Incredible by-partisan support
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS (Murray-Darling) [11.13 a.m.]: I move:
That this House notes the alleged assault on a group of Jewish people in Bondi last week and condemns any act of racism.
In this country we have assimilated a great range of different ethnic groups. As an Australian I grew up with the principle—as I am sure most members did—of respecting the rights of others to practice their beliefs. The events that played out in Bondi last weekend concern me. But the commentary that members of Parliament are exposed to in the media as a consequence of the actions of one particular Australian political group is more concerning. We do not want to bring the troubles of another country to Australia. Indeed, it is the responsibility of those in the Middle East to resolve the difficult and complex situation in that region—John Kerry and others are certainly working towards that.
But The Greens decided that they would single out the Israeli state and sought to introduce the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign into the Australian political scene. That was a retrograde step for this country and those who put it to the Australian community should be condemned. I said yesterday that if Christine Milne was a true leader she would disassociate herself from those who have decided that this sort of campaign should be run in this country. In Australia we leave those sorts of campaigns alone and we let people get on with their lives. Too much of this sort of thing is happening, and Mr David Shoebridge, MLC, is a repeat offender. He says in the upper House that he does not support anti-Semitism but then does something totally different outside. His comments are often concerning.
I will highlight a couple of media articles on this subject. Tim Blair’s article in the Daily Telegraph last Monday reminded me of some actions in our country that could trigger racial attacks. Unfortunately, they give thugs some sort of legitimacy to carry out such attacks. It does not help the cause if The Greens decide to take action against the Israeli state, and we must condemn them for that. The Greens member for Balmain is a good member; I doubt he would be part of this campaign. But it is unacceptable for people like The Greens Councillor Cathy Peters on Marrickville Council to move those sorts of motions. The Greens should not associate with people like that; they should control their rank and file. It is totally unacceptable for people to protest against businesses run by Jewish people.
Mr Bryan Doyle: Legitimate businesses.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS: Certainly. They are legitimate businesses that are part of the Australian culture. It is absolutely disgraceful to single out those individuals. There was a call for Christine Milne to speak up, but no-one is buying that because nothing has changed. We have to put an end to this today. We must say to The Greens: This is unacceptable. They cannot continue to run a campaign in this country against something that is far outside our control. It is an international situation that is being managed a long way away from us. Unfortunately, there are so many different factions involved that there is a state of complete confusion. I do not think anyone could achieve a positive outcome, and certainly The Greens are not helping. A serial offender on this issue is Lee Rhiannon, who moved from the New South Wales upper House to the Senate. She seems to be continuing the hatred. We do not need that in politics. We are here to do a job, and it should not involve hatred.
Mr GUY ZANGARI (Fairfield) [11.20 a.m.]: The attacks that occurred on Friday 25 October 2013 were sickening to the core. In today’s modern society we would not expect that anything so heinous could still occur. One expects that in today’s society such cowardly acts of hate have been rendered non-existent. After all, it is not a new concept that individuals with different views, faiths, cultures and backgrounds should live closely together in the same community without fear or prejudice. That is the way our modern multicultural society functions. It is unfortunate that, even in today’s accepting, multicultural and understanding society, there are still sporadic bouts of racism here and there. They are symptomatic of an archaic mindset that needs to be eliminated. I spoke recently in Parliament in a discussion on a matter of public importance about the “Racism. It Stops With Me” campaign. On that occasion, I said:
Racism often lurks in the shadows of any vibrant multicultural community looking for any opportunity to rear its ugly head
Unfortunately, this is all too true. Unfortunately, there are still cowardly individuals throughout the world, much like those who physically assaulted and racially abused two Jewish families last Friday. And for what? For no other reason than that they were Jewish. Hate crimes are deplorable, and it is a crying shame to see this happening in our local Sydney communities. Something must be done. The “Racism. It Stops With Me” campaign is an example of a viable method of reaching out to our communities to curb racism. The message is quite simple: We must remind every resident of New South Wales that the solution to stopping racism rests with each one of us. Our homes, our schools, our workplaces and our communities are places where the message against racism should be heard. We know that through education, tolerance and acceptance we can stop racism—and it needs to stop.
I recall hearing stories when I was growing up of the racism and intolerance in Sydney during the 1950s. It is something I never quite understood as a young child. During the 1950s there were bouts of what was known as “wog bashing”. This occurred throughout Sydney and the greater metropolitan area. My uncle Joe explained to me how he and his relatives and friends had to travel together in groups as it was unsafe to travel alone because of wog bashings that targeted Italian migrants. As a child I could not comprehend what this really meant. It was not until I was a 30-year-old adult that I finally understood when my neighbour Gino told me of similar experiences he had upon his migration and settlement in Western Sydney.
Racism has been an ongoing problem for many years, and one expects it would have been eradicated. However, these abhorrent sentiments still exist within dark corners of our society. I have had many opportunities over the years to attend a large number of multicultural functions. I have been privileged to see first-hand the interfaith connections between a large variety of our cultural and religious groups. I have seen firsthand how often the Jewish community spreads the word about interfaith dialogue. I have seen their kindness, friendship and willingness to include everyone, no matter where they come from or what walk of life they follow, in everything and anything they do.
During my time as a member of parliament, I have had the opportunity to sit down at the Maroubra Synagogue with members of the Jewish community and to speak with Rabbi Rabbi Elie Farkas. We spent the morning discussing our faiths and our communities, together with the member for Heffron. I have met with Mr Phil Roberts, Principal of the Mount Sinai College. A piece of information that astounded me about his appointment is the fact that he is not Jewish but is the leader of a Jewish school. That speaks volumes about the level of acceptance and inclusion that this community exhibits and highlights the community’s welcoming nature and ability to see past what so many others still cannot. The Jewish community in Sydney are constantly reaching out not only to members of their community but also to anyone else who is willing to accept the hand of friendship offered.
I recall sitting down and sharing a meal with the member for Cabramatta, Nick Lalich, the member for Heffron, Ron Hoenig, and member of the Legislative Council, Shaoquett Moselmane. During the meal, Ron Hoenig said with a grin, “Isn’t this great? A Jew, a Serbian Orthodox, an Italian Catholic and a Lebanese Muslim can all sit down, break bread and discuss our beliefs, our communities and our cultures without any worries whatsoever.” What a shining example of a multicultural dinner in today’s society—if I do say so myself. Since the incident on 25 October, I have conversed with Mr Vic Alhadeff from the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies and offered my thoughts and prayers to the Jewish community. Vic advised me that the attack last Friday was incredibly vicious and gave me a few details about what the attackers said to their victims. The words exchanged during this vicious attack are not fit to be repeated in this Chamber.
It is evident that this hate crime was unprovoked and has shocked the community. Members on both sides of the House are involved with a number of community and multicultural groups. They attend their functions and actively engage in celebrating their holy and significant commemorations. The fight against racism has received, and will continue to receive, bipartisan support. We must continue the fight to eliminate racism throughout our State and to ensure that every person enjoys the gift of diversity that has made this State and this nation the greatest places on earth.
Ms GABRIELLE UPTON (Vaucluse—Minister for Sport and Recreation) [11.27 a.m.]: I acknowledge the presence in the public gallery of my good friend Vic Alhadeff, the Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies. I also acknowledge Yair Miller, the President of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, with whom the Government and I have been in constant contact since the alleged attack on Friday. I join the member for Murray-Darling, the Premier and the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, the Hon. Victor Dominello—who is in the Chamber—in strongly condemning the alleged anti-Semitic attack in Bondi in my electorate last Friday.
Yesterday in Parliament I gave notice of a motion strongly condemning the incident, and that motion is now on the Business Paper. It is important for us all to speak up on this issue. I am very proud to represent New South Wales electorate with the largest Jewish community. It is a vibrant and inclusive community. It continues to make a vast and valuable contribution to my electorate, the State and our broader community. I have many dealings with the Jewish community, and they are close and warm dealings. The Jewish community—in a way that other communities would aspire to—reach out beyond their own community and work with other community groups to show them ways they can be better.
They also take stories of the Holocaust to rural and regional communities and educate them about other dark aspects of history. In this way they make communities aware of racial and religious discrimination and prejudice at a broader level. They open the eyes of young people in our schools to the danger it can present. I commend them for their strong communal work outside the Jewish community.
I am proud to be the chair of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel. Until about two months ago when I became the Minister I was co-chair, with the member for Davidson, of the Jewish Ministerial Consultative Committee. That is a policy-based group that acts as a liaison to government and is made up of Government members. The Parliamentary Friends of Israel is a bipartisan group. The Hon. Walt Secord from the upper House is the deputy chair. Through our bipartisan membership we seek to build an understanding of Israel and the Jewish people and have undertaken two study tours. In January we spent five wonderful days in Israel building an understanding of the people and the challenges faced by a democratic nation in the Middle East. The Minister for Citizenship and Communities joined us on our second and most recent trip.
I am saddened and concerned by the incident at Bondi and the claims that the victims were targeted because of their religion. New South Wales is a proud State. Many cultures make up the fabric of our State and that diversity is one of our greatest assets. Our communities thrive on living harmoniously together. We value our peace and harmony, so racial and religious hatred has no place on our streets. Let me make it absolutely clear: New South Wales will not tolerate anyone being attacked on the basis of their beliefs, religion or racial background. We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and everybody has the right to feel safe here. My thoughts are with the victims and the Jewish community at this difficult and distressing time. I commend the motion to the House.
Mr RON HOENIG (Heffron) [11.32 a.m.]: The recent anti-Semitic attack in Bondi has bewildered Jews around the world and received considerable publicity. Jews in Australia have known anti-Semitic acts before; however, the attack in Bondi in which five Australian Jews were wounded was distinguished by its extreme violence and ferocity. The world knows Australia is a safe country that values the Jewish community. The attack last Friday will not change those views, but it has caused many Jews to stop and think about the tragedies that we as a people have suffered in our history.
It is easy to forget that anti-Semitism occurs all too frequently around the world. At the same time that five Jewish Australians were attached in Bondi, there were massive anti-Jewish protests in Denver, Colorado, where people yelled out the slogan, “Long live the intifada”. In other words, they were calling for continued violence against the Jews of Israel. Unfortunately, there has been a massive surge in anti-Semitism around the world, including in South America, North America and Europe. It is often not as crude as the event in Bondi; sometimes other terminology is used or other acts are committed such as those that have occurred during Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigns.
Australia is a tolerant country. When I am walking through East Lakes in my electorate wearing a kippah on my way home from Shabbat dinner it is not unusual for me to pass members of the Muslim community who greet me in a friendly fashion. Save for one exception when I first sought to gain political office, I have not experienced any form of threat or anti-Semitic attack. I am aware that they happen, but they do not happen frequently. However, I can tell members of the House that many people in the Maroubra Jewish community with whom I associate, particularly on Shabbat, are now concerned about wearing a kippah in the street. As a result of last Friday’s attack they are wearing baseball caps to try to disguise that they are Jews who are on their way home from Shabbat dinner. Friday’s attack in Bondi is a reminder that although Jews might be dispersed across many nations, we are also part of a single Jewish nation that is continuing to struggle for a legitimate place in the world. We seek a world of peace rather than persecution.
Mr JONATHAN O’DEA (Davidson) [11.36 a.m.]: Last night I represented the Premier at the annual dinner of the Jewish National Fund. The fund has earned international respect for enhancing the quality of life of many people in Israel and for its environmental initiatives. Her Excellency, Governor Marie Bashir, and Shlomo BenHaiem were among the guests at last night’s event. Shlomo was one of the six Australian Jewish community members who were attacked in Bondi last Friday night. I saw his facial injuries and spoke with him about the incident. While it appears the vicious attack was not planned, there is no doubt in my mind that the group was targeted in substantial part because of their race or religion. The situation has understandably prompted calls for justice and tolerance.
While there have always been unprovoked and seemingly senseless attacks, incidents such as this and that involving Tom Kelly in Kings Cross last year cause us to reflect upon how we can better promote peace and understanding in our society. I commend the recent second annual Harmony Walk, initiated by Ernie Friedlander, the launch of which I was pleased to support earlier this month. As my former co-chair and now Minister for Sport and Recreation mentioned, I am chair of the Jewish Ministerial Consultative Committee. In large part the committee represents the portfolio of the Minister for Citizenship and Communities, who will speak next in this debate.
In my capacity as chair of the committee, member of the New South Wales Parliamentary Friends of Israel group and the member for a substantial Australian Jewish population in my electorate of Davidson, particularly in the suburb of St Ives, I strongly condemn vilification of Jews or any minority group in our community. I acknowledge the excellent work of groups such as the Jewish Board of Deputies in promoting better interfaith and intercultural understanding and tolerance. The board’s Respect, Understanding, Acceptance Program annually brings together about 1,500 students of multiple backgrounds with the aim of generating respect for diversity and emphasising the need to speak out against racism. I congratulate the Jewish Board of Deputies on the program, which is run under the excellent leadership of President Yair Miller and Chief Executive Officer Vic Alhadeff, who, as has been acknowledged, is in the gallery today.
I offer my sympathy to the victims of Friday’s attack and lend my personal support to calls for appropriate justice and tolerance.
Mr NICK LALICH (Cabramatta) [11.39 a.m.]: My contribution to debate on the motion relating to the Bondi attack will be brief. I thank the member for Murray-Darling for moving the motion. The attack needs to be aired and we need to speak about such issues when they occur. I also acknowledge the presence in the gallery of Mr Vic Alhadeff, who is the chief executive officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies. It is very nice of him to be here, and I thank him. Together with other members I offer apologies to the people who were attacked in Bondi last Friday. I am very sorry for that. I have to say that on behalf of my fellow Australians because what happened last Friday was not Australian. That is not the way we operate in this country.
I was a refugee who came to this country in the late forties with my family. We lived in Bonny Rigg in the Cabramatta electorate, and I still live there. My electorate is a multicultural society comprising 130 different nationalities that speak 70 different languages. We also have 50 different religions. We get along so well together that we have no racial problems. It is terrible to see racist attacks such as the attack on Asian people on a Melbourne bus, the abuse of a French woman on a Melbourne bus in 2012, violence directed at Indian students in Harris Park in Parramatta in 2009, and Chinese students being attacked last year on a CityRail train going to Hurstville. It is terrible to hear about those attacks.
I agree with earlier comments that the attacks were spontaneous and not targeted. Some people behave differently when they are in a group. They might notice that someone looks a little different and will racially abuse them. Bibbys Place, Bonnyrigg is probably only about 150 metres long but it has a mosque, a temple, a Vietnamese community centre and a Christian church side by side. The tolerance that exists in our area is obvious when those four community groups hold their religious festivals and community get-togethers and they share car parking spaces. How could we get any more love and friendship coming from a community than that?
We do not see that in many other countries, but in Australia we do. We have so much unity in Cabramatta because we all know what each community went through to come to this country: We all went through it. In the fifties we were racially abused as wogs and whatever else, and we suffered that; but that stopped happening after a couple of years. Anyway it was usually done at school by young kids because something was said to them or they simply got upset. It was not really meant in an angry way; it was simply what children normally do. Children do not understand that they could be hurting people’s feelings. I am terribly sorry about what happened last Friday. I do not have a great number of Jewish people in my electorate, but I have many Jewish friends. They are beautiful, friendly and kind people and they have done a lot for this country, and those who live in my electorate have done a lot for my local area.
For the sake of all of our multicultural communities, the incident that occurred last Friday at Bondi should not be tolerated or accepted. What happened was un-Australian and we should ensure that it never happens again. If necessary, we should strengthen our laws against racial discrimination and racial attacks. Despite these attacks, our Australia is a beautiful country that displays tolerance and acceptance of multiculturalism.
Mr VICTOR DOMINELLO (Ryde—Minister for Citizenship and Communities, and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) [11.43 a.m.]: I join the member for Murray-Darling in condemning the alleged anti-Semitic attack on two families that took place in Bondi. I also offer my support to those families and the broader community. When we are young, we are idealistic; we think in absolutes. As we age and as we bear the struggles of our human journey, we realise that life is increasingly more grey than it is black and white. However, there are some absolutes that we must carry with us throughout our collective journey. Arguably, the most important absolute is to be completely intolerant of racism.
The deepest scars of humanity were caused by the blade of racism. Our history book is stained with such scars. We need only peruse recent chapters in the book of our history to understand the depth of those scars. We all know of the traumatic circumstances and the huge loss of life during World War II from 1939 to 1945 when more than six million Jews perished. As we move forward from that point, we see that from 1975 to 1979 more than two million people were killed during the Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime. Even from the 1960s to the 1990s, more than 3,000 people were killed in Northern Ireland as a result of its religious troubles. Again in the 1990s, up to 500,000 perished in the Yugoslav wars. Regrettably those scars are not limited to history.
Today as I speak we are creating history and, while the ink is drying, we are still creating scars. For example, we see conflicts in Egypt where last year more than 1,000 people perished, in Iraq where more than 6,000 people perished last year, in Sudan where more than 2,500 people perished, and in Nigeria where more than 1,000 people have perished in 2013. There can be no doubt that politics and a lust for power lie in the inner sanctum of those conflicts, but it is the ugly face of racism and discrimination that is used by those in power to mobilise and manipulate the masses to achieve their ends. It is extremely disappointing to see racially motivated incidents occurring in a great country such as Australia. But the reality is that in our country we are blessed because those attacks are random and rare. When they do take place our sense of community causes us to stand up in unison to condemn them.
The strength of a community cannot so much be measured by whether those incidents occur because they will always occur. Whenever we get a population the size of New South Wales’, which is seven million, a city the size of Sydney with a population of 4.5 million and a country the size of Australia with a population of 24 million, we will always have outliers from the community who do terrible things. We do not necessarily measure our society by those attacks but, rather, by how we respond to them. In the circumstances we are discussing, the manner in which we responded is particularly laudable.
I particularly mention community organisations that immediately condemned the attacks. Apart from political leaders across the breadth of this country, including the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition and their ilk, we heard from organisations such as the United Muslim Women Association Incorporated, Cricket Australia, the Together For Humanity Foundation, the Australian Chinese Community Association, the Exodus Foundation, the Lebanese Muslim Association, the Ethnic Communities’ Council NSW, the Australian Baseball Federation, the Columban Mission Institute, the Australian Hellenic Council, the Refugee Council of Australia, the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, the Australian Rugby League and the NSW Federation of Community Language Schools, to mention just a few. They all stood up within 24 to 48 hours to universally condemn those attacks. That is truly a sign of the strength of our society—that we stand up together to condemn errant attacks. I particularly pay tribute to the Jewish Board of Deputies, especially to the board’s president, Mr Yair Miller, and to Mr Vic Alhadeff, who is the chief executive officer and who is present in the gallery today. As the Minister for Citizenship and Communities I am often engaged with community organisations, but I can say openly and proudly that there are not many organisations such as the Jewish Board of Deputies which has such a fine reputation and which works so hard to encourage interculturalism and interfaith activities.
I often say—and have said it publicly before—that they are a shining light—a beacon, if you wish—for other communities to aspire to. The Jewish Board of Deputies continually works hard at promoting interfaith and interculturalism in an attempt to build the bridges of understanding between communities. These are the bridges that will help to ensure that attacks such as this do not occur again.
Mr JAMIE PARKER (Balmain) [11.50 a.m.], by leave: I speak on behalf of The Greens and join with all members of this House in supporting the motion and condemning the clearly anti-Semitic attack that happened in Sydney’s eastern suburbs last Friday. I acknowledge Vic Alhadeff, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies, who is in the gallery today. I also acknowledge the excellent work the board does, particularly its campaigns against racism and its interfaith work. I join with members in condemning this attack because it highlights that racism and anti-Semitism are alive and are something that we must condemn at every opportunity. That is so not only because we condemn racism against anybody but also because we know the history of the Jewish people. In this case, more than any other, it is important that this House agrees to a motion condemning the brutal attack on the Jewish family in Bondi.
I highlight a few of the comments of The Greens’ spokesperson on multiculturism, Senator Richard Di Natale, who joined with the Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner to condemn the attack. Senator Di Natale’s words were clear and I agree with them:
Violence of any kind is unacceptable but racist violence is particularly abhorrent.
This type of hatred and violence has no place in our society. All people are entitled to live their lives in an environment without fear of intimidation or violence.
The Greens express our deepest concern for the welfare of the family who were assaulted.
This incident highlights the ongoing importance of anti-vilification legislation.
The Greens NSW multicultural spokesperson, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, condemned these attacks, like all members of The Greens do. This violent and abusive attack on members of our community—not just the Jewish community but our collective community—is disgraceful and absolutely unacceptable. I extend my personal sympathy and best wishes to the victims and their families. The Greens condemn all forms of violence, racism and bigotry and proudly support a multicultural Australia.
The incident on the weekend shows that there is more work to be done. We need to ensure that we continue the hard work of protecting the rights of all people to live in safe surroundings, free from harassment and vilification. It shows that we must redouble our efforts to work towards building a more cohesive society by promoting the everyday practice of peaceful and equitable dialogue, mutual understanding, respect and social justice between people from different cultures and different faiths. I note that there is a discussion at the moment about the role of anti-vilification legislation, particularly section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which has been used by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to take on anti-Semitism and Holocaust deniers. I am a supporter of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. The Federal Government needs to rethink its plan to repeal that Act because it is important that we act against racial discrimination and vilification in all areas and that we support legislative arrangements to give weight to that in the courts. However, it should be done in a sensitive way that takes account of freedom of speech. I will not address some of the nonsense raised by the member for Murray-Darling, but I wanted to express my sympathy to the family, to support all members in this House who support this motion and to recognise the importance of condemning this anti-Semitic attack.
Mr BRYAN DOYLE (Campbelltown) [11.54 a.m.], by leave: I support the motion and condemn those who peddle hate, prejudice, racism and violence in our community. We live in the land of the free. We all have a migrant history in this country and at every citizenship ceremony I address, when I welcome people I tell them that they are now Australian of whatever background. We are fortunate that we live in the land of the free where everyone is subject to the rule of law, where we can live in peace and where no-one needs to live in fear. I have had a 27 year career in the police force, dedicated to the protection of life and property. The purpose of the NSW Police Force is stated as being: “Police and the community, working together to reduce violence, crime and fear.” There is no reason for anyone to live in fear in our great nation. I urge anyone who has been subjected to this sort of crime to contact police and Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
I am pleased that my friend Vic Alhadeff, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies, is here today because resting on the table is the parliamentary mace—the symbol of justice, peace and good order in our community. That mace was donated to this Parliament by that wonderful group, the Jewish Board of Deputies. The board knows how important it is to live in a land where the rule of law applies, where people can live in peace and harmony, where they can raise their families, run their businesses and enjoy the Australian way of life.
The fact that this motion is being debated today highlights a very important fact: that we will remain vigilant in protecting our way of life and the values that we hold dear. Evil can prosper only when men and women of goodwill do nothing and say nothing. That does not happen in this place. The fact that my good friend the member for Murray-Darling has moved this motion and that so many members have sought leave to speak indicates that men and women of goodwill stand in this Chamber and will speak up, speak out and protect our way of life. I commend the motion to the House.
Dr GEOFF LEE (Parramatta) [11.57 a.m.], by leave: I condemn the recent attacks at Bondi and I express my personal best wishes to the victims of those hate crimes and their families. I acknowledge Vic Alhadeff, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies. It is great to see you, Vic. The condemnation from both sides of the House is truly testament to our disgust at the incident last Friday. Members in this House recognise the need to for zero tolerance of racial discrimination. That attitude extends throughout my electorate of Parramatta, where more than 50 per cent of the population was born overseas. We have people who were born in Thailand, India, Lebanon, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam and many other countries. There would be no better example of a harmonious community than that of Parramatta. Many of those people came to Australia and chose to live in Parramatta because it is such a harmonious place to live, offering an Australian way of life, a good way of life where we can be Australians but where we can also enjoy and celebrate our heritage.
Parramatta has areas such as Little India at Harris Park. We celebrated the Deepavali Festival in Parliament last night and the member for Campbelltown was part of those celebrations. I commend him for bringing that to the attention of the House.
Certainly, those who choose to come to Australia do so because they want to contribute to Australia, and can achieve that in many ways—by raising a family, starting a business or getting a job. Australia has been built on migration over its 200 years of European settlement, and that will be essential for what can best be described as our future modern culture building blocks. There is no better example of that multicultural approach than Parramatta with its temples, churches and mosques representing a huge diversity of religions. The Parramatta community lives together after having worked out a few problems in the past. I agree with the Minister for Citizenship and Communities that we all should work together to stamp out discriminatory and vilifying behaviour. People from more than 200 countries have settled in Western Sydney. Nowhere was that more evident to me than in the many first-generation students at the University of Western Sydney. I commend the university for its multicultural approach. I condemn last Friday’s attacks. I agree with the Premier’s zero tolerance for racial discrimination in New South Wales.
Mr MICHAEL DALEY (Maroubra) [12.01 p.m.], by leave: I support the motion, which states:
That this House notes the alleged assault on a group of Jewish people in Bondi last week and condemns any form of racism in Australia.
It is right and necessary for people of good conscience to remain vigilant regarding this and similar issues because it is a good and proper thing to do. There should be no tolerance for racial vilification, difference or associated violence in this country or anywhere in the world. But more than being just good and proper, it is necessary. We have no choice. On 12 October I went to Dolphin Point, Coogee, and on 13 October I went to Cromwell Park, Malabar, as I have done every year for the past 11 years, to commemorate those we lost in the Bali bombings—a horrific act of intolerance and violence. Whilst that bombing was infinitely more violent than the alleged attacks on the Jewish people in Bondi last week, it was carried out by the same behaviour species—it lives under the same roof; it crawled out of the same dark swamp.
To those who think there is no room in Australia for people of the Jewish faith and community I say: Get over it because they are going nowhere; they have been here for a very long time. The Jewish people form a very peaceful, necessary, productive and integral part of Australian society, as do people from whatever background of the Islamic faith who choose to live here in peace amongst those who may be from the Catholic, Anglican, Sikh, Hindu or Buddhist faith. We are all here together; we are not going anywhere. We all form part of one of the most racially tolerant international communities. History shows what happens when people disagree with those propositions and act to move against them. History also shows what happens when people of good conscience become complacent about these vital issues. Those who ignore history are bound to relive it—a great saying that I love. Today in this place we say that we will not ignore history. I do not want my children, or the children of my children, to be forced to relive history. That is why I support this motion, and I am sure I speak for not only other members but also all the people in my electorate of Maroubra, which is a peaceful melting pot of people from all backgrounds, races, creeds, religions and beliefs. That is one reason I am so proud to represent them in this place.
Mr BRUCE NOTLEY-SMITH (Coogee) [12.04 p.m.], by leave: I thank the member for Murray-Darling for moving this motion condemning the attacks on the Jewish people in Bondi a few nights ago. Last night I attended the Jewish National Fund gala dinner with the member for Davidson. Once again the Jewish community came together to promote not only their faith, but also their sense of community to further protect their ideal of the home of Israel. I know of no other community in my electorate of Coogee that spends more time and effort in interfaith understanding. Last Sunday I attended the Harmony Walk just down the road from here in Cathedral Square. Harmony Walk was the vision of Ernie Friedlander, a very proud and respected member of the Jewish community. I was fortunate that last year he came to me to assist him in founding that walk. Ernie brings together people of all races and faiths to condemn violence and vilification of any significance—sexuality, race or religion.
None of that is acceptable in our country. The Harmony Walk aims to overcome the inclination to violence of so many in this world. We all should be able to respect one another and sort our differences to live harmoniously. I welcome Vic Alhadeff, the Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies, which hosted my visit a few weeks ago to Israel. After a 23-year absence from that country, it was great to return to see its culture affirmation to pursue peace, harmony and respect from all and for all. Violence has no place in this country. Racism has no place in this country. Victimisation has no place in this country in whatever form. Often I visit the synagogues in the Coogee and Vaucluse electorates and am welcomed with open arms by attendants and rabbis, with whom I am in frequent contact and discussion. The substantial Jewish community in Coogee, many of whom are my close friends and associates, are shocked and horrified that anti-Semitism broke out in Bondi. We should all be disgusted that that seed of hatred, the results of which have been seen over many years, most disgustingly during the Holocaust, could take root in a gorgeous beachside suburb such as Bondi, so near the Coogee electorate. Members who have spoken to this motion condemning this act of violence, hatred and discrimination are right to air their disgust and to seek to promote a more harmonious and respectful Australia.
Mrs TANYA DAVIES (Mulgoa) [12.09 p.m.], by leave: I am pleased to offer bipartisan support for this motion with my parliamentary colleagues and condemn with one voice the anti-Semitic attacks that were inflicted on Jewish families in Bondi last week. I acknowledge Vic Alhadeff, Chief Executive Officer of the Jewish Board of Deputies, who is in the gallery, and his colleagues for their continued efforts and strong work to promote tolerance, understanding and celebration of the Jewish people and their faith in New South Wales.
A few weeks ago I had the great honour of visiting Israel for the first time with a number of other parliamentary colleagues. I had the experience of seeing Israel, the only nation in the Middle East that is a truly democratic state, yet it continues to suffer undeserved attacks from its neighbours. Its citizens in New South Wales have also been attacked. It is incredibly distressing. The violent attack in Bondi was perpetrated a few hours after an anti-Israel protest that was held in Denver, Colorado, and others that were held in France and Belgium.
It is extremely important that the New South Wales Parliament, representing our great State, is united against the anti-Israeli protests. We should stand firm in support of tolerance and acceptance and rejoice in and celebrate diversity. As people we are not called to agree with each other. That is not a sign of a healthy democratic nation. We are called to respect each other’s views and the freedoms and rights that we each hold but, most importantly, to respect religious freedom and expression of speech.
The people and Parliament of New South Wales, including the community that I represent in Western Sydney, condemn these anti-Semitic attacks. The Australian people condemn these anti-Semitic attacks. One of the victims of the attacks has called for education, which is critically important. I draw the attention of the House to a website that I was introduced to when I visited Israel—www.palwatch.org. It was set up to monitor and report information that is distributed on Palestinian television, radio and other media and through its education system. I urge all members to take five seconds to look at that website, because it reveals what sort of information the Palestinian authorities are propagating to their communities and young people. It is alarming and scary. It is time that we urged the leaders of all nations to stand up and say enough is enough. We want to live in a harmonious world in which we respect each other. We need to stop the indoctrination of our young to hate the people of Israel.
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour—The Assistant-Speaker) [12.13 p.m.], by leave: Coffs Harbour is a diverse community that has in excess of 45 nationalities—Sudanese, Jews and others from across the world. The Jews have been persecuted since time immemorial. Any student of the Bible will understand that. What has happened in the past couple of weeks is an absolute disgrace. It is abhorrent. Our society should not tolerate it. We should not tolerate vilification of any ethnic minority group, or majority for that matter. We have seen acts of violence across the world for centuries in the name of religion, which is bizarre. There is one God. I suggest all members have a look at the tenets of the 10 great religions of the world and they will find among them the Ten Commandments, which are practised by all faiths. Those tenets teach us to be tolerant of one another.
Thirty years ago a company by the name of Bacharat Nominees was set up in the Coffs Harbour community. Max Normberger was one of the principals of the company. His son Rodney now runs it. When Max came to town, he built the Park Beach Plaza, a magnificent shopping centre. I was the service director for Apex and I approached Max to ask whether the club could run raffles. The manager of the centre told me in no uncertain terms that it was not allowed. Max came from the outer office, asked who I was, introduced himself, and said, “Yes, I want to help this community.” The Jewish people have always helped the communities in which they live. Max allowed raffles to be run every Saturday morning. It has been happening for the past 30 years. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars, have been raised for charitable causes within the Coffs Harbour community thanks to the generosity of Max Normberger. Recently I attended Max’s funeral, which was my first Jewish funeral. It was a dignified service that did not make mention of the generosity of Max and his family to our community or to their community. He was involved in education within his own community of eastern Sydney. That is the humble nature of the Jewish people.
I cannot relate to these louts—they are scum. Their recent actions are totally unacceptable. An Indian friend of mine is married to a woman of Scottish descent and their daughter has married an Aboriginal—a mix that is second to none. Is there vilification? No. They are a family. I urge all members to support this motion. However, I point out that any political party, such as The Greens, that promotes vilification against a race by way of trade or in any other manner will only incite hatred. I cannot accept it. I suggest that The Greens look hard at their policies with regard to different races within the Australian community. We all come from different nations. That is what makes us Australians and we should be proud of that fact.
Mr JOHN ROBERTSON (Blacktown—Leader of the Opposition) [12.17 p.m.], by leave: I make a contribution in support of this motion. Everyone in this Chamber agrees that the recent alleged events are abhorrent and completely unacceptable in our society, which we believe embraces and celebrates multiculturalism. One of the great opportunities we have as members of Parliament is to attend many different multicultural events. I often make a contribution at those events. I talk about how wonderful our multicultural society is and that it ought to be celebrated, but I also talk about its fragility. It requires us to be ever vigilant. As wonderful as our multicultural society is, there will always be those who seek to tear it down and carry out acts such as those that allegedly occurred recently.
Each of us—not just those in this Chamber—has a responsibility, whenever those opportunities arise, to not simply talk about multiculturalism, but to speak up when we see actions that are inappropriate and inconsistent with the values we say are the values of this nation.
Often people will use the guise of “these people are destroying our culture”. My view of the Australian culture continues to evolve. Unless we are descendants of the first Australians, we have brought a culture with us. The great thing about the Australian culture is that it embraces so many different cultures from a wide diversity of backgrounds. The real Australian culture continues to evolve and grow and because we have embraced those many and varied cultures we are the envy of the world.
This week, for example, I have attended two Deepavali festivals and last night a movie was shown in the Parliament Theatrette about the 153-year history of the Afghan cameleers and the contribution that the Afghans have made to our nation. Holding two of those events at Parliament House demonstrates that this place
embraces multiculturalism. Each of us has a responsibility to be ever vigilant and to be ever prepared to make our voices heard against those who would seek to vilify others based only on their religion or ethnic background. We have a responsibility to intervene and ensure that no-one is allowed to find themselves in circumstances like those that are alleged to have occurred last weekend at Bondi.
Last Sunday I attended the Harmony Walk—a one kilometre walk that commenced at St Mary’s Cathedral Square. That great event, which was organised by Ernie Friedlander, allowed the community to come together. People of Sikh faith, Jewish faith, Catholics, those from the Uniting Church and people of no faith joined together in support of harmony. Events such as this allow us to continue to publicly declare that we want a harmonious society—a society that does not just tolerate but celebrates the great diversity that makes New South Wales the great place it is.
Mr GARETH WARD (Kiama) [12.21 p.m.], by leave: Many people would be aware that the electorate of Kiama is not necessarily one with a significant Jewish population. However, I have been involved with the Parliamentary Friends of Israel since becoming a member in this place—as was my predecessor, Mr Matthew Brown, before me. I am sure that the constituents of my electorate would want me to join with the member for Murray-Darling and record my strongest feelings in relation to racism and the recent attack at Bondi. And whilst I condemn that attack, I also celebrate our diversity and multiculturalism in this Chamber. As I grew up multiculturalism was encouraged in my community. My mother immigrated to this country. It is my belief that people who have come to this nation from overseas have made this nation truly great—they are part of the tapestry of cultures that we embrace.
Tragically times and events are recorded in our history where Australia has not demonstrated its multiculturalism and the embracing of other cultures as we should have. The attack at Bondi is a stain on our society but it is not what should be considered as the norm. I note that Vic Alhadeff is seated in the gallery; I know him well. My connection with the Jewish community came about when I was secretary of the student council at the University of Wollongong. My friend Doran Katz, who was a member of the Jewish community, came into my office on one occasion quite distressed. The far Left on campus had been holding a rally condemning Israel and making anti-Semitic statements. I encouraged him to form the Wollongong chapter of the Australian Union of Jewish Students. We got together with a number of Jewish students and formed that chapter. When I attended the annual general meeting I was surprised to be nominated as their honorary vice president. That began my involvement with the Australian Union of Jewish Students.
Every year I enjoy participating in the Illawarra Israeli Film Festival, which is run by Yoke Berry and a number of others, including Greg Rose from the University of Wollongong. There is no doubt that those opportunities remind me of the important place that God’s first people, the Israeli people, play in our society. When we hear of events such as the attack at Bondi one thinks of how difficult it still is to be Jewish today—Munich, the intifadas, Yom Kippur, the Six-Day War. How many times must these people suffer atrocities? In a country such as Australia that prides itself on liberty, diversity, democracy and freedom it is not only appropriate but also incumbent upon this House to pass this motion and condemn those responsible for the terrible attack that happened at Bondi.
I want every community across New South Wales to know that law-abiding citizens, people who embrace our values of liberty, freedom, hope and opportunity are welcome in New South Wales every day of the week. We will stand behind those who embrace those values. So much of Israel’s existence is like a canary in a coalmine—they are surrounded by other nations that oppose their existence. I stand with Israel in supporting its right to exist. I condemn the actions of councils such as those we saw from Marrickville Council and those that engaged in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. This particular incident reminds me of the threat that Israeli citizens still face. They should not face those threats. The Parliament should support them and we should condemn any racist attack on any community, including the Israeli residents of our State.
Mr STUART AYRES (Penrith—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.25 p.m.], by leave: I support this incredibly important motion. If we do not use opportunities such as this to speak out against this behaviour we are as bad as the people who participate in it. We must use the voice that we have been given in parliaments such as this to proclaim loudly the values that we hold dear in our country. If we do not take opportunities to proclaim those values loudly we forgo the opportunity to stand up when someone comes after us.
In Australia in the middle of the 1800s a group of people stitched stars and a white cross on a blue background and stood underneath it in a stand against oppression. They did it as a group of immigrants on the goldfields of Eureka. Those people embedded in our nation the ability to stand up for something we believe in.
The fire that burnt in the souls of those people was about embedding into our nation the ability to say to people that we do have boundless plains to share and that the radiant Southern Cross will guide us at every turn when we see trouble. Those people who walked on the streets of Bondi the other night found themselves brutally attacked by people who have turned their back on the Southern Cross and their fellow countrymen, and they deserve our unequivocal condemnation.
If we do not take this opportunity then we will be saying to them that their actions are okay and will be condoned. Mr Assistant-Speaker, with the strong voice of my colleagues from right across the political divide, I say to you that we will never tolerate that type of activity. So often we hear people ask: What is un-Australian? A definition of that is coldly and callously bashing someone on the streets of Bondi because you think they look different. If we cannot speak out against that we are not doing our jobs. I proudly stand in this House as a representative of the people of Penrith and as a representative of the values of all Australians and I will always speak out against these types of atrocities.
Australia has the ability to open its doors and say to people, “If you want a better life, if you want an opportunity, you can find it here. If you need to tie it up with wire to keep the show on the road, we will find a way to make things happen.” That is exactly what this motion is about. I cannot think of a more important debate on a motion in which I have participated in this Chamber. We have the opportunity to draw a line in the sand and tell people what it really means to be an Australian—that is, to look after your family, your brothers and sisters, but never turn your back on an opportunity to tell someone when they have stepped out of line. We need to let people know that our community will not tolerate this activity. That is why this motion is so critically important.
Too often behaviour like this goes unaddressed. Too often incidents like this continue to happen, and we allow them to infiltrate our community. That must stop. If it is the Jewish people who bring us to this realisation then so be it. They have shown so much courage and borne so much pressure over such a long time that we cannot stand by silently while they are attacked again. The behaviour of the Jewish persons in this incident is not the issue; the issue is the behaviour of the persons who have flagrantly disregarded what it means to be Australian by attacking someone in this racist incident. That must be condemned and that is why I support the motion.
Mr ROB STOKES (Pittwater—Parliamentary Secretary) [12.30 p.m.], by leave: I make a brief statement in support of the motion. I have listened to the contributions of other members and I am reminded of the words, which have stayed with me for a long time, of Martin Niemoller. He was an interesting man, a flawed man, but a man who spoke the truth when he said:
First they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Gypsies, and I remained silent—
Because I was not a Gypsy.
Then they came for the homosexuals, and I said nothing—
Because I was not a homosexual.
Then they came for the Jews, and I remained silent—
Finally they came for me and there was no-one left to speak for me.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS (Murray-Darling) [12.30 p.m.] in reply: I acknowledge the presence in the public gallery of Vic Alhadeff, the Chief Executive Officer from the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies. He has listened to the debate this morning and I ask him to take the best wishes and thoughts of all members to the victims of this attack. The debate gives an indication of the support of this Parliament for the Jewish community. The member for Balmain in his contribution criticised me for attacking The Greens. But I still say that words and actions can have unintended consequences. If The Greens continue this type of behaviour then it will have unintended consequences, and that is my greatest fear. I followed the history of the State of Israeli as I was growing up. I grew up during the 1960s and remember watching television reports about the Six Day War. I followed the struggle of the Jewish people to establish the State of Israel. I have read much about it and am conscious of actions taken against Jewish people worldwide. It is of great concern to me that such a strong group of people can be continually subjected to this type of oppression. It is totally unacceptable.
I thank members representing the electorates of Fairfield, Vaucluse, Heffron, Davidson, Cabramatta, Ryde, Balmain, Campbelltown, Parramatta, Maroubra, Coogee, Mulgoa, Coffs Harbour, Blacktown, Kiama, Penrith and Pittwater for their contributions to this debate. I was motivated to move this motion when I read the article by Tim Blair in the Daily Telegraph on Monday morning entitled, “Take the pro-chocolate approach to fighting anti-Semitism”. Members of this Chamber will be well aware of the protests outside the Max Brenner chocolate stores. I was interested to read that Kevin Rudd took appropriate action and went into a Max Brenner store to demonstrate his support. He opposes the boycott. I say to Mr David Shoebridge and other members of The Greens that they should demonstrate their support in the same way—they should get out there and demonstrate their support for these businesses. The Greens claim to be a peaceful group and say that they are not the antagonists in this situation. To be true to their word, they should get out there and demonstrate by their actions that they will cease this campaign. It is unacceptable.
I think this motion is important as a way of saying, “This is it. We have drawn a line in the sand and this Parliament is not going to accept that kind of behaviour from this group of people. It has to stop today.” Such behaviour cannot continue. We have seen today a clear demonstration that members of this House will not continue to accept these actions. We are going to stop what could well be the unintended consequences of, and the fallout from, the words and actions of The Greens.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.