Tony Abbott’s recent reshuffle saw Sussan Ley promoted to the Cabinet, taking on the role of Minister for Health and Sport. Let’s find out a bit more about her:
Sussan Ley: From punk rocker to health minister
As a high school student in Canberra in the 1970s, Ley walked around with no shoes, black lipstick, spiky purple hair, a dog collar, and a nose piercing connected to the razor blade in her ear.
Australia’s newest health minister was actually born in Nigeria, to British parents. When she was just a baby, her family moved to the United Arab Emirates where her father was attached to British intelligence. She attended school there until she was 10 and was then sent to boarding school in England while her parents remained in the UAE.
After three years in England, the whole family migrated to Australia. They landed in Queensland in 1974…
Why Australia? “Oh, Dad had been here before – shooting kangaroos, running a pub in St Kilda – and liked it”… They soon moved to Canberra because her father got a job with the Australian Federal Police. But she hated high school in the nation’s capital and her punk-rocker side soon emerged.
When Ley was 19 she enrolled in flight school and started to learn to fly. ..She gained her commercial pilot’s licence when she was 20 and later worked as an air traffic controller at Melbourne and Sydney airports…
Eventually, she got a job aerial stock-mustering in south-west Queensland… where she met her future husband. They married and had three children, settling on her husband’s family farm in north-east Victoria.
She sought Liberal Party pre-selection for the federal seat of Farrer in 2001… She was re-elected three years later, in 2004, where she was offered the added responsibility of Parliamentary Secretary for Children and Youth Affairs, then Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry in 2006.
She has since held shadow portfolios for Housing and Women (2007), Justice and Customs/Assistant Treasurer (2008 to 2009) and Childcare, Early Childhood Learning & Employment Participation (2010 to 2013).
Announcing her promotion on Sunday, Mr Abbott said Ley had handled Parliament “with great aplomb”.
Sussan Ley has some admirable qualities – feisty, adventurous and ambitious. Yet conspicuously absent from the Fairfax article is mention of her other parliamentary activities; in September 2011, she wrote –
… the Palestinians will take their case for statehood to the UN Security Council. Democracy is sweeping the Middle East, and our sympathy for the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans must surely embrace the Palestinians, who seek only to be citizens in their own country. Earlier this year I spent 10 days in the occupied West Bank as the co-chair of the parliament’s Friends of Palestine. I joined a group of colleagues on a visit to this ancient place and want the House to be aware of what we saw, touched and felt. While the eyewitness may misunderstand, we at least have the benefit of a view unfiltered by media other than our own imperfect wisdom.
We met with the Palestinian Authority, non-government organisations, churches and very many ordinary Israelis and Palestinians at their homes, businesses, farms and on the street. The presentation of the Palestinian case to the UN is their Arab Spring. It comes with no threat of violence. As Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said to us in Ramallah: ‘The doctrine of non-violence is the path of freedom. I believe in the transformative power of non-violence to inspire people to rebuild.’ President Abbas has insisted that this bid for statehood in no way delegitimises Israel… Israel’s concern that the Arab uprisings are causing the region to become more unfriendly is in danger of becoming self-fulfilling. The infant Arab states are right to expect genuine moves towards a two-state solution. I do not believe a secure Israel will be achieved in spite of a viable Palestinian state; I believe that it cannot be achieved without one.
In the West Bank I found a leadership exhausted by the occupation, the ongoing arguments with Hamas, the US brokered peace process that has no process and the demands of a population wanting tangible improvements to their everyday lives. The occupation is transforming Israelis and Palestinians into something they are not. Breaking the Silence publishes the testimonies of Israeli soldiers. Its spokesperson, Yehuda Shaul, told me without emotion, ‘When you place a teenage soldier with a gun at a checkpoint, there are consequences.’ The people are exhausted, too, from the checkpoints, permits, lockdowns, home demolitions and the relentless expansion of settlements.
… I met my World Vision foster child in the village of Nahalin, surrounded by encroaching settlements, and stood in the treeless playground amongst the falling-down classrooms and tired soccer balls, looking just across the gully at the settlement school with its modern buildings and latest equipment. Visiting the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, as I did high on a hill near Jerusalem, inside the West Bank on Palestinian land, the outlook is serene. The Jewish residents travel on Israeli-only roads straight to Tel Aviv and cannot even see the second road network or the villages hidden in the valley below. It is as if the Palestinians have been airbrushed out of existence.
It is a curious thing to see a donkey pulling a one-furrow plough in the midst of Israel’s dazzling technical innovation. One tries to make sense of foreign aid providing a couple of beehives for a cottage industry in honey when a few kilometres away hydrologists from across the earth travel to witness Israel’s capital-intensive achievements in hydroponics. If you could only combine the technology, research and institutions of the state of Israel with the energy of the Palestinian people, the world would see a powerhouse of productivity.
As I return to my rural electorate, I will recall the farmers we met who have been chased off their land and livelihood by illegal settlers and are now mendicant aid recipients. Many among the Jewish community share a real concern for their welfare, and I wish to pay tribute to the amazing Rabbis for Human Rights. I support the Palestinian bid for statehood in part because it will give heart to the ordinary people of the West Bank and Gaza… we in the international community must stand in solidarity with those seeking the non-violent path to a secure Israel and an independent Palestine.
Ley’s perspective is totally one sided: the Arabs are blameless, while Israel is the villain, with no redeeming features. As for her assertion
“we at least have the benefit of a view unfiltered by media other than our own imperfect wisdom”,
it is well known that Palestinian stringers show visitors only selected areas and, with no press freedom, visitors who value their lives will report what Hamas or the PA dictate. What is puzzling is why an intelligent woman like Ley didn’t do some independent research to find out the facts on her return to Australia.
I suspect the reason Fairfax media didn’t mention Ley’s involvement with the Palestinian cause is that three years on, her pronouncements so wildly inaccurate that they are laughable –
“The presentation of the Palestinian case to the UN is their Arab Spring. It comes with no threat of violence…”
Given that Abbas has allied with Hamas and the Arab Spring has morphed into a barbaric Arab winter, one can only wonder how Ley could so drastically underestimate the situation.
Andrew Bolt is equally unimpressed with Ley’s fact finding. Talking about Tim Blair’s visit to Lakemba, he criticizes “well-meaning deceptions from federal frontbencher Sussan Ley”, who said “We must be really careful with the – we must recognise several things about Muslims … One is that Islam is a religion of peace. It absolutely is.”
A few weeks ago a large crowd of mostly young men assembled outside the Lakemba Hotel. Waving black flags, the men chanted:
Philistine philistine (Arabic for Palestine),
Allah hedik Israel (God destroy you Israel)
Palestine is Muslim land
With the Umma we will stand
Palestine is Muslim land
The solution is Jihad
Palestine is Muslim land
Your oppression will not stand
You can never stop Islam
From Australia to al Sham (Syria)
One umma hand in hand
From Lakemba to Gaza
… Across the road from the hotel is the Islamic Bookstore… Three books caught my eye. Here’s an extract from Muhammad bin Jamil Zino’s What a Muslim Should Believe, a handy 64-page Q & A guide to the Koran’s instructions:
Question 43: Is it allowed to support and love disbelievers?
Answer: No, it is not allowed.
…The History of the Jews seems a bland enough title, but the back cover quotes lines from Martin Luther that were used by Nazi propagandists: “The sun never did shine on a more bloodthirsty and revengeful people as they.” The book offers this view, on page 16:
No one can deny the fact that the Jews are the worst kind of barbarian killers the world has ever known!!! The decent great Adolf Hitler of Germany never killed in the manner of the Jews!!! Surely only mad people or those who love killing infants, pregnant women and the infirm will think differently.
… Another must-read is Mansoor Abdul Hakim’s charming 2009 text, Women Who Deserve to go to Hell. Turns out it’s quite a lot of them.
“Some people keep asking about the denizens of Hell and the reason why women will go to hell in large numbers,” writes Hakim, listing various types of hell-bound females, including the grumbler, the quarrelsome woman, women with tattoos and women who refuse to have sex during menstruation.”
Hakim considers women with tattoos deserve to go to Hell, so goodness knows what fate he believes would await Ley, given her earlier penchant of wearing “black lipstick, spiky purple hair, a dog collar, and a nose piercing connected to the razor blade in her ear.”
As far back as 2003, Ley hosted a special Ramadam dinner to” recognise the place the Muslim community has in Australia.”
Those of us that are involved in trade recognise the importance of the Arab world to our trade relationship, but this is probably time to look at the contribution that Muslim society makes and to promote that goodwill, that peace and that understanding that really does cross cultural and religious barriers.
I think that we’re in a climate where there is some misunderstanding and there is even some fear, and it is important to acknowledge that the Muslim faith is a faith that is accepting of other faiths and that promotes peace, goodwill and understanding in much the same way as the Christian faith does, and we need to keep the fundamentalist element right out of the picture and mainstream Muslims would agree with that.
I think it’s very important that Australians of all religions recognise the importance of the Muslim religion to Australian community and society as a whole…”
In 2011 Labor MHR Michael Danby criticised Ley in a Press Release:
Sussan Ley, the Liberal Member for Farrer, continued the one-sided tradition of criticism of Israel expressed by her predecessor, former member for Farrer, former Deputy PM Tim Fischer.
… Ley, who is the Liberal co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, spoke of her recent visit to Israel as “ten days in the occupied West Bank.”
Ley met with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, but did not meet any representatives of Israel, leaders, members of the Knesset or diplomats.
She did meet critics of Israeli society- the Israeli Soldiers group-Breaking the silence, and paid tribute to another group of Palestine supporters she described as,“the amazing Rabbi’s for Human Rights.”
Mr Danby said a bright future for the two peoples will not come through a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian State with an automatic majority of Muslim and Arab supporters at the United Nations General Assembly.”
It is surely incompatible with the ideals of Australia’s liberal democracy that a member of Parliament would support groups that oppose democracy and fundamental freedoms. It is especially puzzling, considering Ms Ley is a liberated woman, that she favours groups like Hamas and the PA, which oppress their women. While it is pragmatic for MPs whose electorate has a large Islamic population to support the Palestinian narrative, this doesn’t apply to her electorate.
Maybe there are some clues in her background. We are told that her British parents moved to the United Arab Emirates, where she was educated until the age of 10, so it’s possible that she imbibed some of this country’s hostility to Jews. After this, she was sent to boarding school in England, so she obviously had a privileged upbringing: maybe some element of white guilt is at play here.
Whatever her personal motivations, it is surprising that Tony Abbott should select a woman to the Cabinet who is so out of sync with the Liberal party’s support for Israel.