It is widely acknowledged that the Jewish community of Australia, as with any other ethnic minority community, tends to benefit from bipartisan political support. There is only an occasional level of political parochialism that is detected through Jewish community leadership. The Jewish community votes according to individual preference, and for the most part from amongst its membership it delivers an active support base to most major political parties.
It is a truely privileged democracy in which we live. How many Diaspora Jewish communities in Jewish history can proclaim that they have not only the right, but the active support of elected Governments of any pursuasion to openly and freely practice their religion and meet their obligations as both citizens and Jews?
The State Governement relationship mirrors the Federal one, in respect that both the Government and opposition have shown in both word and deed that the Jewish community of Perth is supported as part of the community of Western Australia. In recent years, with many emerging Jewish community concerns (education, aged care, security, migration, social support, facility development but to name a few), the communities relationship with State Government representatives has only been enhanced.
Perhaps a new level is to be reached again, and if not, certainly a new style of engagement, with an event to be shortly hosed by MLA Michael Sutherland and the Premier Colin Barnett.
As part of a consultation process with many minority communities in Perth a reception was recently hosted by the Government. When Mr Sutherland realised that it was on Friday night, therefore excluding participation from the Jewish community, he has arranged a special event, exclusively designed to give Jewish community membership the opportunity to informally meet and engage in dialogue. Reaction to date shows that this initiative is respected and will be well supported. Interaction and conversation between community members and our political leaders in a dedicated environment, outside of campaign season, is a somewhat rare and new opportunity.
If any criticism has been directed towards this, it is that the event will raise a modest level of funds for the Liberal party, and in this sense it is a political fundraiser. As one friend remarked, it is as if American style political activity is being introduced more and more into Australia, and that the inference is that future political support is contingent on the provision of donations and electoral funds.
To a certain extent this view has merit. The event itself has a token entry charge, not a high value ticket, so it is more the principle than the value of the funds that are a matter of discussion. However on this occasion I don’t think a lot of people will attend because they want to be political donors, rather they will attend to return the compliment to Mr Sutherland and recognise the fact that he is making a special effort to engage with Jewish community members. For this reason I also strongly believe the event is worth supporting, and do not view my attendance as an expression of political loyalty to the Liberal Party.
Into the future it would be fantastic to see more events of this nature take place. If there is concern about political leanings, then the answer seems pretty simple. In this case, our elected representatives have taken the initiative to organise and host the community. It would not take much to turn this around. The Jewish Community Council or another interested body could host similar events, and be the host of political leaders, from across the range of political parties. It may even be more appropriate as a guesture of gratitude from the commuinty.
While this may be something to think about for the future, this time around it is a politically instigated invitation to engage and consult. There are a number of very supportive and dedicated Parliamentarians who support our small Jewish communty. When the occasional opportunity arises to show acclaim for this support it should be met with a strong and encouraging response.