A Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Julia

Thank you for visiting the leaders of the Perth Jewish Community during your trip to Western Australia.

As a member of the community I expect to remain unsure about what issues and concerns of the community were conveyed to you, and vice versa.  As far as I am aware not one local Jewish organisation has asked its membership about what political issues are of importance for discussion with the Government.  Not to mention that despite the ease of online communications in this day and age, that there are no interactive mediums of communication for the Jewish Community Council to communicate to its constituency about policy, advocacy and representation.

There is no doubt that you have consistently proven yourself as a politician that respects and honours the Australian Jewish community, and that your Government makes itself aware of the needs of Australian Jewry.  You even have a special advisor on your staff for this purpose.  As Jews we freely practice our religion in Australia, receive Government support for our education, security, and heritage related activity, and for all this I am very grateful.

Within our community there are diverse and inconsistent views about all matters of Government policy.  In the absence of the ability of my community to collate, distil, analyse and communicate these matters, allow me to share some personal perspectives.

Israel is, and must remain the principal collective concern of the Australian Jewish community.  On this matter, your Government has angered a large portion of the community by abandoning Australia’s impartial stance on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  Make no mistake.  By dubbing “settlements” as illegal, the Australian Government is supporting a Palestinian narrative that is both factually incorrect and morally repugnant.  This stance leads to the disunification of Jerusalem, the Capital City of the State of Israel and the central focal point of Jewish ritual.  Your Foreign Minister is leading us astray.  Last week you had the chance to sack him.  Perhaps you may care to explain to the Australian Jewish community why Bob Carr was not removed from office?

Could you please also clarify for Australian taxpayers where the millions of dollars of foreign aid money given to the Palestinian Authority is spent?  Your agencies can only parrot that the money is given to NGO organisations that have their own audit processes.  I am concerned that this money is being gifted with no accountability.  I have no objections to supporting genuine social needs and aid, but it would seem that this money is being used in an unsustainable way to perpetuate Palestinian dependence on aid, as opposed to creating self sufficiency.

Finally, on the topic of Israel, bilateral trade between Israel and Australia is continually growing.  Woodside Petroleum has signed a $1.2 Billion dollar investment deal into Israel’s emerging energy market.  Israeli innovation and technology in fields such as medical science, agritech, ICT, and sustainable energy infrastructure could add huge value to Australian production markets.  There needs to be greater Government support to assist small business to embrace and access this Israeli know-how, including research and development grants and tax breaks, through to the easing of migration and visa status to support the configuration, implementation and driving of this technology into the Australian market.

Regarding social issues, there are many topics that have both political and religious dimensions.  I believe it is important that State and Religion remain separate, with the former legal instrumentality being reinforced as sacrosanct, and the latter, represented by community structures be valued for their injection of social capital.  The Government’s stance must be hardened to ensure that any religious law, such as Sharia or Halacha remains subservient and lower in precedence to Australian law where any conflict is identified.

The debate about gay marriage continues to be a topic of national discussion.  The best commentary on this I have seen comes from Daniel Greenfield who writes “Gay marriage is not about men marrying men or women marrying women, it is about the deconstruction of marriage between men and women. That is a thing that many men and women of one generation understand but have trouble conveying to another generation for whom marriage has already largely been deconstructed.”  For traditional reasons, I believe that marriage needs a definition, to the exclusion of homosexual relationships.  However, I believe you will find a majority of Australian Jewish people of all persuasions who would support a political (non-religious) move to match the existing legal entitlements of same sex couples with civil union recognition.

On the matter of the economy, it will come of no surprise to you to know that just as with other minority communities in Australia, there are many Jewish families living in poverty, and many working/middle class families that are struggling to make ends meet.  There are small business owners that are suffocating under a raft of Commonwealth and State taxes that are crippling business and providing a disincentive for entrepreneurship.  Increases to payroll tax and forthcoming changes such as increases to compulsory super payments are leading to a reduction in employment and an increase in welfare dependency.  Current fiscal policy is polarising Australian business into multinational corporations at one end of the spectrum, sole traders at the other, with nothing left in between.  This cycle needs to be reversed.  The manufacturing sector of Australia needs to be recreated.  The selfishness and greed of the Australian psyche has also gripped Australian Governments, who have now resorted to legislating for philanthropy.  Whilst unstable political and economic systems appear around the globe, instead of attempting to protect against them, your Government appears to be attempting to universalise them.  So please, reduce company and individual taxes to the extent that consumers are able to spend and companies are able to profit.  You will find that the ironic outcome is a net increase in tax revenues for the Treasury (could you please tell Wayne Swann that companies actually pay tax on profits if they are allowed to make them).

As you sat with the leaders of Perth Jewry, you have joined our community in celebrating the birth of our nationhood through the festival of Passover.  Some 3,325 years have passed since the exodus from Egypt, and the Jewish values that were created during that momentous journey remain as strong and relevant as ever.  As a community that lives by these ideals, we have much to contribute to our nation.

I would be happy to vote for you at the next election if you can present a credible policy to the electorate that addresses the matters above, and has not been dumbed down to a series of soundbytes and catchphrases.  In the words of George Orwell “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”  Australian’s are well capable of determining substance in policy, and understand that good policy has to be costed and budgeted.

If you would like to win my vote, please make it clear that Israel has the sovereign right to its Jerusalem Capital as a unified City.  Please evidence that economically and socially you will improve our economy by embracing business instead of punishing it.  Please take your education initiatives forward with no duplicitous reduction in funding for private Jewish day schools that are the most critically important institutions of our community.   Finally, please be aware that one day I would like to retire, secure in the knowledge that the goalposts of my superannuation will not be continually shifted and that my nest-egg will not be raided.

I wish you well in your continued hard work to engage with the communities of Australia, and look forward to seeing you at the ballot box later this year, a day of judgement for us all!

Yours sincerely

Gedalia