Election Commentary – first post

It’s that time of the triennial political cycle – the Federal Election circus.

I have already started collecting the pamphlets from the mailbox.  I suggest that the Jewish Centre arranges a big recycling bin for the disposal of electoral waste.  With the aid of a bit of water, some animal effluent and a commercial mulcher we could return this material to fertilize the garden.  Either that or the ordering of a farm of termites to chew their way through it would be an environmentally favourable response.

Over the coming weeks Jewgle Perth will try to move beyond the cynical and deliver you some firsthand commentary from a Jewish perspective.  There are a number of issues that impact our community, including foreign relations, immigration, security, education, race relations, and even some of the more far reaching social issues such as genetic engineering, stem cell research, single sex unions, euthenasia, and free trade agreements all have Jewish perspectives, to name but a few.  Did I mention the legality of regulated trading or daylight savings?

Let me kick the discussion off by saying that like many of my peers, I was brought up on a diet of socialist labour politics.  Much of that related to my parents generation, their exposure to Jewish ethics that place care of the less advantaged ahead of personal gain, and their embrace of zionism, which was in its early days a strong socialist movement.  Historically, Jewish ties to the Labor party have been loyal and well publicised.  Jewish MP’s, party members and hacks, donors and supporters, have included a list of who’s who of the Jewish community within the Labor party over many decades. 

Currently Michael Danby is the sitting member for Port Philip (Melbourne), and George Newhouse, a rising Labor star is in with a real chance to displace Malcolm Turnball in the blue ribbon stomping ground of Wentworth in eastern Sydney.  There are at least six Jewish community members contesting the Federal ballot at this election.

The aforementioned socialist Zionism that was traditionally embraced by the Jewish community is no more a dominant ideology.  Led by movements such as Habonim, and influenced by early Israeli settlement (including the Kibbutz), socialism was about community living and equality.  However there has been a shift in what the left represents.  Today more than ever, the Labor movement is built on the foundation of the Trade Union movement, and holds industrial relations as the raison de etre of its pitch to the electorate.  The leftist presence in the party includes an undertone of anti-USA rhetoric, which translates to an anti-western and anti-Israel stance on many matters of foriegn policy.  No matter how much Labor tries to conceal this, there can be no doubt that this element of the party and its support base proves problematic for Jewish voters. 

Our representative body, the community council, has a responsibility to remain politically neutral, and performs this function admirably on both a Federal and State level under its current leadership (unlike AUJS).  Commentators note that at a formal level, there is bi-partisan support for Israel, therefore under both a Howard and Rudd Government there would be a favourable relationship between Australia and the Jewish State.  Incidently, the same thing was said in New Zealand prior to the election of Helen Clark, but there is no reason to beleive that the same deterioration in relations would occur in Australia.   

Let’s note for the record that the relationship between Australia and Israel has never been stronger than it has under the current administration, and that the Jewish communities loyalty to Israel has been strongly supported at a political level over the past term of Government.  The acid test of this was Australia’s vote at the UN, where alongside the USA and four other nations, Australia voted against a condemnation of Israel in the General Assembly.  There has been much speculation as to whether a Labor Government would uphold its pro-Israel vote under the same level of international pressure.  Hypothesizing aside, in the same way that many believe the Liberal Government deserves to be rewarded for 10 years of economic prosperity by being returned to office, so too, many Jewish voters believe that the Liberal Government should be rewarded for its unstinting support of Israel.

To set the record straight, for this and future postings, I will declare that I am an open minded swinging voter that has no loyalty to any party.  For the reasons above, I intend to cast my vote in this election for the Coalition, but I am open to being persuaded otherwise.  In this respect, I don’t pretend to be partisan.  Unlike some political commentators.  Prof Greg Craven from Curtin University wrote a column in today’s West Australian that was tantamount to a party political broadcast for the Labor party.  Typical University leftism – they just can’t help themselves.  A bit like the media, who have sided with Kevin 07.  Most free thinking Australian’s know how to look beyond the polls and the headlines and to think through the consequences of their vote.  On this basis, I don’t think this election will be the walk in the park that the media would have us beleive.

Well, that’s plenty to get things started.  Lets see what happens over the coming weeks, and what that means for Jewish community life as we know it.