Address to 25th Anniversary Chabad North Shore

  • Speech, E&OE

It is an honour to be here this evening and I'm delighted to be with my parliamentary colleague and friend Paul Fletcher, your local member. Paul is a passionate advocate for his electorate and he is a great friend of yours. Indeed, Paul and I are members of a government that is unambiguously, unapologetically, unreservedly a staunch friend of Israel.

It is a great pleasure to be here this evening to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Chabad North Shore.

I'm particularly taken by your maxim – "where every Jew is family". That says it all about Chabad's goals and commitment to acts of goodness. Indeed the Liberal Party values the family as the foundation of our society – of social cohesion and financial stability. Chabad North Shore has taken that a step further.By including every Jew in your family, you have extended that support, that stability, that love to an entire community.The range of social and community services you provide is quite extraordinary.

I congratulate you on your 25th anniversary and wish you every success for another quarter of a century and beyond.

The Jewish community has been intrinsic to the Australian community since European settlement. There were Jewish people on the First Fleet.The oldest synagogue in Australia was built in Hobart in 1845.

This year, as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, we remember that there are many Stars of David on the headstones of graves from the Dardanelles to the Western Front.

The Jewish community made a disproportionately large contribution to Australia's war effort a century ago. More than 2300 men enlisted – a significant proportion of Australia's relatively small Jewish population at that time.

Of course, Australia's greatest military commander, General Sir John Monash – the man who masterminded the Battle of Amiens, which helped bring an earlier end to the Great War – was Jewish.

As we look back on the past century, it's easy to think that Monash's extraordinary contribution to this nation, in its earliest days, helped us to become the accepting, inclusive nation that we are today. Perhaps the enormous respect he commanded helped Australia to embrace its Jewish community, and of course welcome with open arms a significant number of Jewish refugees after the next terrible war.

That legacy continues today in Australia, in our strong and ongoing support for Israel.

We were the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 United Nations partition resolution which ultimately led to the creation of the State of Israel, and Australia presided over the vote at which Israel was admitted to the UN in May 1949.

On that momentous occasion, Israel's representative at the United Nations, Abba Eban, acknowledged Australia's role by saying:

"We are deeply indebted to the Australian delegation for its consistent and effective support of our cause…

It was under your chairmanship, and thanks in so large a measure to your determined lead, that Israel was admitted to the United Nations when barely a year old…

The warmth and eloquence with which you welcomed Israel into the family of nations have earned for you the undying gratitude of our people."

This evening I'm reminded that the first serving Australian cabinet minister to visit Israel was my predecessor not only as Foreign Minister, but also as the member of my electorate Curtin in Western Australia and that was Sir Paul Hasluck.

67 years after its creation, Australia remains one of Israel's strongest international supporters. Our close historic association with Israel's beginning makes us especially proud of the enduring friendship we have created between our nations.

It has been said that Australia and Israel share common confidence, resourcefulness, optimism and a knack for improvisation that draws us together.

We are both nations of migrants, who have developed extraordinarily resilience and productive societies in harsh natural environments.

We share a commitment to democracy, and a mutual interest in maintaining a rules-based international system. We in Australia so admire the courage of Israelis, their innovative and enterprising spirit so brilliantly exemplified by sassy on Entebbe this evening. Talk about hutzpah and audacity!

Australia, with other close partners like the United States and Canada, is rightly viewed by Israel as a bulwark against what can be seen as the capriciousness and hypocrisy of some in the international community.

For example, in 2013, shortly after I had become Foreign Minister, the United Nations General Assembly adopted 21 resolutions that singled out Israel, and only Israel, for condemnation. Only four resolutions were critical of any other country. Clearly, when we look around the world today, this is a ludicrous record.

Australia utterly and absolutely rejects attempts to undermine Israel's legitimacy – including through fringe groups like the pernicious boycott, sanctions and divestment movement. Israelis have the right to live within secure borders, in peace and security.

Our support for this right remains steadfast in the United Nations and we will continue to work closely with the new, democratically-elected, government in Israel. However, it is also a sign of our close friendship that we can be frank and honest with Israel.

We believe that Israel, no matter what the political stripe of the elected government, must remain committed to, indeed, actively pursue, a two-state peace settlement. Australia remains committed to a two-state solution – and we recognise the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for statehood.

Bilateral engagement and negotiation is the only realistic path to peace. Statehood cannot be achieved by unilateral decree, which is why Australia voted against the recent UN Security Council resolution on Palestinian statehood.

This resolution lacked any balance, and sought to impose a solution put forward by one party alone.That is not the way to create lasting peace and security.

Just as the Palestinian Authority's accession to range of multilateral treaties, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is not helpful for the peace process.

That's why Australia encourages both Israel and the Palestinians to refrain from steps that damage the chances of reaching an enduring settlement.

All efforts must be made by both sides to secure a just peace in this land which is holy to so many across the world. The Israeli people deserve the right to live normal, productive lives free from fear of rocket attacks and terrorism. Just as the Palestinians have legitimate claims to their own homeland and secure borders.

The status quo is not acceptable – and I think we can all agree that it's not in the best interests of the people of Israel, the Middle East more broadly, or the world.

It is my sincere hope that progress will be made towards a two-state solution that will recognise the legitimate aspirations and concerns of both peoples.

Of course, the Israel-Palestine question is far from the only challenge we currently face in the Middle East.

ISIL or Daesh presents a major security threat to the Middle East and also to the rest of the international community and Australia is not immune. Not only are they committing unspeakable atrocities against the people of Iraq and Syria, they are drawing in foreign fighters from many countries, including Australia.

The Australian Government is tackling the Daesh threat both home and abroad. At home, we are determined to stop our citizens from joining the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

We held a summit today with leaders from our region to discuss ways of sharing information and experiences to counter this violent extremism that is taking hold in some parts of the world including in Australia.

We have introduced changes to national security laws to help disrupt the Daesh organisation and similar organisations, disrupt their financing and the facilitation of foreign terrorist fighters.

We have established new counter-terrorism architecture to improve coordination of intelligence, policies, operations and community engagement. We have dedicated resources to fighting terrorist propaganda, particularly on the internet and through social media.

I have cancelled around 115 Australian passports to prevent those suspected of wanting to join the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and from becoming an experienced terrorist and leaving this country.

I have made it an offence to enter or remain in the declared areas of Mosul district in Iraq and Al Raqqua province in Syria, without a legitimate purpose.

None of us, as supporters of freedom and democracy and the rule of law, can sit back and tolerate the appalling events that are unfolding in Iraq and Syria. And that is why the Australian Government has committed our Australian Defence Force personnel to support the Iraqi Government and its attempts to build capability and capacity of the Security Forces so that they can take back the territory claimed as a caliphate by Daesh and they can protect their citizens from the violence and atrocities that are being meted out to them.

As you may have heard, I recently visited Iran – the first Australian Foreign Minister to do so in more than a decade. It was an important visit – Australia has many vital interests in the region. But I should make clear – Australia's sanctions against Iran, both United Nations and autonomous, remain firmly in place.

The Israeli leadership was aware of the reasons for my visit and understand that there are a number of important bilateral and regional issues particularly regarding Iranians seeking asylum in Australia and then found not to be refugees and that is quite apart from the broader nuclear question. These are issues that Australia needs to discuss and resolve with Iran.

That said, Australia welcomed, cautiously, the preliminary agreement between the P5+1 and Iran on the parameters of a comprehensive agreement on Iran's nuclear program. There is no better alternative available than reaching a diplomatic solution.

Dialogue, negotiation and, ultimately, an agreement that includes an inspections regime of Iran's nuclear facilities, are all far preferable to a future where Iran's nuclear capabilities are unknown. We all have our eyes wide open given Iran's past activities.

Our key partners in the P5+1 believe these negotiations present the best opportunity to address the Iran nuclear issue. Ultimately, an agreement will help to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, which makes all of us, including Israel, that much safer.

That is what the P5+1 are trying to achieve by the end of this month.

Australia and Israel have, been friends and partners from the outset. Australia takes great pride in the part we played in Israel's creation. It is why we are always looking for ways to further deepen and enhance our friendship. I certainly think there's scope for that on the economic front.

Particularly as Israel's oil and gas industry grows, Australia has expertise to share in that sector.

Biotechnology, information and communications technology, agriculture education and training are all areas in which we're natural partners, and in which we welcome Israeli investment in Australia and vice versa.

Australia is a natural base for Israeli companies who want to harness the enormous growth opportunities of the Indian Ocean Asia-Pacific region.

I'd also like to boost our political ties through more regular bilateral visits. Many Australian Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers, I included, have visited Israel and will continue to do so. However, Australia is yet to host a visit from a sitting Prime Minister of Israel and the last Foreign Minister to visit was Yigal Allon in 1975.

I'd very much like to break that drought. I'd very much like to welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu as I'm sure you would too. He has been a source of great wisdom and advice to me since I became Foreign Minister and I know that a high-level bilateral leadership visit would help cement the bonds we already have and create new opportunities for cooperation across every aspect of our national lives.

Of course, we recognise that a new government has just been formed in Israel and it will need time to bed down at home in the immediate future, but Australia's door is always wide open to the Israeli leadership.

We look forward to hosting a visit from the Israeli leadership, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to strengthen our bilateral ties, based on the strong support Australia has always shown and will continue to show for Israel.

I'm particularly delighted that Israeli President Rivlin, has already committed to attend Australia's centenary commemorations, in October 2017, of the Battle of Beersheba.

ANZACs and the Jewish legion fought together in many places in the Middle East.

Indeed, one Jewish soldier said of the Australian troops:

"The best comrades we had among the non-Jewish troops were the Australians. They were not biased, and our boys were grateful to them for gifts of water and rations, plus the handshake and smile."

Beersheba has a special place in Australian history. It is one of those legendary battles that lives on in our hearts and minds nearly 100 years after it was fought.

The valour shown by the Australian Light Horse brigades is almost impossible to comprehend today. They galloped swordless into the Ottoman line and fought hand-to-hand in the trenches. Their bravery enabled the Allies to capture Jerusalem six weeks later.

The centenary commemoration will be another chance for Israelis and Australians to join together in the spirit of friendship that has marked our history –– to ensure that it's also the enduring theme of our shared future.

Australia is and should be immensely proud of both the history and the contemporary relationship we share with Israel. There is, however, always room to do more – to deepen our ties, to build relationships between people, between governments and business.

The contribution of Jewish people to modern Australia is impossible to quantify for there's scarcely an aspect of Australian life and culture that hasn't been significantly influenced for the better by Jewish people.

Jewish people will always have, always have, a welcome home here in Australia – just as we will always, always support Israel's right to exist, peacefully and without challenge.

So tonight, I extend again my congratulations to Chabad North Shore on a quarter of a century of valuable work. You are the lifeblood of the sense of community and belonging which is so palpable not only in this room but throughout Australia's Jewish community.

I wish you well for many more years of service to your community and to the betterment of the Australian community at large.

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