Speech to the “Never Again Is Now” rally

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18 February 2024
The Domain

Thank you Mark Leach.

It is wonderful to be here representing my leader Peter Dutton, whose moral clarity in calling out and standing up against anti-Semitism has been a beacon of hope to so many across this country.

It is also wonderful to speak to you as a proud Jewish Australian.

Today is not about the Jewish community.

It isn’t even actually about anti-Semitism. 

It is about the sort of Australia we want for our children.

I’m a Jewish Australian educated by Anglicans. I worked for the largest mission of the Catholic Church and my best friend is a Muslim. And as a member of Parliament I spend many of my weekends going to Buddhist monasteries, Hindu Mandirs and Sikh Gurudwarras.

Some people have accused me of hedging my bets in the afterlife.

But this is a story you could only find in this country.

This is what makes Australia unique.

It is what makes Australia worth defending.

And that is why we are all here – because that’s the Australia we want for our kids.

Ours is a nations with a culture which is free, tolerant and temperate.

A nation founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic which has at its centre the radical idea whoever we are all created in the image and likeness of God.  And we derive our human dignity from that very fact.

And when the free God, calls a free people, to freely practice their faith, and they are allowed to be free, there is no limit to what they can achieve.

That has been the story for Jewish Australians. Indeed, it has been the story for all Australians who have heard the call to come here, to work hard, to play by the rules and to give back.

Friends, like a lot of Jewish parents, I have spent a lot of the last few months thinking about how to explain to my children what has been happening in this country and around the world.

My children, who are almost two and almost six, are too young to understand what is going on.  And they deserve the innocence denied to their great-grandparent’s generation.

But I did feel compelled to take my son to the Great Synagogue here in Sydney a few weeks ago. If you go to the Great Synagogue you will see a wonderful video which explains the story of the Jewish people in Australia. And as we sat in those ancient pews, I wanted him to understand three things.

First, that Jewish people have been part of the Australian story since more than a dozen Jewish convicts landed here on the First Fleet. Australia is our country.

Second, that Australia’s history tells us that there is no limit to what Jewish people can do or achieve in this country.  So we must fight for and defend an Australia that is free.

Third, that what makes this such a wonderful country is that – almost uniquely on Earth – there has been never been any official discrimination against Jews.

That we can be free to make the contribution to this country that we are called to make. In Rabbi Jonathan Sacks words – “ to be true to our faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith”.

But there are some people who do not want us to be free to live to practice our faith and to make a contribution to this wonderful country. 

And many of those people are the same people who don’t want Christians to freely practice their faith in this country either.

Many of them are found in the Far Left of Australian politics – particularly in the Australian Greens, where hostility to people of faith is an ideological obsession.

Greens parliamentarians think Jews have tentacles and question the right of their fellow Australians to participate in the life of this nation.

Jewish creatives artists and small business people are under attack – their personal details strewn across the internet including phone numbers, home addresses and details of where their kids go to school.

The other place is on our university campuses

John F Kennedy once said “Anti-Catholicism is the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals”. Unfortunately events on campus in recent months  show “that Anti-Semitism is still the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals”. Hostility to Jewish students has got so bad that many now aren’t showing up at all.

This not some far away land. This isn’t the 1930s. This is Australia 2024.

This is not the Australia I know.

So out of this darkness, what gives me hope?

Today gives me great hope. This gathering is part of a great tradition of Australians standing with each other.

That’s the Australia I know.

The greatest thing you can do as a person of faith is to stand for the freedom of people of other faiths.

I have always stood shoulder to shoulder with our Christian communities defending our shared right to religious freedom.

Because if we don’t stand with each other as people of faith, then the fate that befalls one will befall all.

And I have seen wonderful acts of solidarity

Sometimes it is the voices of the great  – like my friends the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Kanioshka Raphael, or the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Peter Comensoli and the Catholic Bishop of Broken Bay Anthony Randazzo – who bravely, early and repeatedly decried the terrorists attacks and the anti-Semitism that followed.

That’s the Australia know.

And other times it is just the voices of the good.

A few days after 7 October I was working in my office and – unannounced – I had a visitor from St Stephen’s Anglican Church in Normanhurst. Her name was Susan and she brought flowers from the church to let me know they were thinking of me, my family and the Jewish people.

That’s the Australia I know.

And it was the time of the referendum – I was a Yes supporter – but Yes and No supporters would come to me and tell me they were standing with me and the Jewish people.

That’s the Australia I know.

As an Australian I am humbled by your presence here and your conviction that our country and the freedom of all its people of faith is worth fighting for.

May God bless you all – and may he continue to guide and bless our country to ensure that we remain one and free.

Let us all keep fighting for the Australia we know and love.

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