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Monday, 12 September 2011
Page: 9707

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (21:28): Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Australia will not participate in the Durban Review Conference to be held in New York on 22 September. The Durban process is a controversial international conference that stirs up more passion than it resolves. Ironically, rather than opposing racism—its purported purpose—it seems to have become a conference for promoting racism. Durban is the nom de guerre for the United Nations World Conference against Racism. Ostensibly it is an occasion for the world to unite against racism in all of its forms.

In 2001, the original world conference against racism held in Durban, South Africa, degenerated into a festa of hatred of Israel and the Jewish people. At that conference an Australian novelist, Alan Gold, was threatened, spat upon and demonised because he was a Jewish delegate from Australia. Durban singled out Israel for criticism, while other countries were ignored for their human rights violations. For the same reasons, then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd cancelled Australia's participation in the Durban II conference held in April 2009 in Geneva. Again ignoring issues of racism and intolerance in developing countries and other places around the world, the conference focused almost exclusively on Israel and the Middle East. UN members including Australia, Canada, the US, the Netherlands and Germany decided to boycott the conference. Iranian President Ahmadinejad behaved in the most abhorrent manner, fulfilling the worst nightmares of the conference's critics. He stated that the war in Iraq was planned by Zionists and he continued with his calls for eradication. This is highly offensive in Persian culture, where Judaism is a respected religion. The remarks caused uproar in Iran, and other Iranian delegates disassociated themselves. At the conference, delegates from the EU and other countries, including Jordan and Morocco, staged a walkout in protest at his speech.

Following the principled stand Australia took in 2009, Prime Minister Gillard outlined the reasons for Australia not participating in Durban III, and they are worth examining. The Prime Minister said that Australia would not be attending the Durban III conference on racism in New York, as there would be no guarantee that the high-level meeting would avoid the unbalanced views that had marked it in the past. Last week while I was in New York I spoke of Germany's decision not to attend the Durban III process, joining other important UN members—Australia, Italy, the United States and Canada. Australia's stand is principled and courageous, and the Prime Minister should be praised for making this important decision.

This afternoon the member for Kooyong criticised the Labor Party regarding the upcoming UN vote on Palestinian statehood. Earlier this year, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition used the debate about the Greens activities in the Marrickville by-election to attack the Labor Party and to seek to tie us with the ugly BDS campaign supported by the Socialist Alliance and the Greens party. Let me remind those opposite that it was the Labor Party that defeated Marrickville Greens Councillor Fiona Byrne in the New South Wales—not the Liberal Party, who refused to preference in the seat, making Byrne's chance of winning the seat greater. Let me remind those opposite that it was Liberal preferences that elected the Greens candidate Adam Bandt in the seat of Melbourne and, worse, it was the Liberals who directed preferences to Senator Rhiannon at the last federal election in New South Wales.

Over the last three months I have been joined by the Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Stephen Conroy, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator Feeney, along with the Victorian state opposition leader, Daniel Andrews, at Max Brenner stores across Australia to combat this boycott. I think it is very important when organisations like the Victorian government approach the ACCC to indicate their opposition to this infamous boycott prospect, but I do not think people should try to point-score on this issue. The Labor Party is and always will be a friend of the Australian Jewish community in Israel. It is in the interests of that community and Israel to have strong friends in both mainstream parties. Inexperienced Liberal Party operatives should not be cheap, shallow point-scoring as a battering ram for their own political benefit at the expense of that community. The issue is too important.