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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 13063


Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (11:33): I bring the attention of the House to the inestimably worthy, selfless works of the Jewish community leadership in my electorate and across the nation. Recently I held a security breakfast forum with leaders from the Jewish community in the civil and business spheres. On that morning, in my office in Willetton, there were leaders from the Jewish Women's Council, the Jewish Community Council, the Zionist Council in Australia and the Israel Chamber of Commerce, amongst others.

I take this opportunity to reassert my unwavering support for the Jewish community, for Israel and for those who live and love democracy and freedom across the world. I say this not because Israeli Ambassador Rotem is a friend, though he is, but because it is right and fitting and required of all free people. Let there be no doubt that our country can do more, and should do more—it is in our own self-interest. This self-interest in Middle Eastern geopolitics stems from security and economic facts. Israel is the only true democracy in the region; and there are innumerable opportunities for Australian capital in Israeli high-tech start-up companies.

It is time that our national polity stopped the navel gazing, got a backbone and stood shoulder to shoulder with every other liberal democracy. There is nothing inevitable about democracy, nor is there anything to say that once free always free. The price of freedom is vigilance. Principles need to underpin politics. Liberal democratic principles are offended by the reality of two out of five Israeli children living in poverty. Without absolute principles and red lines, there is only an aggressive atrophic relativism. Where are the red lines on Iran?

As I said to Ambassador Rotem, why are there not principles we are unwilling to bend on? We must stand with Israel with forces of the free—principles before politics, as people before profit, as substance before spin. The magnanimity of the Jewish people today is a beacon to all. Fortunes have been won and taken, lives broken and rebuilt and rebuilt and rebuilt. This rebuilding was a phoenix from a fiery belief in education. That belief too is a principle, one that is entrenched in the heart of the Jewish community and Liberal democracies around the world.

This is not opinion but a fact spoken to me by Rabbi David Freilich, a past president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia. When I read that only 7.5 per cent of schools in South Africa had any books at all, my principles were offended. I was offended. I know, as the Jewish leaders at the breakfast forum knew, that the only way out of poverty and the only way to embed democratic principles is through education. Improving education at home and abroad is one of my core principles, because it facilitates our being free.

It is incumbent on free people everywhere to have values and principles in their politics—to mean what they say and do what they say. Democracy is a good and noble path. No person or party can change that. Anything other than democracy is alien and a bastard of the natural rights of mankind. So, I say to our community leaders: know that I am a conviction politician, a person of principles. That is why I will never cut a single cent from an education sector that is delivering results. That is why I am touring my electorate of Tangney with a timely presentation on cyberbullying. That is why I am reading to school kids as part of the National School Literacy Week initiative. My principles have me out listening to businesses like Costa Farms in Willetton, under pressure due to a no-think carbon tax policy resulting from Labor group think. That is why I was not surprised when Mr Akef Sahi from Syria came to my office requesting advice on how he could secure more teachers for that country. Amidst all the preventable evil, education is still valued and recognised as the only real escape. That is what having principles is about. You know what they are; you stand by them. I stand by the Jewish community, I stand by Israel; I stand forever for education and Liberal democracy.