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Jewish candidates go head to head in Melbourn -

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Broadcast: 20/09/2004

Jewish candidates go head to head in Melbourne Ports

Reporter: Heather Ewart

KERRY O'BRIEN: For the first time in Australian history, two Jewish candidates representing the
major parties are going head to head in a federal seat, at least as far as we know.

Melbourne Ports is one of the country's more diverse electorates, taking in some of the more
affluent and trendy bayside suburbs of the Victorian capital, as well some of its poorer
communities.

It also claims to have the biggest Jewish community in Australia - a fact not lost on the Liberal
Party, which is trying to wrest the seat from sitting Labor member, Michael Danby.

This has led to a colorful and emotive debate that's creating tensions and confusion in the Jewish
community.

Heather Ewart reports.

HEATHER EWART: At the start of the week of Jewish high holy days, this community of elderly Russian
Jews is celebrating.

It's a time for vodka and music and the traditional apple and honey that marks the Jewish New Year.

But in the heart of the Victorian seat of Melbourne Ports, which boasts the largest Jewish
electorate in the country, they're also caught up in an odd political power play.

For the first time in our history, two Jews representing the major parties are contesting a Federal
seat.

On one side, the sitting Labor member Michael Danby, and on the other - Liberal candidate David
Southwick.

Tonight, not for the first time, they're in the same room at a Jewish function.

MICHAEL DANBY, LABOR MEMBER: It's a bit awkward sometimes, but that's - you know, he's a Liberal
and I'm representing the Opposition and um, that's life.

DAVID SOUTHWICK, LIBERAL CANDIDATE: We're civil, we're civil.

I suppose that's the best way to put it.

HEATHER EWART: The streets of Melbourne Ports have never had to go through anything quite like this
before.

Frenetic campaigning on both sides, as they wheel out the big guns in the battle for the limelight
and the all-important Jewish vote.

Labor has held this seat for almost 100 years.

The margin is now 5.7 per cent.

Amid the trendy coffee shops of this Bohemian district, it's all enough to remind the sitting
member of six years of a famous American TV sitcom.

MARK DANBY: Oh, it's a bit like an episode of Seinfeld.

DAN GOLDBERG, NATIONAL EDITOR, JEWISH NEWS: Those wouldn't be the words that come to mind.

Look, I can see from his point of view, there have been some instances over the past few weeks
which have been dramatic and comical at the same time.

HEATHER EWART: For the man known in these parts as 'Disco' David after the party music business he
ran in his youth, it hasn't been all smooth sailing.

If you're going to take on a high-profile fellow Jew, a simple street walk can produce unexpected
results.

MELBOURNE PORTS RESIDENT: Why ah, should be another Jewish candidate against another Jewish
candidate?

HEATHER EWART: Why take on another Jew?

Indeed, the only one who's made it to Federal Parliament, is becoming a common theme in this
campaign, and the answer does not always satisfy.

MELBOURNE PORTS RESIDENT: OK, I understand you're a politician, you do not answer the questions.

DAVID SOUTHWICK: No, no, no, that's not true.

HEATHER EWART: But this budding politician is learning fast.

Like his opponent, always look on the bright side.

DAVID SOUTHWICK: Many people are coming up to me saying, "Thank you for standing, thank you for
giving us a choice to vote for a party now that we've always believed in."

MICHAEL DANBY: His selection is designed to sort of undermine my credibility with the community,
but it's not really something that concerns me.

I hope people will judge me on the basis of the work I've done over the last six years.

HEATHER EWART: Since this contest got under way, the 'Jewish News' has been inundated with letters
to the editor, some of them welcoming the competition, others accusing the Liberal Party of trying
to split the Jewish vote.

DAN GOLDBERG: It's created a lot of interest in the Jewish community, frankly, because it is
historic and there are people in the Jewish community who say to David Southwick, "Why, why are you
standing in Melbourne Ports?

Why don't you stand in Goldstein, or another seat and therefore the Jewish community could perhaps
have two federal members in Parliament."

HEATHER EWART: The talk on the streets would appear to bear out the dilemma.

Both sides calculate the Jewish community makes up almost 30 per cent of the vote here.

In the past, some would have backed Michael Danby simply because he was Jewish, but this time
Jewish voters are torn about their choices.

JEWISH VOTER #1: It's a shame that they have to stand against each other.

JEWISH VOTER #2: It's a bit of a problem, but I think competition is very healthy.

JEWISH VOTER #3: I would prefer they weren't running against each other.

This way it makes it more of a legitimate win if the Jewish guy gets picked.

JEWISH VOTER #4: We split a little bit in our views, but I think it's a great experience.

JEWISH VOTER #5: May the best man win.

HEATHER EWART: So exactly what is David Southwick's game plan here?

He has some powerful backing from the Liberal hierarchy, but insists his bid is about nothing more
than wanting to represent the electorate where he's spent most of his life.

Can you see it as a fairly provocative move to go into a seat where there is already a sitting
Jewish member?

DAVID SOUTHWICK: Look, I mean, that's a crazy thing for anyone to say.

If you had a Catholic that was sitting, a strong Catholic, would that mean you wouldn't go up
against somebody who was of that religion?

HEATHER EWART: Catholicism is not an issue in the seat of Melbourne Ports.

But, make no mistake, Jewishness and which candidate can deliver most for the Jewish community here
is being made an issue, with the Liberal candidate firing the first shots.

DAVID SOUTHWICK: We must make a stand against the ALP that would desert the State of Israel -

HEATHER EWART: At this gathering of some of the most influential Jewish figures in Melbourne Ports
last month, David Southwick made a sweeping attack on various Labor backbenchers and the New South
Wales Premier, Bob Carr, accusing them of being anti-Jewish.

The Federal member for Fowler, Julia Irwin, was singled out for special attention.

DAVID SOUTHWICK: From the safety of the floors of Parliament, Julia Irwin referred to Australian
Jews as the most implacable, arrogant, cruel, powerful lobby in the country.

HEATHER EWART: It was a clear move to flush out Michael Danby, who urged the audience to take
notice of Labor's leadership team, not rebel backbenchers.

And then came this tit-for-tat claim against the Coalition and a former National Party leader.

MICHAEL DANBY: Interestingly enough, Tim Fischer was the person who said that the Mossad stole
Malcolm Fraser's pants, was actually the most powerful person in the Federal parliament, who's ever
supported the Palestinian cause, not some nebek like Julia Irwin.

HEATHER EWART: For the record, 'nebek' means a nothing or minor person.

This was not an edifying debate, but the Liberal Party had to get full marks for sheer gall, even
if it was caught in the act with a planted question.

MICHAEL DANBY: I don't think anyone in this room regards me as a schmuck, Jason.

I'm not to respond to the campaign director of the Liberal Party.

HEATHER EWART: And that's about the level of where things are at in Melbourne Ports these days.

By the end of this campaign, the Jewish community may well be fed up with being in the spotlight.

DAN GOLDBERG: I think there's a lot of members of the Jewish community who don't like the Jewish
community being front and centre in the news.

HEATHER EWART: But, like it or not, that's what they're stuck with till election day.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Heather Ewart with another campaign corner.

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