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Tuesday, 23 October 2018
Page: 10815

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Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (16:13): In an article in last Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald by Latika Bourke, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in an excerpt of his about-to-be-published memoirs, presents an account of an event at the Lodge on 3 June 2010, where a number of people were organised at the behest of the former Prime Minister, including myself, the Hon. Mark Dreyfus, Robert Goot SC, chair of the national Jewish organisation, and my friend Albert Dadon» . Mr «Dadon and I both recall that one of the other participants, Mr Mark Liebler, was direct and abrupt, as is his normal style. On one occasion, as he said in a subsequent statement to The Sydney Morning Herald, he interrupted Mr Rudd and urged him not to be defensive, but Mr Liebler did not threaten Mr Rudd. It would have been absurd and ridiculous for him to do so, given Mr Liebler, then and now, can't influence members on such serious matters as party leadership. The unpleasant words attributed to Mr Liebler were simply not said. Such dramatic, incendiary and inappropriate words would have been seared into our memory if they had been said; they simply were not.

The truth is that the Australian Jewish community, including all of those who attended the dinner that night to meet Mr Rudd, have always regarded him as a firm friend of Israel and the Australian Jewish community. We were reminded of a story published in the now defunct Bulletin magazine. In the mid-1990s, Jeremy Jones, who compiles an annual report on anti-Semitism in Australia, received a call from a woman in Brisbane about a giant swastika. He told her to go back, photograph it and remove it. 'When she returned, there was someone whitewashing it over,' Jones recalled. He introduced himself. It was Kevin Rudd. This tells us what really matters about Mr Rudd. That's why we prefer to remember him with respect. It's perfectly possible for busy and stressed people, such as sitting Prime Ministers, to have imperfect recollections of the torrent of events constantly swirling around them.

It is understandable that former Prime Minister Rudd would be disappointed and sad about being replaced as Prime Minister in 2010. Many Australians were just as sad that his prime ministership didn't work out. I also note that a friend and colleague of mine, Mr Robert Goot AM SC, in Sydney, wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald saying, 'I was present throughout the dinner and paid close attention to what was said by the then Prime Minister and his guests. When I first read Ms Bourke's article I thought it must have been a different occasion altogether.' Mr Goot says the claims that Mr Rudd was berated or menaced simply did not happen. He says, 'The exchanges with the Prime Minister, including with Mr Lieberman and myself, were both polite and unexceptional. The event as described about Mr Rudd is fictional.' (Time expired)