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The Australian Jewish News – jewishnews.net.au
Friday, January 25, 2013
AN ENEMY OF TYRANNY AND FRIEND OF FREEDOM
Following an op-ed in last week’s AJN by Labor MP Mike Kelly, which was critical of Sir Robert Menzies, Josh Frydenberg – who sits in Menzies’ old seat of Kooyong – and former Howard government minister David Kemp respond.
JOSH FRYDENBERG AND DAVID KEMP
T is said distraction is the last refuge of the desperate. In Mike Kelly’s case this is more than apt. In an attempt to explain away Labor’s abstention on the UN vote for Palestinian state observer status and Bob Carr’s aggressive campaign to distance Australia from Israel, Kelly has opened a new front in the history wars (“Labor’s abstention explained” AJN 18/01). His portrayal of Sir Robert Menzies as a Nazi sympathiser and appeaser “not concerned for the fate of the Jews of Germany” is a despicable slur. Kelly’s claims are not only patently false but intellectually dishonest. Menzies understood the true nature of the Nazi threat, referring in his memoirs Afternoon Light, to the “sinister figure of Hitler”. When it came to attributing responsibility for the war, Menzies made clear “the guilt was that of Germany alone”. Following a four-day visit to Germany in July 1938 (not the “several weeks” Kelly claims) Menzies, in fact, was shocked by the Nazis’ destruction of the liberal and democratic features of Germany, and by the apparent willingness of the German people to accept this. He wrote about the “somewhat queer atmosphere of Germany”, and told Dr Schacht, the president of the Reichsbank, that “the real danger of the regime was that the suppression of criticism would ultimately destroy Germany”. Far from unrealistically believing peace could be preserved, on his return he expressed his deep concern at the parochialism of the Australian states in resisting Commonwealth plans to prepare for war. He told the Constitutional Club of Sydney in October that: “Few people of the Commonwealth fully realised that the European crisis might involve hostilities in Australian waters – that war might be something that would come to Australia, and not merely something that was happening 12,000 miles away” (SMH, 25/10/1938). Kelly refers in his article to the distress of Dame Enid Lyons, wife of prime minister Joe Lyons, at comments by Menzies in his speech to the Constitutional Club about the issue of national leadership. Kelly greatly misrepresents what Menzies said and the reasons for Enid Lyons’s distress. In his speech, Menzies contrasted the “good natured, easy-going”, head-in-the-
sand attitudes of Australians with the patriotic fervour the German dictatorship had been able to whip up, especially in young people. He said that Australia needed leadership that could inspire a sense of patriotism among Australians. It was Menzies’ call for inspiring leadership, at a time when Enid Lyons’s husband was in the Lodge, that she could not forgive. Enid Lyons saw Menzies’ speech as a criticism of her beloved Joe. Kelly’s claim that Menzies “contrasted the quality of the leadership of Lyons as PM unfavourably with that of Hitler” is totally false, as is the implication that Enid’s reaction was related to the treatment of Jews in Germany. Menzies’ biographer Allan Martin has examined closely Enid’s reaction and concludes that she was wrong in taking Menzies’ general comment about the importance of leadership and a greater sense of unity as a criticism of her husband. Again, Kelly’s implication that Menzies admired Nazism based on his deeply ironic comments in his letter to his sister Belle in 1938, in which Menzies refers to the Germans’ “magnificent” abandonment of liberty and plunge into irreligion, reveals just how far Kelly is prepared to go to distort the truth. The defence of liberty was perhaps Menzies’ supreme political value, and his point to his sister was the same as his public remarks. In quoting Christopher Waters’s study of appeasement in Australia, Kelly fails to mention Waters’s conclusion that: “Many aspects of the Nazi system were totally alien to Menzies. The attorney-general was mystified by the German people’s acceptance of their loss of legal and political rights under Nazi rule ... Menzies was no fascist. He was a committed democrat” (Waters, p.66).
Sir Robert Menzies.
With America remaining neutral and Great Britain preoccupied in Europe, Australia looked with fear to a rising Japan in the East. The invasion of Manchuria had taken place and Australia’s rearmament was still underway. Nevertheless Menzies had the fortitude and foresight to put Australia into battle to defend freedom and help defeat the tyrannical Nazi regime and Japanese militarists. Curtin’s isolationism was, indeed, the most dramatic example of the “head in the
Menzies, without the Labor Party’s support, had the fortitude and the foresight to put Australian lives on the line defending freedom and defeating the tyrannical Nazi regime.
The suggestion that the Lyons government (and Menzies) were unwilling to do anything about the plight of Jews in Europe is again false. In fact the Australian government under both Lyons and Menzies greatly expanded the immigration intake, over John Curtin’s and Labor’s resistance, and many thousands of Jewish refugees had entered Australia by the outbreak of war. It would not have been an easy decision for Menzies to send Australia to war in September 1939.
sand” attitude that Menzies criticised. Billy Hughes said of Curtin at the time: “The honourable gentleman says we must close our ears to the piteous cries of the oppressed, because otherwise we will be endangered ... The day may come when this small nation will cry aloud to the world for help, but what will the world say if we adopt and pursue the policy of selfish isolation outlined by the Leader of the Opposition?” Curtin had even opposed the government’s rearmament program, because in his
“class war” view of the world, as his biographer David Day has written, Curtin believed “that it was serving the interests of the arms manufacturers rather than the workers”. Curtin, to be fair, struggled to lead a deeply divided party in which the antiSemitic “Jack” Lang was still a powerful force, and in which “white Australia” evoked passionate adherence. “In my opinion,” Menzies said in a message to Chamberlain in October 1939, “the immediate object is to win the war and win it in no uncertain way, since a patched-up and premature peace would inevitably expose us to a series of events similar to those of the past few years.” It was Menzies, without Curtin’s support, who prepared Australia to resist the fascists and Nazis. “The Labor Party,” Curtin said “is opposed in principle and in practice to Australians being recruited as soldiers in the battlefields of Europe.” In his more than two years as prime minister after Lyons’s death, Menzies put in place the fundamental decisions that enabled Australia to fight the war successfully. As F.G. Shedden, the public service head of the Department of Defence, and the man largely responsible for Australia’s war organisation, was to write to Menzies in December 1942 after his resignation: “Tribute has yet to be paid to the great foundations laid by you at a time when you lacked the advantage of the effect on
Friday, January 25, 2013
national psychology and morale of a war in the Pacific.” Throughout the period of his prime ministership, Menzies’ commitment to victory would remain steadfast, even during the darkest days of May 1940 when France was being overrun and senior colleagues like Stanley Melbourne Bruce, Australia’s high commissioner to Britain, contemplated defeat. Menzies worked to focus the British on the importance of the war in Asia and the Pacific. Like Churchill he understood the importance of America to the Allied war effort and made it a priority for Australia to have independent representation in Washington, appointing our first ambassador to the United States in 1940. None of these important facts are cited by Mike Kelly, just as he regrettably ignores the Labor Party’s virulent isolationism during this period. Not until Germany made its illfated decision to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941, in breach of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, did many in the Labor Party, along with those in the labour movement’s prominent communist wing, concede Australia’s interest in defeating the Nazi regime. In attacking the legacy of Menzies, Kelly only makes a passing reference to the strong support Israel received during the 1956 Suez crisis from the Australian government led by Menzies. Menzies was to say in the Australian Parliament that “the people of Israel have a perfect right to know that their national integrity will be respected.” Together with external affairs minister Richard Casey, Menzies laid the blame for the crisis firmly at the feet of Egypt and its leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, providing Israel with a supportive international voice at a difficult time. In fact, throughout his life Casey was not only a strong defender of Israel but a great admirer of the Jewish people, praising their courage and saying their values were an “example to the world” . Another issue raised by Mike Kelly is the Australian government’s decision to exclude leading communist Egon Kisch during the mid-1930s. This matter is dealt with at length by Allan Martin. The decision to exclude Kisch was taken by interior minister Thomas Paterson before Menzies became attorney-general and followed Britain’s decision to exclude Kisch “because of his subversive views”. Kisch was prominent in the anti-war movement and his exclusion had nothing to do with his Jewishness, a point Kelly carelessly overlooks. A New Zealander, Gerald Griffin, who had spent a considerable time in Russia, was excluded at the same time for similar reasons. In Mike Kelly’s effort to paint the Labor Party as the true friend of Israel, he places great store on H.V. Evatt’s role at the United Nations at the time of Israel’s independence. Again, some balance is required. Evatt did play an important role as chairman of the ad hoc committee that paved the way to partition, but the hagiography should not yet be written. Harry Levin, Israel’s first consulgeneral to Australia, wrote in September 1949, “Some keen observers seem to feel that there is nothing at all that Evatt holds dear; even his friendship for Israel, they say, will last no longer than it suits his personal ambition. Evatt himself is making it clear that he expects financial support for party funds from local Jewish leaders and he expects them to transmit the funds through him personally ...” In his attempt to rewrite history in order to portray the Liberal Party as unfriendly towards Israel, Kelly points to Malcolm Fraser’s “strong anti-Israel sentiment”. It is important here to point out Fraser’s strong support for Israel during his eight years as prime minister. Isi Leibler has said of Fraser: “I retain fond memories of my genuinely warm association with Malcolm Fraser when he was prime minister and I headed the Australian Jewish community. Our relationship was based on shared values and my appreciation for his inestimable assistance on behalf of Soviet Jewry, ensuring that, while I was in Moscow, the Australian embassy provided support for my efforts on behalf of Jewish dissidents. I also recollect that in those days he was enthralled with Israel and he would spend hours discussing and enthusiastically lauding the achievements of the Jewish State.” Unfortunately these sentiments are not acknowledged by Kelly. Finally, it must be said that throughout his life, Sir Robert Menzies exhibited a marked degree of respect and admiration for the Jewish people. He placed a great premium on religious faith and sought to promote tolerance and diversity in Australia. Indeed, one of his outstanding legacies was his commitment to state funding of non-government schools, leading to the funding of Jewish day schools.
The Australian Jewish News – jewishnews.net.au
Kelly’s viewpoint ‘downright dishonest’
Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow minister for foreign affairs Julie Bishop fires back at Mike Kelly following his “deeply partisan attack on the Coalition”.
For Mike Kelly to seek to dishonestly misrepresent the Menzies legacy simply in order to promote Labor’s credentials towards Israel ... is very unfortunate indeed.
At the many Jewish events he would speak at during his political career, from birthday celebrations for Sydney’s Great Synagogue to opening the Jewish War Memorial Synagogue in Canberra, he would speak openly of his friendships and associations with Jewish community leaders like Rabbi Brodie and Baron Snyder, saying in the company of the Jewish community “I feel completely at home.” Robert Menzies was the man who revived liberal thought and lifted the standards of Australian politics, and was the strongest opponent of socialist class-war rhetoric and the supporters of fascist ideas. Australians today should acknowledge an immense debt of gratitude to Menzies for his unfailing support for individual liberty at its moment of greatest challenge, for his opposition to those who were impressed by the overseas dictatorships of the ’30s, and to the national division, class war, isolationism and socialist utopianism being fostered from within the Labor Party at the time. For Mike Kelly to seek to dishonestly misrepresent the Menzies legacy simply in order to promote Labor’s credentials towards Israel at a time they are being called into question is very unfortunate indeed.
Josh Frydenberg is the Federal Member for Kooyong, the seat Robert Menzies held from 1934-66. David Kemp is a former minister in the Howard government and editor of the new edition of Robert Menzies’ The Forgotten People and Other Studies in Democracy.
OR many decades the official policy of all Australian governments has been a commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and on the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for their own state. Such has been Australia’s support for Israel that three of our prime ministers have been honoured with awards and decorations from the State of Israel. In 2007, for example, the Jewish National Fund established the “John Howard Negev Forest” in Israel, the third time such a tribute had been made – the previous recipients being Sir Robert Menzies and Bob Hawke. Given our nation’s history of bipartisanship over support for Israel, one wonders what possessed one of Julia Gillard’s frontbench colleagues, Mike Kelly MP, to launch a deeply partisan attack on the Coalition in a highly selective, misleading and in parts downright dishonest article (AJN 18/01). The most obvious conclusion is that Mr Kelly is attempting to cover up the embarrassing disarray that is currently occurring within the Gillard government over its recent stance on Israel. It was disappointing to find that Mr Kelly spent the vast bulk of his article on events from more than 70 years ago, with a crude insinuation that any person who failed to identify the threat posed by Adolf Hitler before World War II broke out was anti-Semitic and a defacto apologist for the Holocaust. Many world leaders at that time were determined to avoid a repeat of the horrors of World War I, yet Mr Kelly makes the insulting accusations nevertheless. With every Australian political leader from that time now deceased, Mr Kelly sees fit to demonise people who are not around to defend themselves or to provide any of the context of those times. He attacks Sir Robert Menzies but studiously ignores the fact that, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, it was under the Menzies government that the first official visit of an Israeli cabinet minister, (Moshe Sharett) to Australia and the first visit by an Australian cabinet minister (Paul Hasluck) to Israel took place. Mr Kelly claims Menzies was too influenced by Britain in his attitude towards Israel, but fails to mention that it was the Menzies government that gave very public support to the Arab-Israel plan proposed by the USA in 1955. While poor research skills could be Mr Kelly’s excuse, there is no doubt about his motivation in casting slurs against any current or former Coalition MPs who may have expressed support for Palestinians or been critical from time to time of the actions of the Israeli government. Mr Kelly fails, however, to mention that there are Labor MPs who have made far more critical statements against Israel, including current Cabinet Minister Tanya Plibersek who has described Israel as a “rogue state”. Indeed, Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been noticeably critical of Israel, in stark contrast with the approach of Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister, former Liberal MP Alexander Downer. It is true that there are a range of views within the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the National Party about the
best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as one would expect. Rather than his biased and factually inaccurate portrayal of events of many decades past, Mr Kelly should have been honest about the current crisis within the Labor Party and the broader Labor movement over support for Israel. Mr Kelly also failed to mention the growing support within the Labor union movement for the anti-Semitic campaign known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Yet more than 20 unions are reported to have joined the BDS campaign and senior union officials have been involved in demonstrations against Israeli interests. Every Labor MP relies on union support for their seat in Parliament and there is growing pressure on many Labor MPs to openly support the BDS campaign.
The most obvious conclusion is that Mr Kelly is attempting to cover up the embarrassing disarray that is currently occurring within the Gillard government over its recent stance on Israel.
The government of which Mr Kelly is a member is in a formal alliance with The Greens, described by Greens leader Christine Milne as a “power-sharing” arrangement and The Greens are active supporters of the BDS campaign. Of even more concern is the fact the Mr Kelly has ignored the unresolved crisis within the government, triggered by the decision of Foreign Minister Bob Carr to publically undermine the Prime Minister on the issue of Australia’s vote at the United Nations on the status of the Palestinian territories. The Coalition’s stated position was to vote against the proposed UN resolution. The Prime Minister reportedly also supported a “no” vote, but she was opposed by a majority of her Cabinet colleagues. She then sought to impose her Prime Ministerial authority and make a “no” vote the official position of the government. Foreign Minister Carr responded by lobbying Labor backbenchers and Ministers to organise the numbers against the Prime Minister, who was forced to make a humiliating backdown, and the government’s official position was to abstain from casting a vote at the UN. Bob Carr then conducted numerous media interviews boasting that he commanded the support of more than 90 per cent of Labor Party MPs. If Kevin Rudd as foreign minister had undermined the Prime Minister in such a way, it would have triggered an immediate leadership showdown. However, it is a sign of Julia Gillard’s non-existent authority within her party that she has not sacked or demoted Bob Carr for his blatantly disloyal conduct. Leaks to the
media from within the Cabinet claimed that most Labor Ministers were motivated by a desire to not alienate the socalled “Muslim vote” in Sydney’s western suburbs. Bob Carr’s public undermining of the Prime Minister over the Palestinian vote has also cast a cloud over Australia’s term on the United Nations Security Council. When future votes are taken with regard to Israel or the Palestinian people, Australia’s representative on the council will be placed in the difficult position of not being able to have confidence in any directions from the office of the Prime Minister. There can be no way of knowing when the Foreign Minister will again take it upon himself to undermine a position taken by the Prime Minister over Israel or any other matter. Other nations will be unable to rely on Julia Gillard’s stated position on any foreign policy matter, lest Bob Carr again organise the Caucus numbers against her. This is a diabolical problem for Australia and is without resolution while Bob Carr remains Foreign Minister and Julia Gillard remains Prime Minister. Finally, Mr Kelly tries to use selective point-scoring to make the false argument that Labor is a stronger supporter of Israel than the Coalition. Support for Israel is a not some sort of contest or a game. More importantly, decisions about UN votes in relation to Israel or the Palestinian territories should not be decided by a desire to chase votes in marginal seats in Australia. Australia should have an absolutely unshakeable commitment to the security of Israel, and the Australian government should always take a principled stance on Israeli-Palestinian issues, regardless of which party is in government in Canberra. It would be far preferable for that stance to be bipartisan. The Coalition supported a “no” vote at the UN last year because we do not believe that upgrading Palestinian status will improve the prospects of resolution of the conflict. The Coalition has consistently urged the Palestinian leadership to give unequivocal support for Israel’s right to exist, so that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples can live securely within internationally recognised borders. We have called on militant organisations such as Hamas to abandon their stated desire to destroy the Israeli state and to halt rocket attacks in their efforts to kill and terrorise Israeli civilians. It is our view that there must also be an immediate return to the peace negotiations that have been boycotted by Palestinian officials for several years. The Israeli government must also resolve international concerns about the activities of settlers in the Occupied West Bank. This is a complex conflict with no easy answers, and a solution has eluded the best efforts of world leaders for several decades. Mr Kelly’s effort to trivialise the issues with a cheap partisan shot at the Coalition is not worthy of any serving member of the Australian Parliament. All Australian politicians should be united in a call for a commitment to peace in the Middle East, for it is in the interest of the Israelis and the Palestinians, like people the world over, to live and raise their families in peace and security.
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