Toe to Toe

 

In keeping with a long-standing pre-election tradition, AIJAC submitted a series of 12 policy questions to the campaigns of both Prime Minister Scott Morrison, leading the Liberal-National Coalition, and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, leading the Australian Labor Party (ALP), to help our readers and supporters make an informed decision as they go to the polls on May 18.

The questions – designed to focus on political issues of special concern to the Australian Jewish community – deal with matters including:

  1. Ties with Israel
  2. The peace process and a Palestinian state
  3. Voting in the United Nations
  4. Funding to the Palestinians
  5. The Iranian threat
  6. Counter-terrorism
  7. Hezbollah
  8. Communal security
  9. Racial hatred laws
  10. Multiculturalism
  11. Communal education
  12. Monitoring our public broadcasters

The answers from both campaigns are presented here in full:

 

1. If you win Government, what action will your party take to encourage the ongoing development of bilateral ties between Australia and Israel? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government is committed to further strengthening our valuable bilateral relationship with Israel. Australia has been a steadfast friend to Israel since its creation. 

The Morrison Government has resolved to ensure that our commitment to Israel remains as firm today as it was 70 years ago and continues to do so into the future. As Prime Minister Morrison told Australia’s Parliament on 19 February 2019, the Morrison Government will not walk back or shrink from the recognition that Australia has afforded Israel since 1948. 

Under the Morrison Government, Australia has acted to recognise West Jerusalem – the seat of the Knesset and many institutions of government – as the capital of the State of Israel. 

We have also opened Australia’s Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem. It will focus on building trade, investment, defence industry, education and innovation partnerships with Israeli industry. This will include maximising opportunities for Australia’s high-tech and defence exports industries. It will also facilitate commercial meetings and visitor programs and take appropriate opportunities to build awareness of Australian capabilities in Israel, consistent with its mandate. 

ALP

Australia and Israel’s strong relationship is based on shared values: a commitment to freedom, security and democracy. We have common experience as multicultural societies whose citizens come from all over the world. As well as government-to-government ties we have strong people-to-people bonds. Israeli-Australians have played a critical role in building the successful, multicultural society that Australia holds dear. 

Australia and Israel continue to enjoy strong engagement across multiple fields of endeavour. Economic, scientific and academic cooperation has and continues to benefit both our nations. A Shorten Labor Government will seek to build on and expand such areas of engagement, and work together with the Israeli Government to explore new areas of endeavour. 

 

2. If you win Government, what concrete measures will your party take to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Under what circumstances should Australia recognise a Palestinian state? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government remains strongly committed to a two-state solution, where Israel and a future Palestinian state exist side-by-side in peace and security within internationally recognised borders. ln support of this, we continue to urge both Israel and the Palestinians to respect international law and we support independent and impartial investigations of any alleged violations of international law. 

ln the spirit of a two-state solution, we acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Australia has long held that aspirations for Palestinian statehood can only be realised through direct negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel, which is a longstanding position of the United Nations and many other countries. 

The Morrison Government’s position is consistent with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We continue to encourage both Israel and the Palestinians to take the steps needed to reinvigorate the peace process and recommence negotiations. 

ALP

Australia should, with the agreement of the parties, do all it can to support a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; and between Israel and those Arab nations with which Israel has yet to establish peaceful relations. 

We accept that Australia’s role will be most valuable within international institutional arrangements, such as the United Nations and other multi-country efforts supported by both parties. 

In December 2018, the Australian Labor Party National Conference resolved to support the recognition and right of Israel and Palestine to exist as two states within secure and recognised borders. The resolution made clear the desire of the conference to recognise Palestine as a state while acknowledging this will ultimately be a matter for a future Labor Government. 

A Shorten Labor Government would ensure that any decision taken contributes to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and to progress towards a two-state solution. 

 

3. What principles should underlie Australia’s decisions with regard to voting on Israeli-Palestinian issues at the United Nations General Assembly and UN Human Rights Council? If you win government, do you anticipate any changes to the way Australia currently votes on these issues at the UN? 

 

Coalition

Under a Morrison Government, Australia will continue to strongly support Israel’s right to exist within secure and internationally recognised borders, and the right to self-defence as guaranteed in the UN Charter. The Morrison Government will stand by Israel in the face of biased and unfair targeting in the UN General Assembly. ln the past, Australia abstained on these resolutions where anti-Semitism was cloaked in language about human rights. Under the Morrison Government, Australia will oppose inherently anti-Semitic or anti-Israel bias and one-sided resolutions in the United Nations. We are also disappointed that a specific resolution condemning Hamas for its terrorist attacks failed to pass in the UN. 

The anti-Israel bias and one-sided resolutions introduced each year in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), under Item 7 of the Council, do not, in our view, achieve lasting peace and stability for Israelis and Palestinians, including the resolution of final status issues. In her speech to the HRC in Geneva on 25 February 2019, Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator the Hon Marise Payne outlined Australia’s principled opposition to the existence of Item 7. 

The Morrison Government will maintain a principled opposition to the existence of Human Rights Council resolutions under Item 7 of the Council, including the biased resolution language targeting Israel. Under the Morrison Government, Australia has voted against all resolutions under Item 7 since we joined the HRC as a member state in January 2018.

ALP

When last in Government, Labor based its decisions on United Nations General Assembly resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian dispute on the following two principles: 

• Considering each on a case by case basis, each on its merits. 

• We consider these resolutions firmly within the context of our very strong adherence to our support for a two-state solution and our support of the peace process. 

If the resolutions are consistent with this approach then we support them. This remains our position. 

 

4. Last year Australia cut funding to the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the PA’s continued provision of salaries to Palestinian terrorists and their families. The US has also recently cut funds to the PA as well as all funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), due to concerns that it is an obstacle to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. Should Australia continue to provide aid to the Palestinian territories, and how can Australia ensure that the funding is used responsibly? 

 

Coalition

Australia has allocated $43 million in aid to the Palestinian Territories in 2018-2019. 

Our aid includes a four-year $80 million Strategic Partnership Agreement with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). UNRWA provides basic services and protection for more than five million Palestinian refugees and provides stability in an otherwise volatile region. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has rigorous systems in place to ensure all aid activities in the Palestinian Territories are comprehensively monitored and proactively managed to ensure development aid funds are not misdirected. 

ALP

Labor is committed to providing effective and transparent aid to the Palestinians, which we believe can help build the institutions for statehood. It is critically important, however, that aid and program delivery go directly to benefit those who are most in need. 

Labor has therefore committed, should we win government, to increase Australia’s funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by $20 million, to assist in carrying out direct relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees. 

We believe strongly that for aid to be effective, it must be transparent. That is why we have committed to ensure this proposed funding will have appropriate oversights to ensure it is being used as intended, to directly support development programs for the Palestinian people. 

 

5. If you win Government, what action will your party take to prevent Iran from continuing to pose a threat to regional and global security, including tackling its nuclear weapons programs, its dangerous cyber capabilities and its support for terrorist groups? 

 

Coalition

Under the Morrison Government, Australia continues to apply sanctions required under UNSC [United Nations Security Council] Resolution 2231 on nuclear and ballistic-missile related materials. We will also continue to apply autonomous sanctions on the export of arms and related materials. 

Working with our partners, and consistent with our obligations under UN Security Council resolutions, the Morrison Government will work to tighten the net on Iran’s missile proliferation networks and Iran’s support for activities that are destabilising the region, including in Syria. We will keep the option of additional autonomous sanctions under active review. 

As announced by Prime Minister Morrison on 15 December 2018, the Government will maintain Australia’s support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), subject to Iran’s continued compliance. This reflected an assessment that our position of support serves our national interests in nuclear non-proliferation and reinforcing a rules-based international system. 

ALP

A nuclear weapons-capable Iran would grossly erode regional stability and threaten global security. Iran cannot be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and Labor supports international measures, including sanctions, that prevent it from doing so. 

Labor supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program, while acknowledging the need to remain realistic about the deal’s limitations, noting that we need to maintain a healthy degree of scepticism in our dealings with Iran. That is why, at the time the United States decided to abandon the deal, Labor joined the Liberals in expressing our disappointment at the decision. 

We also recognise the JCPOA is focused on only one part of Iran’s concerning behaviours. A Shorten Labor Government will continue to steadfastly oppose Iran’s human rights abuses, its inciteful language towards the United States and Israel, its support of the brutal Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, its sponsorship of terrorism, and any activities it conducts that undermines global peace and security. 

 

6. Terrorism remains an ever-present threat in Australia and around the world. If you win Government, what will your party do to improve Australia’s counter-terrorism capability, counter violent extremism and enhance deradicalisation initiatives, including community-based initiatives to address these issues? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government is working hard to protect Australians from terrorism, especially the threat of violent extremism. We have passed 17 packages of national security legislation to help our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to investigate, monitor, arrest and prosecute extremists. 

The Morrison Government has boosted funding of our law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies by $2.2 billion since 2014. Since September 2014, our security agencies have disrupted 15 major terrorist plots and 93 people have been charged from 41 counter-terrorism operations.

We have passed new laws to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who engage in terrorism. The Morrison Government will manage the return of Australians who have chosen to join the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, through legislation that would enable greater control and monitoring of their travel back to and within Australia. 

The Morrison Government will also strengthen airport security, through new screening technologies for passengers and cargo. We will introduce better controls on who can obtain a pass to work in sensitive areas of the airport. 

We will continue to work with local Australian communities to prevent terrorism, building on the $45 million in programs to counter radicalisation and remove online terrorist propaganda over the past six years. 

Finally, the Safer Communities Fund helps keep Australians safe through local crime prevention projects (see response to Question 8 for more). 

ALP

There is no greater responsibility of government than to protect the safety and security of its citizens. 

Terrorism is an affront to all humanity, and Labor will continue to ensure our nation’s security while upholding the democratic rights and freedoms that Australians have for generations fought to protect. Proper resourcing and an effective legal framework that gives our security and law enforcement agencies the powers they need to keep us safe are fundamental to Australia’s security environment. 

Labor will continue to fully support our agencies in their vital work to protect the safety of all Australians and defend our nation’s security. Australians expect transparency and accountability in security and enforcement activities to the greatest extent possible, and Labor will continue to champion those safeguard mechanisms. 

A Shorten Labor Government will pursue a balanced approach to counter-terrorism; drawing on new means, new methods and adapting to new challenges. 

We put our trust in the expertise, professionalism and skill of our security agencies and emergency services personnel, and we are guided by their advice. 

Labor believes early intervention and community engagement, working in combination with strong and bipartisan counter-terrorism legislation, are all key to preventing vulnerable young Australians being groomed into extremist ideology. 

Countering violent extremism programs needs appropriate funding, to support cohesion and provide viable alternatives to disenfranchised young Australians who may be vulnerable to terrorist recruiters. 

We must give agencies and communities all the support we can to enhance their capability and to counter the radicalisation of vulnerable people. 

 

7. Australia’s closest allies – the UK, Canada and the US – all ban Hezbollah in its entirety because it is a dangerous terrorist group. Australia does not, proscribing only its “external security organisation”. If you win Government, will you review Australia’s position towards Hezbollah? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government keeps identified and emerging terrorist groups under constant review, including the networks of individuals, finance and communications that support and fund terrorists. The status of individuals and groups can change depending on actions, intentions, and connections. 

Under the Coalition, Australia has listed Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation (ESO) under the Criminal Code. This ensures our counter-terrorism laws are applied only to activities that constitute, facilitate or support terrorism. Government agencies continue to assess the activities of the broader Hezbollah organisation, and to apply the law in a targeted and enforceable manner. 

ALP

Labor supports strong measures to combat terrorists and terrorist groups, both at home and overseas, including proscribing terrorist organisations based on clear assessment and advice provided by our security agencies. 

A Shorten Labor Government will always keep such decisions under review and will always listen to the advice of our security agencies to protect Australia, and our friends and allies from the scourge of global terrorism. 

 

8. The Jewish community is particularly vulnerable to manifestations of antisemitic hatred. lf you win Government, what measures will you take to address the significant security costs imposed on the Jewish community by the need to protect Jewish community institutions and schools? 

 

Coalition

Religious freedom is not just an inalienable right as free citizens, it is important to the very cohesion of our society. The Morrison Government is committed to protecting the freedom of Australians to worship and meet safely without fear. 

The Morrison Government has announced that we will extend the Safer Communities Fund. Funding will be boosted in the upcoming round of grants for religious organisations, including Jewish institutions, to increase security at their premises. $55 million will now be available in Round 4 and grants will be prioritised for religious schools, places of religious worship and religious assembly. 

Grants ranging from $50,000 to $1.5 million will provide for safety enhancements such as CCTV cameras, lighting, fencing, bollards, alarms, security systems and public address systems. Funding is available over three years for security infrastructure and projects. 

The Morrison Government is committed to keeping every Australian safe. No one should have to fear for their safety. This latest funding announcement brings the total amount available under the Safer Communities Fund to $119.9 million from 2016-17 to 2020-21. 

ALP

Federal Labor established the Secure Schools Program in 2007, because Labor recognised the unique security needs that schools have, including the need to hire security guards in some cases. 

When the Liberals took power the program was renamed the Safer Schools program and was continued by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government until it was abandoned – without warning, consultation, or explanation to affected schools – last year, with the result that no funds flowed to schools at risk from mid-2018. After the New Zealand terrorist atrocity in March, the Morrison Government woke up to the threat they had been ignoring and sought to reverse its previous failure by announcing a program that ended the separate funding stream for schools and that was based on a reckless ‘first come, first served’ approach. 

If Labor is elected in May, a Shorten Labor Government will work with religious schools to ensure their security needs are met. The distribution of funds will be determined based on risk assessment and security needs, rather than on the order applications are received, as the Morrison Government has irresponsibly announced. 

 

9. The Australian Jewish community is concerned by rising global antisemitism and bigotry. Does your party think Australia has sufficient measures to address racial or religious hatred? Would your party preserve or amend section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government does not have any plans to introduce legislation to amend section 18C. Australia is a proud multicultural society. The Government is committed to ensuring that freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom from discrimination, including on the basis of race or religion, are all protected and promoted. Whilst all Australians have a right to express their views, including people with controversial views, they must remain within the framework of Australian law. 

ln federal law, section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 makes it unlawful to do an act otherwise than in private that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate people because of their race, colour or national or ethnic origins. This provision appropriately balances Australia’s international obligations within our domestic context, and balances the right to free speech with the right to be free from racial vilification. 

ALP

Labor believes that no faith, religion, or set of beliefs should ever be used as an instrument of division or exclusion, and condemning anyone, discriminating against anyone, or vilifying anyone is a violation of the values we all share. 

Labor will continue to combat racism and expressions of intolerance and discrimination with strength and where necessary, the full force of the law. 

In the last five years, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government has launched two separate attacks on section 18C, which former Attorney-General George Brandis infamously declared to the Senate was a Liberal Government priority because ‘people have a right to be bigots, you know’. 

It is astonishing that any Australian government would work to give a green light to racist hate speech in support of an imagined ‘right to be bigots’. 

Labor was appalled by the actions of the Liberals in attacking section 18C, and we stood with thousands of individuals, legal experts and organisations, as well as community groups from across our nation, to successfully defend section 18C from these reckless, ideological attacks by the Liberals. 

Labor believes that the Liberals should accept that Australians do not want more racism and more bigotry in our community, and we are committed to ensuring our race hate protections are never watered down. 

 

10. Australian Multiculturalism – which balances rights with responsibilities to uphold core Australian national values – is the policy framework which anchors a harmonious, ethnically diverse democracy. What policy proposals will your party implement to enhance Australian Multiculturalism? 

 

Coalition

The Morrison Government is working to keep our economy strong, keep Australians safe and keep Australians together. Australia is stronger and more prosperous as a nation because of our multicultural heritage. 

The Morrison Government recognises the importance of keeping Australians together and fostering social cohesion. We have done this by actively investing in programs that embrace our diversity and help all communities actively become part of, and benefit from, Australia’s economic and social development. 

A $71 million package will enhance the everyday experiences Australians have in common – how we communicate, live and engage with each other: 

• It expands existing programs to help new arrivals become part of, and contribute to Australia’s economic and social development, through the National Community Hubs Program and new round of Fostering Integration Grants. 

• It will build interfaith and intercultural understanding in classrooms, cultural institutions and through community-driven programs. 

• Digital initiatives will help young people understand and counter online hate.

• Implementing Sport 2030 will fund a range of initiatives supporting Australian sport and the role it plays in promoting social inclusion.

• It includes the new funding through the Community Language Schools Multicultural Grants Program, to help young Australians learn another language and connect people to new culture. 

Together, this package enhances the work that Australian communities are already doing to promote our shared values and celebrate our unique and diverse cultural identity. 

This builds on a solid record of policies and programs supporting Australian multicultural communities, including labour agreements to support migrant communities access the specialised skills that will support older Australians from multicultural backgrounds; as well as new measures to help religious institutions access the skills they need. These changes recognise increasing difficulties in sourcing locally skilled professionals to work in aged care and religious institutions. 

The Morrison Government has also delivered on its commitment to introduce a new temporary sponsored parent visa. This visa provides parents and grandparents with a new pathway to reunite and spend time together through having the opportunity to visit Australia for a continuous period of up to five years. 

ALP

Labor is proud of Australia’s multicultural society, and believes every Australian deserves the right to live free from racial and ethnic vilification. Modern Australia and multicultural Australia are the same thing. We will continue to fight for important protections against racial hate speech in Australia – we have done it twice now and won, and we will do it again if necessary. 

In government, the Liberals have deliberately sought to marginalise groups one community at a time, month to month choosing a different group. Whether they are from Asia, the Middle East or from Africa on every occasion adopting the same theme; an attempt to divide Australia. 

The Liberals introduced legislation in Parliament to allow for more racist hate speech, they sought to introduce a university level English test for Australian citizenship, and the Minister for Immigration, for the first time since the White Australia Policy, described whether or not people should have been brought to Australia as a mistake based on race and religion. 

Labor’s approach is one of inclusion and integration to make sure that all Australians know that their story and their presence is a critical part of the nation as a whole. There are a series of areas where people with a more recent immigration story face particular challenges and particular barriers and Labor policy is aimed at providing people with the easiest pathway to be fully included in our nation. 

 

11. Would your government consider funding reforms to education, and, if so, what would be the implication for Jewish schools, which have often been inadvertently disadvantaged by previous formulas used for funding allocation? 

 

Coalition

The Coalition Government has delivered record funding for all schools – government, Catholic and independent schools – by providing an extra $37 billion through the Quality Schools Package. This means an increase of around 62 per cent per student. 

In September 2018, the Morrison Government accepted the recommendations of the National School Resourcing Board to provide extra funding to non-government schools. This extra funding amounts to $3.2 billion. 

The Morrison Government has also guaranteed diversity in the school system by providing non-government schools with access to the $1.2 billion Choice and Affordability Fund, which will help meet the needs of these schools. 

ALP

Only a Labor Government will fund every school fairly and properly. 

Labor is committed to matching the current funding agreed between the federal government and Independent and Catholic school sectors and in addition will invest an extra $14.1 billion in public schools over the next decade. Labor will continue to provide loadings that recognise the additional cost of delivery of education to certain students. 

Labor will consult with school stakeholders and ensure the Department of Education and Training examines funding arrangements to ensure that the policy intent of decisions is clear and that particular schools or students are not inadvertently disadvantaged.

In addition to fairer funding arrangements, all schools will benefit from a range of other Labor initiatives: 

• Labor will establish a $280 million research institute – the Evidence Institute for Schools that will help improve schools and early learning centres by ensuring teachers and parents have high-quality research at their fingertips. 

• A Shorten Labor Government will invest an extra $300 million to ensure students with disability get the support they need at school. 

• A Shorten Labor Government will establish a new National Principals’ Academy to give thousands of Australian principals advanced leadership training and support. 

• Labor will work with universities, school systems and the teaching profession to improve the quality of teacher education. 

 

12. The ABC is an important national institution but many are concerned about its ability to meet its statutory charter obligations of balance and fairness. What steps will you take to strengthen accountability and improve the independence of complaints procedures at both the ABC and SBS? 

 

Coalition

The ABC and SBS play an important role in Australian life and have done for generations. The ABC and SBS both have legislated independence from Government in relation to operational and editorial matters, which the Morrison Government has always respected. 

The Morrison Government notes the ABC’s charter requires it to ensure the gathering and presentation of news and information is accurate and impartial, and the SBS codes of practice state the SBS is committed to achieving the highest standard of news and current affairs presentation, and will use reasonable effort to ensure the factual content of news and current affairs is accurate. The Government also introduced legislation to the Parliament in 2017 to amend the ABC Act to also require the ABC to be ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ in relation to the gathering and presentation of news and information. 

The Government expects the ABC and SBS Boards to ensure there are proper and efficient processes to manage complaints about the accuracy of their reporting, as well as compliance with their charters. 

ALP

Labor believes the ABC is one of Australia’s most trusted and important public institutions. 

We believe that the ABC plays a very important role in adding to the diversity of news in our media landscape and providing an opportunity for Australian content to be viewed and heard. The ABC also plays a vital role in our regional and remote communities providing news, public announcements and emergency messages. 

On the eve of the 2013 election, the Liberals promised there would be “no cuts to the ABC”. That was a lie. Since then, they’ve cut over $366 million from the ABC, including cuts of $83.7 million which kick in on 1 July 2019 and which the ABC warns threaten Charter delivery. 

That is why we have already committed that a Shorten Labor Government will reverse Scott Morrison’s unfair $83.7 million cut and guarantee funding stability for the ABC over the next budget cycle. These measures support Charter delivery and ABC independence. 

Section 8 of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 (ABC Act) imposes a statutory duty on the ABC Board to ensure the gathering and presentation of news and information is ‘accurate and impartial’ according to recognised standards of objective journalism. 

Labor strongly opposed an attempt by this Liberal Government and Pauline Hanson to amend the ABC Act to insert a requirement that the gathering and presentation of news and information be ‘fair and balanced’ on the basis that: 

• These words are unnecessary given the concepts ‘accurate and impartial’ are already interpreted and applied by the ABC to include ‘a balance that follows the weight of evidence’ and ‘fair treatment’ among other things. 

• Existing ABC editorial policies already require fair and honest dealing in reporting and exceed in scope and length any other known editorial policies covering Australian media organisations and recognise all necessary professional journalistic standards. 

• These words may confuse established interpretation and lead to ‘false balance’, distorted emphasis or ‘he said/she said journalism’ used to give voice to white supremacists, Holocaust deniers, climate change sceptics and anti-vaxxers. 

Both the ABC and SBS have a robust internal review process in response to complaints, which Labor believes to be appropriate. A recent audit of the ABC’s Complaints Management conducted by the ANAO found that the ABC effectively manages complaints handled by its central complaints’ management area and that the process is accessible to the public, easy to navigate and responsive to complainants. It also found that there is scope for the ABC to improve its visibility and record-keeping, which the ABC has considered. 

In Government, Labor implemented measures to ensure the institutional independence of our public broadcasters and their governing boards. We did this because we value our public broadcasters and believe the public should be able to continue to rely on them for independent news reporting. 

In the wake of the political interference scandal at the ABC, which prompted the resignation of its former Chairperson as well as a Senate Inquiry into allegations of political interference in the ABC, which reported in March 2019, a range of measures to strengthen the independence of the ABC have been proposed which Labor will examine.