Photo: Noel Kessel

Mark Speakman SC MP
The Australian Jewish News
June 15, 2023

Seventy-five years ago, a profound partnership was forged between Australia and Israel. Australia was one of first countries to vote in favour of the United Nations resolution that led to the creation of Israel in 1948. A year later, in 1949, Australia and Israel established diplomatic relations.

The Australia-Israel bond has stood the test of time and continues to thrive and strengthen over the years.

Commemorating this significant milestone provides an opportunity to reflect on the remarkable journey that has shaped our nations’ relations, and to celebrate the deep-rooted friendship between Australia and Israel.

The establishment of Israel as an independent state, born out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the tragic loss of six million Jewish lives, stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of a people who refused to surrender their identity. In the face of unimaginable adversity, Jewish people returned to their ancestral homeland, reclaiming their sovereignty and establishing a nation.

Over the past 75 years, both Australia and Israel have faced their fair share of challenges. Just as Australia stands as a leading example of democracy and an upholder of law in the Asia-Pacific, Israel provides hope in the Middle East – navigating a complex geopolitical context while striving for regional stability and peaceful coexistence. Australia, on the other hand, has played a significant role in fostering dialogue and facilitating negotiations to preserve peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.

Israel is a relatively small nation by global standards, but it is one of the strongest examples of democracy, self-governance and determination.

Israel has demonstrated leadership and resilience in the Middle East and on the global stage. Here at home, those in our Australian Jewish community have demonstrated these same attributes.

Here in NSW, I commend the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies for their tireless efforts in building bridges, fostering understanding and nurturing unity within our society. The Jewish Board of Deputies’ work to support a united Jewish community and to foster unity and inclusivity across faith groups here in our Australian society has been tireless. From building community relations, to investment in education and social justice, and recognising the ever growing need for remembrance of the Holocaust, the Jewish Board of Deputies continues to hold a key role in our social fabric.

I was privileged to join representatives of Sydney’s Jewish community at the recent cocktail reception to celebrate Israel’s 75th Independence Day. I look forward to continuing to work with the Jewish community in NSW.

The NSW Liberals are deeply committed to Israel, and importantly to the Jewish people here in NSW. Together we have stood in the face of discrimination, vandalism and unacceptable anti-social behaviour targeted at your community.

Most recently we stood together in 2022 when the NSW Liberals (with our Nationals colleagues) introduced what became the Crimes Amendment (Prohibition on Display of Nazi Symbols) Act 2022 to Parliament. A new criminal offence came into force on 19 August 2022 – knowingly displaying, by public act and without a reasonable excuse, a Nazi symbol. This is an important, additional safeguard against hate speech and vilification.

We worked with inter-faith groups to ensure that the display of a swastika in connection with Buddhism, Hinduism or Jainism would not be considered to be the display of a Nazi symbol. It was important to preserve the legitimate use of the sacred swastika for religious and spiritual reasons by Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious groups.

The events which occurred under the Nazi regime represent one of the darkest periods of recorded human history. The atrocities committed by the Nazi regime are almost unimaginable. I know that they have caused intergenerational trauma for many, and I hope the new Crimes Amendment (Prohibition on Display of Nazi Symbols) Act provides a degree of comfort for survivors of the Holocaust and their loved ones.

This criminal offence sends a clear message to everyone that the display of Nazi symbols, and the hatred and bigotry they represent, will not be tolerated in NSW.

In Opposition, as we were in Government, the NSW Liberals will continue to stand with you, and ensure that you are safe, welcomed and embraced as an important part of our community.

As we celebrate 75 years of friendship between Australia and Israel, I’m filled with hope and anticipation for the future of our countries’ partnership. By embracing our shared values, harnessing our collective strengths, and fostering robust people-to-people connections, we can forge an even deeper and more profound partnership to thrive for another 75 years and beyond.

Mark Speakman SC MP is the NSW Liberal leader.