2016 Jerusalem Prize Acceptance Speech
Thank you to the Zionist Council of Victoria and the Zionist Federation of Australia for the honour of receiving the Jerusalem Prize.
I’m pleased to share this award with David Southwick and I also acknowledge Hayley, David’s wife, because they really are a tag team. David and I work well together and there is no doubt that the Parliamentary Friends of Israel is by far the most active of all the friendship groups in the Parliament.
To receive the Jerusalem Prize which has had so many prestigious and deserving recipients is deeply humbling. I’m honored to be following Julia Gillard in accepting this award, someone who I have known and respected for a long time.
I grew up in a Zionist household, so advancing support for the State of Israel is a natural thing for me to do.
I was brought up on the same principles that established the State of Israel. As David Ben-Gurion wrote in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, the nation “will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” Principles which are still as true today as they were then.
I might not always agree with Israel’s government, at any particular time, but the behaviour of a particular government should never be used as an excuse to attack the right of a nation to exist… The right of Israel to exist.
I want to thank the Jewish community leaders for their support and assistance over many years. I know I will leave someone out, but I cannot accept this award without mentioning Colin Rubenstein and the team at AIJAC, Sam Tatarka, John Searle, Nina Bassett, Sharene Hambur, Jennifer Huppert, Jane Rapke, David Marlow and the teams at Zionism Victoria and JCCV. We couldn’t do what we do without your support.
I’m proud to have been a minister in the Bracks and Brumby Governments that built a strong relationship with Israel in areas of water, agriculture, science and technology, and education and research, which has continued on and continues to grow today.
And when I take people to Israel, I try to show them that Israel is more than a geopolitical problem. It is a nation with a vibrant multicultural democracy, and with innovative and creative minds. Israel has a positive story to tell and I am privileged to have been able to share this story with my colleagues.
I want to end by thanking my Labor Parliamentary colleagues, especially those who are here tonight, those who have travelled to Israel with me, and those whose support for the State of Israel has made my job easy. I’m glad to be in a Parliament where there is bipartisan support for the state of Israel.
This bipartisanship has never been as important as it is now. We are living through a time of unpredictability and must be especially vigilant. Around the world we are seeing a rise in extremism, racism, antisemitism, and support for white supremacy.
As Jews, we know better than anyone what a rise in extremism and populism can lead to. With David and I receiving this award together it sends a strong signal. It shows politicians on opposite sides can unite together for a common cause for good. No matter where you line up politically, we must show bipartisanship in fighting extremism and division wherever it shows itself.