Wednesday, 20 February 2019
70th Anniversary of Australia's Formal Diplomatic Relationship with the State of Israel
Can I congratulate the previous members for their statements on the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Israel. It is so important, regardless of the political party we represent and our various political views, that we have a bipartisan approach to this vital bilateral relationship, now 70 years old, between Australia and Israel. Importantly, Australia was the first country to vote in favour of the 1947 UN partition resolution, joining 32 other nations in successfully voting for the resolution. This ultimately led to the creation of Israel as a nation-state. I want to pay tribute to the Labor Party's Doc Evatt for the work he did at that time on behalf of Australia, saying that it was inevitable and just that Israel become an independent state. We, in Australia, extended our recognition of the state of Israel in January 1949 and we presided over the vote that officially and formally admitted Israel as a UN member. The embassies in Tel Aviv and Canberra both opened in the same year, in 1949.
Our two countries share so much. We share important events in history. We share the common values of democracy, decency and humanity. And today we share a commitment to making the world a better place. The relationship has grown over time. I was particularly pleased to be there when Israel's Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu, became the first sitting Israeli Prime Minister to visit Australia in February 2017, and I too want to pay credit to the very warm and genuine welcome that then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull extended to Bibi Netanyahu. There was the return prime ministerial visit and 100-year commemoration of the Battle of Beersheba in October 2017, which the Leader of the Opposition spoke about in the parliament the other day. It was a critical event in Australia's history as well as Israel's.
Tell Aviv was announced in 2015 as the first of five offshore innovation landing pads, and that shows our commitment to learning from the start-up nation, namely Israel. More and more Israeli companies are choosing to list on the ASX. Now 17 are listed, most having listed in the last three years, and more are planned. I want to congratulate Scott Morrison as Prime Minister for his strength, for his principle and for his decision to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move our embassy there, when practical, in support of and after the final status determination of a two-state solution and also for his decision to establish a trade and defence office in West Jerusalem, which will help deepen the collaboration in trade in defence-industries investment and innovation. This is absolutely critical in developing our bilateral relationship.
Australia's vibrant Jewish community is very strong and very close and it continues to contribute to the Australian community at large. I pay tribute to the member for Wentworth, who's in the Chamber, and the member for Eden-Monaro, both of whom have strong connections, either directly or indirectly, to that community. There are more than 120,000 Jewish people in Australia. There's been an increase of 10,000, or around 20 per cent, over the last 10 years. Half of those are Israeli-born people who live in my home state of Victoria, and they enjoy the peace, the prosperity and the values that our country extends to all who come here.
Margaret Thatcher said:
Israel is small in geography but large in history … But perhaps even more impressive than the achievements is the spirit of your people: pioneering, brave, resourceful, determined; an example of how indomitable will can overcome almost any problem.
That is the view of one of the world's greatest stateswomen about Israel, and it's a view that has been shared by Winston Churchill and, more recently, by others. Shimon Peres told John Howard that Australia is a beloved country in Israel, and so it is true that Australians admire Israel and Israel admires Australians.
I think we've been very blessed in this country to have had successive prime ministers committed to the bilateral relationship. On the Labor side, Julia Gillard stands out in the way she stood by Israel during some attacks on the country. John Howard was a trailblazer and a longstanding friend of the Jewish community, and so too Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and now Scott Morrison. I think it's because the Australia-Israel relationship is one that goes to the very heart of our being. It's about the values that we believe in; it's about the people who we are; it's about our spirit; and it's about our countries. May the relationship go from strength to strength for more than another 70 years. May it grow strong with the support of both sides of this House.