Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Last Sunday the people of Wentworth woke up to the shocking discovery that public places in Bondi Beach and Bondi Junction had been vandalised with anti-Semitic graffiti, including more than 20 swastikas on the iconic Bondi Beach murals. The swastika became the most recognisable icon of Nazi propaganda, becoming a symbol of anti-Semitism and terror. Today in Germany and other European states the public display of Nazi symbolism, including on the internet, is prohibited by law, and individuals violating such terms are subject to criminal proceedings. There is no place for anti-Semitism or any form of racism in Australia.
The New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff stated:
The swastika represents the ultimate in race hatred, and the people of Bondi and indeed all Australians of goodwill will stand together in condemning this shocking display.
Unfortunately, this local incident is reflective of the rise of anti-Semitism not only in Australia but globally as well. According to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry in their 2018 report, in the past 12 months there has been a 59 per cent increase in anti-Semitic incidents, such as harassment, vandalism and threats by email, telephone and social media. This increase is unprecedented in Australia. The French government has also reported that anti-Semitic acts increased by 69 per cent in the first nine months of 2018.
Regardless of your religion or beliefs, it's important as a community and as a nation that we stand up against any form of racism. Vigilance is vital. The Wentworth community is united in its outrage and its condemnation of Sunday's events. As Joshua Kirsh from the Australasian Union of Jewish Students remarked, 'Anti-Semitic imagery at Bondi Beach, at the heart of Sydney's Jewish community, can never be tolerated.' The anti-Semitic symbols of the past if left unchecked can far too easily manifest as anti-Semitic violence in the present and the future.
Soon after the graffiti was discovered on Sunday, Waverley Council promptly removed it and repaired the subsequent damage to the murals. While physically removed, the damage and shock continue to reverberate across the community. Racism in all its manifestations diminishes the moral character of our nation. It divides and cultivates fear in a way that opposes harmony, peace and tolerance. The Mayor of Waverley Council, John Wakefield, said, 'Racism has no place in our culturally diverse community and we condemn last night's incident in the strongest terms.'
This episode is further evidence that parliament needs to unite on humanitarian issues, with the human experience being at the forefront of our policy-making decisions. Divisive politics should have no place in Australia. Everyone has the right to their view, but it is our job as parliamentarians to unite rather than to divide. This is the strength of our democracy. Australia is internationally recognised as a successful multicultural society. We are proudly diverse, built on the strong, determined shoulders of immigration.
We as a nation we are facing the broader crisis of intolerance and the rise of hate politics, evidenced by the Bondi graffiti incident. This negativity is a global phenomenon known as a post-crisis realignment, a polarising divisive sentiment that focuses on fear, national security and the threat of terrorism. Politicians are servants to our nation. We are tasked to navigate a path that will create a unified, safe and prosperous society that is capable of healthy, rigorous debate. We must ensure differences are respected and tolerance is revered and rewarded. With the decisions we make we collectively nurture and define the character of the nation. As leaders, we must use the experiences of the past and the challenges of the present to define and determine together how we want to evolve, where we want to go and, ultimately, who we want to be.
I believe deeply that Australians all deserve more than the divisive, negative hate politics that presently dominate the national political conversation. Human rights issues should not be about whether you are on the Left or the Right side of politics. It is about being intrinsically and morally responsible. It is about the human experience. Together we can say, 'No more!' to scaremongering and negative politics. We can say no to anti-Semitism. We can say no to racism. We should search for and embrace opportunities to find bipartisan support for humanitarian, economic and social issues. In light of the racism exhibited on Sunday in Bondi, I encourage the House to reflect and consider the standards that we set in our policymaking that ultimately defines the character of our great nation.