House debates

Monday, 22 February 2021


International Holocaust Remembrance Day

10:36 am

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that 27 January 2021 marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day where we remember the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators, and reaffirm our promise to 'never forget' the 6 million Jews and 11 million others including Roma, homosexuals, people with intellectual disabilities, political prisoners, Poles, Serbs and Soviet citizens who were exterminated during the Holocaust;

(2) acknowledges the importance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day in honouring the memory of all Holocaust victims, and the ongoing efforts of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to advance and promote Holocaust education to ensure the history and stories of its victims are passed on to successive generations; and

(3) further notes that:

(a) during the 1940s, tens of thousands of European Jews emigrated to Australia, and Australia has the largest per-capita Holocaust survivor population outside Israel; and

(b) the Government is committed to supporting Holocaust Museums in each state and territory in Australia, with the most recent museum announced in the ACT on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, 27 January 2021.

The 27th of January marked 76 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. As each year passes, as fewer survivors remain, it's even more important to remember the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the suffering of the survivors, and recommit ourselves to the vow 'never again'.

On a per capita basis, Australia is home to more Holocaust survivors than any other nation, from businessmen like Frank Lowy to artists like Judy Cassab. They and thousands of other people picked up their lives and took the opportunity to live in and serve this country. They changed the face of Australia.

While my generation has had the privilege of meeting the survivors, by the time children born in a few years are old enough to understand what happened in the Holocaust, those survivors will be gone. For a coming generation without the survivors, the danger is that the Holocaust will seem as long ago as the pogroms, the crusades and slavery in Egypt. And then it will be up to us to tell the next generation our memory of the survivors and their stories, to help turn our memories into the memories of the next generation. The importance of this task should not be underestimated.

Sadly, we are witnessing a growth in Holocaust denial around the world in two forms. In the Muslim world, as a way of playing into an anti-Jewish message that bolsters an anti-Israel message; in the West, fuelled by social media and a regression to what I've termed the 'pre-enlightenment age', people seem incapable of reasoning and assessing sources of information with the ability to tell fact from fiction. The prescient American General Dwight Eisenhower saw the potential for denial in April 1945. He wrote about Ohrdruf, a subcamp of Buchenwald he'd just visited, saying:

The things I saw beggar description. … The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering … I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations … to propaganda.

Eisenhower organised delegations of politicians, journalists and filmmakers to view firsthand what happened in the death camps in order to bear witness to a sceptical public. One journalist was asked if the scenes in the camp were as bad as they were described in the newspapers. He responded: 'No. They were worse.' But as fewer of the remaining survivors are with us, it becomes much easier for people to say these horrific events never happened. What we can do is to educate the next generation, so they view the Holocaust not as the experience of Jews, Roma, homosexuals or people with intellectual disabilities but rather as a human experience where the most civilised and enlightened society on the planet can quickly turn to monstrous barbarism and engage in murder on an industrial scale.

I want to commend the Morrison government for its focus on Holocaust education, with $3 million for the Anti-Defamation Commission to create a Holocaust education platform and giving Australians a chance to visit Holocaust museums, with more than $23 million in announcements and funding committed to building and extending Holocaust museums in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. Whenever I visit a Holocaust museum what moves me most are the sections dedicated to the righteous amongst the nations—those non-Jews who risked their lives and those of their families to help save Jews, even when they were strangers. Their sense of morality caused them to act. Their example is the fundamental lesson of the Holocaust—that it's never good enough to be a bystander, that we must confront evil and that we must play our own part in correcting racial prejudice and keeping it at bay.

It's difficult to say something original about the Shoah, but last year Australian Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku did. I have the privilege of knowing Eddie's family. At 100 years of age he wrote the international bestseller The Happiest Man on Earth. Eddie had so many chances to escape the suffering he experienced. He was given a false identity to study, but returned to his hometown on Kristallnacht to see his neighbours turn on him and his family. He ended up on the beach at Dunkirk as it was being evacuated but couldn't get a place on a boat. He was hidden by a family in Belgium. He escaped from Buchenwald, Auschwitz, where his parents were murdered, but each time was recaptured. He ultimately escaped from the Auschwitz death march to be rescued by American soldiers. What sustained him was his useful mastery of machines and his friendship with Kurt Hirschfeld.

What makes this epic tale so special is the humanity and wisdom of someone who has every right to be angry at the world but who has, through reflection on his long life, been grateful for family, friendship and the kindness of strangers. His victory over Hitler is to live a happy life and to give happiness to others. His philosophy is powerful: 'You must remember you're lucky to be alive. Every breath is a gift. Life is beautiful if you let it be. Happiness is in your hands.' Eddie Jaku's life is witness to the truth that we must never forget our own humanity and the humanity of others. That is the ultimate lesson of the Holocaust.

Photo of Trent ZimmermanTrent Zimmerman (North Sydney, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:41 am

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm happy to second the motion moved by the member for Berowra. International Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27 January this year was significant for me personally. I want to take this moment to acknowledge the Treasurer, who reached out to me and asked if I'd be willing to pen a joint op-ed for the Fairfax papers on the significance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. We did, and I'm very grateful that that was published. I take this opportunity to thank him for his generous approach, and, of course, the member for Berowra for putting forward this important motion. I will always stand with anyone on any side of this place—and I know those opposite have a similar view that it is not a matter of partisanship but a matter of what it is to be an Australian—to recognise the history, to recognise the fouls that happened and to commit ourselves to it never happening again.

I also take a moment to acknowledge the significant investment that the government has made recently in Holocaust education, not just in Melbourne and Sydney but in the ACT, Queensland and other parts of the country. I believe the ambition is to have some form of Holocaust education centre in every major capital city. I think that is a wonderful initiative, and we on this side of the House absolutely support that. It's so important because Australia has always stood in direct contrast to what happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. Australia and Melbourne, my home town, actually had some of the highest populations of Holocaust survivors in the world. People had fled persecution and found safety and security in the wonderful multicultural community that is Australia.

My grandmother was one of those people. She left Germany in October 1938, one week before the Kristallnacht. She eventually, via a very long boat trip via Canada, made her way to Melbourne, Australia—as far away as possible, on the other side of the planet, from the world she left behind. Unfortunately, the family that she left in Germany didn't escape. They were some of the first sent to Auschwitz in 1941. I am eternally grateful to this nation and this country for being a refuge, for being a safe place, for my grandmother and for the family she, like so many other survivors, was able to establish here in Australia.

I also take this opportunity to say that not only was there a contrast in Australia welcoming survivors but in the week after the Kristallnacht we had one of the only private protests against the treatment of Jewish people in 1938 by an Indigenous man, William Cooper, who the seat of Cooper is named after. Despite not even having the right to vote in Australia, he marched from Footscray to the German consulate to deliver a letter to the German government, protesting against the treatment of Jewish people on the other side of the world. It was a truly remarkable and selfless act, one that showed his commitment to human rights not just for his people but for all people around the world. That's what International Holocaust Remembrance Day is all about. It is not exclusively to mark the atrocities against the Jewish people. Crimes were committed based on people's religion, race, gender, sexuality and political views. The Nazi regime persecuted people based on things that people had no control over, things that people were born into. That, again, is in contrast to what we have in Australia.

The final point I would make on this debate in this place is to reaffirm Australia's commitment to the lessons of the Holocaust and to the lessons against persecution. Over summer, we saw in the Grampians, in my home state of Victoria, what I would describe as a display of confidence by Neo-Nazi figures in Victoria. They were so confident that they were able to show their true signs and their true colours, hypocritically waving the Australian flag while doing the sieg heil in the Grampians. I say to the House that there is nothing less Australian than pro-Neo-Nazi symbols and gatherings. Australians fought and died fighting the Nazi regime. We remain committed to learning the lessons of the Holocaust to make sure it never happens again.

10:46 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a privilege to be able to speak on the motion moved by my good friend the member for Berowra. I want to congratulate him on his speech, and I also congratulate the member for Macnamara, despite our partisan differences. This is one of the issues that bring the whole chamber together. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is a day that should bring people together so that, to echo the sentiments of the previous speakers, we never forget and we never allow the repeat of history. I start that by acknowledging that you and I, Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, went to the memorial to the genocide in Armenia only a couple of years ago. It was because that genocide was forgotten and never got its full acknowledgement that crimes were able to be perpetuated throughout the 20th century. International Holocaust Remembrance Day is about reaffirming our commitment to never forgetting the crimes committed against the Jewish people and the many other minorities who were victims of the atrocities committed by the Nazi Party.

This is so critical for the electorate of Goldstein and the bordering electorate of Macnamara in particular. We share the majority of Melbourne's Jewish community. There are many Holocaust survivors in Macnamara, but much of the Jewish community sits in Goldstein as well. Whether directly or indirectly, people are touched by the legacy of the Holocaust. In fact, the Jewish Holocaust Centre, a Holocaust museum in Victoria, sits on our border, and I'm very proud that the Morrison government has contributed a significant amount of money—$10 million—to its ongoing development. A critical part of addressing the legacy of the Holocaust and keeping the memory of it alive, so that we never allow it to happen again, is making sure that young Australians are fully aware of the events that occurred—not just the human toll but the events that led up to it and the enculturation of bigotry and anti-Semitism that led to one of the greatest atrocities if human history. We can only ensure that it is never repeated if we keep the spirit of the people and their stories alive, because it was not a single act, though there were very important single acts in the process; it was a matter of what was tolerated. We can never allow such bigotry to find its home on our shores or anywhere else in the world. That's why we all carry a sense of responsibility to call it out—because, when we allow and tolerate such bigotry and we turn a blind eye to it, particularly in times of crisis or certain events, it can lead to it becoming a groundswell.

I've spoken in this chamber many times, along with other members, about the rise of anti-Semitism not just in Australia but around the world and how we cannot tolerate this. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry regularly produces reports highlighting the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, including acts of violence, both verbal and physical, against schoolchildren in parts of our country, where rabbis or those of Orthodox Jewish faith face harassment unjustly within the community, sometimes when they are simply driving their car down the street, or the graffiti of school buses. But the role of standing up and making sure we remember International Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a burden and responsibility that we all share.

I was very proud just this year that Mrs Irma Hanner was provided an OAM for her service to the community, particularly through the Jewish Holocaust Centre in the Goldstein electorate. People like Irma are instrumental in ensuring the memory of the victims of the Holocaust lives on and highlight the importance of holocaust funding and education. I would hope we would celebrate with a bipartisan spirit, because it's when people's lives and stories are told that Australians get an idea of the lived experience and the legacy that occurred. It's only when we remember those stories vividly and with discussion that we can honour the memory of those lives lost. In the words of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, 'To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.' That's why we say: never again.

10:51 am

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Humanity 'could never fully understand the world of a survivor'—that's what Jewish Holocaust survivor Olga Horak told SBS News when she reflected on Nazi Germany's regime of persecution. She was imprisoned at Auschwitz and liberated 76 years ago. On this anniversary this year and here in this parliament Australia at this time marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I thank the previous speakers for their contribution and, in particular, the mover and seconder of the motion for bringing the parliament together for this important issue.

Even though we might live across the globe from where the atrocities took place, when we hear stories like Olga's they hit very close to home for all of us. There are holocaust survivors here in Australia and across the globe who every day must do battle with the horrors they have experienced, horrors that are terrible, unimaginable and uncomfortable for us who have never known that kind of suffering to hear about—but they must be heard. Six million Jews, along with other minorities, were killed during the murderous Nazi regime. At Auschwitz alone, more than a million people died. Mrs Horak describes the camp as 'the bottom of hell'. She says, 'It was easier to die than to live.'

More than seven decades after the atrocities committed against the Jewish community, we must do more to remember. I want to commend the federal, state and local governments in my home state of Queensland for committing crucial funds to establish the Queensland Holocaust Museum and Education Centre, announced by the minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, and supported by the Premier and Treasurer, Annastacia Palaszczuk and Cameron Dick, to ensure that the voices will be heard and the stories from this dark moment in history will be preserved. I thank the member for Macnamara for playing a constructive role in ensuring that this has become a reality in my home state. I want to recognise my great friend Jason Steinberg, the Queensland Jewish Board of Deputies vice-president, who has played a key role in ensuring that this project will go ahead.

We must have more uncomfortable conversations. We need to discuss and comprehend the horrors that those in our communities, their family members and their friends have gone through. Keeping those terrible memories alive is key to creating a more just and tolerant society and it is the best way for us to do justice and pay respect to those who went through such senseless suffering simply because of the way they chose to worship.

It's never been more imperative to mourn and mark the Holocaust. We're living through some unprecedented times and troubling moments in history, when anti-Semitic sentiments are, sadly, on the rise. Many of us caught glimpses of the disturbing anti-Semitic imagery displayed right across the world on clothing and flags in the 6 January riot in the US Capitol. Sadly, as we've heard today, this is not an isolated incident. Anti-Semitism is on the rise across the globe, and here in Australia we are not immune to the disturbing trend of dangerous and harmful historical revisionism. Anti-Semitic acts are occurring on our own soil, in our schools, universities, places of worship, businesses and in the dark recesses of the internet, where dangerous, false ideas can be shared and reinforced as facts. Sometimes it occurs in full public view, as we've heard from the member for Macnamara of his home state of Victoria, where a group of men were making Nazi salutes and shouting 'white power'.

This is the face of evil showing itself here in our backyard, and it's up to all of us to decide whether or not we will allow it. This is not free speech. This is not an argument that we have. This is abhorrent. We must condemn hatred in all its forms in the strongest possible terms. There is no responsible or acceptable reason to display a swastika. There is no acceptable reason to deny the Holocaust occurred. There is no acceptable reason to discriminate against a group of people based on their religious beliefs. We must take ownership of this and defend our country's tolerant and kind reputation.

Seventy-six years on from the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Australia remembers humanity's darkest hour. We will still stand with the Jewish community and we will continue to speak about the unspeakable so we will always remember the devastating consequences of ignorance and hate. We will never forget.

10:56 am

Photo of Dave SharmaDave Sharma (Wentworth, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I wanted to begin by thanking the member for Berowra for moving this motion and thanking those opposite, including the members for Macnamara and Oxley, for speaking so passionately in support of it. This is indeed, as the member for Goldstein said, an issue that, thankfully, unites both sides of this chamber in shared abhorrence and repulsion not only of the events of the Holocaust but of some of its modern-day anti-Semitic manifestations.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is the day that commemorates the liberation of Auschwitz in the closing stages of the Second World War. This year in January we commemorated the 76th anniversary of that. There are really two purposes to Holocaust Remembrance Day. One is the act of remembrance itself to honour the memory of the six million Jews and many millions of others who were systematically exterminated in an act of state sponsored genocide, whose lives were cut short and whose deaths continue to reverberate today. In absences in family trees, in lost relatives, in stories of migration their presence is still felt. The other purpose is a reaffirmation, firstly of the horror that took place in modern times, within the lifetimes and memories of people still with us today, but also to make sure that we never forget that and that we remain vigilant about combating the forces that gave rise to that awful atrocity and learn from it.

And this day does still echo with us. There are Holocaust survivors, of course, still with us here in Australia. I'm sure many of us have met them from time to time. They are remarkable individuals who obviously went through incredible trauma in their early lives but have nonetheless found an emotional centredness and a will to go on that has allowed them to park some of those memories they went through and lead purposeful lives. Many, of course, are helping contribute to educating people today about what the Holocaust was like and what they went through. But it also echoes with us because, unfortunately, we see alive and well today some of the bigotry, intolerance, extremism and dehumanisation that was really at the heart of the Holocaust. We see it around the world and I think, unfortunately, we do see it in Australia, whether it was the exhibition of far Right, anti-Semitic nationalists camping in the Grampians over the summer, as the member for Macnamara mentioned, whether it's the casual use of the swastika that we've seen in our electorates—I know the member for Berowra has seen that, and I've also seen it in my own electorate—or whether it's the language that's used at times to talk about other people and other faiths and to stereotype, castigate and dehumanise. Unfortunately, I think we still see that far too prevalent in our world today.

Australia, of course, took a large number of Holocaust survivors at the end of the Second World War. Our Jewish population effectively almost doubled, and I think on a per capita basis we took the most Holocaust survivors of anywhere in the world other than Israel. I recall from my time in Israel as the ambassador that something everyone there knew very well was our generosity and hospitality that was shown at that time. Jewish people had a very difficult time leaving Europe and finding a home elsewhere in the years before the war, and Australia has a chequered record there, but in the years afterwards Australia, thankfully, opened its doors and allowed people to resettle here. These Holocaust survivors have built some amazing things in Australia. They've built businesses. They've built family empires. They've risen to the highest offices in the land. Many of them are still with us. Many of them live in my electorate They built families and, often quite purposefully, had a large number of children in what can only be described, I think, as a response to those who tried to kill them and wipe them out. They've taken joy in the number of children and grandchildren they have and now, increasingly, in the number of great-grandchildren.

But I think these people, unfortunately, will soon no longer be with us, and this is why education is so important. I've been very pleased to see the money that has been put towards the Jewish and Holocaust museums announced recently in Queensland, in the ACT and in South Australia. Just a few weeks ago, I was able to visit the Sydney Jewish Museum, where they're doing a project to help remember for eternity some of these survivors by taking 3D footage of them. I will end with the words of Elie Wiesel:

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

11:02 am

Photo of Brian MitchellBrian Mitchell (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Berowra for moving this important motion, and I join him and other speakers in acknowledging the important of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and honouring the memory of all Holocaust victims and the survivors. 27 January was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day by the UN because it was on this date in 1945 that Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Red Army. Located in German occupied Poland, Auschwitz was the largest Nazi concentration and death camp. I commend the ongoing efforts of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance to advance and promote Holocaust education and to ensure the history and the stories of its victims are passed on to successive generations. The alliance consists of 34 member countries, including Australia, which recognise that international political coordination is imperative to combating the growing scourge and threat of Holocaust denial.

Its work seems particularly important right now in the face of a concerning rise of far Right extremist sentiment in Australia and ongoing attempts by modern Nazis to deny the truth of the Holocaust. Late last year, ASIO told the parliament that far Right violent extremism constitutes up to 40 per cent of its counterterrorism case load. That is a threefold to fourfold increase on 2016. ASIO also warned that COVID-19 has created a greater opportunity for far Right extremists to recruit online, exploiting the pandemic to drive vicious antigovernment messages at those who resent lockdowns and measures such as orders to wear masks and socially distance. As we have seen from some of the protests at these measures, these people can organise quickly, and many are not the brutish skinheads that we have previously associated with such extremism but ordinary-looking Aussies, radicalised, angry and receptive to disinformation. ASIO's 2019-20 annual report noted that extreme right-wing groups in Australia remain an enduring threat.

Over the Australia Day long weekend, as previous speakers have mentioned—in particular the member for Macnamara—we learned of disturbing reports of a large group of self-described white supremacists camping in the Grampians National Park. They're proud of it. They're proud of being called white supremacists. Witnesses reported that the men could be heard chanting white power slogans when in town and that they were displaying signs that read 'Australia for the white man'. I can only imagine how it would have felt for Australians of Asian, Jewish or Muslim heritage to have been in the vicinity of such naked hatred in 21st-century Australia. The extremism is real, and it is a threat to both community safety and national security. It is not enough to remember the Holocaust and be horrified by it. We must learn from it. We must especially learn from the conditions that gave rise to it, in order to ensure that it never happens again.

Last year Labor proposed a parliamentary inquiry into far Right extremism in Australia. The government agreed to our proposal and referred an inquiry to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. A key focus of the committee's inquiry will be to examine the nature and extent of the threat posed by right-wing extremists in Australia, with a focus on their motivations, objectives and capacity for violence. The committee will also consider changes that can be made to Australia's counterterrorism strategy in relation to preventing radicalisation to extremist views, including further steps that the federal government could take to disrupt and deter hate speech, as well as the role of social media, encrypted communications platforms and the dark web in allowing extremists to communicate and organise. The work of the committee will be crucial.

The Holocaust did not suddenly appear out of nowhere. It was the end result of years of chipping away at a sophisticated cosmopolitan country's social fabric, and it took less than 20 years. This period saw newspaper cartoons and politicians directing derision towards particular segments of the community, and apathy among the general population and political class to the emerging threat. It saw the growth of armed militias, the political class dismissing extreme rhetoric as political theatre, and the destruction of property. It saw voters rationalise that, while they didn't agree with the racism, the Nazis deserved support because they would bring order and discipline. It saw the changing of laws to codify discrimination and the forced movement of people into enclaves and ghettos, and at the end, after humanity and identity had been stripped away, it saw the bureaucratic and deliberate murder of millions. I urge all members to follow @AuschwitzMuseum on Twitter. Every day you will receive a tweet telling you a short story about a human being who entered the gate, the vast majority of whom never left. We must never forget—never again.

11:07 am

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to begin by thanking the member for Berowra for moving this motion, and I thank all members on both sides who have spoken today in marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was on 27 January this year. While World War II ended more than 75 years ago, the deep trauma of the Holocaust continues to ripple through the generations that have followed. It is essential that we never forget what occurred during the Holocaust. We must pause to remember the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. What occurred during this regime reflects the very worst of human nature. It reminds us how easy it is to sow seeds of division and discrimination, and what these seeds can grow into. We must reaffirm our promise to never forget the six million Jews and 11 million others, including people with intellectual disabilities, political prisoners, Serbs, Poles and Soviet citizens, who were killed during the Holocaust. International Holocaust Remembrance Day compels us to keep the memory of those who were persecuted under the Nazi regime, but it also moves us to reflect on the darkness still around us today. It is not enough to just remember the victims. We as a government must take action to ensure the protection of human rights and the security of citizens, no matter their race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. We must continue to combat extremist ideologies which threaten harm to others. We must ensure that the rhetoric and beliefs that fuel genocide are stamped out.

Altogether, more than 31,000 Holocaust survivors rebuilt their devastated lives in Australia. My children's grandfather, Dr Frank Martin, is a Holocaust survivor who came to this country as a young child. It was in this country that Frank Martin made significant strides for his family and his community, becoming a father, a grandfather, a world-renowned paediatric ophthalmologist and outstanding citizen. It is not surprising that Australia welcomed one of the largest numbers of Holocaust victims. In fact, Australia has the largest per-capita Holocaust survivor population outside of Israel. It was here that survivors carved out a place of safety and healing, contributing much to our nation's understanding of the Holocaust but also contributing to a powerful social movement of unity and cohesion. It is the examples of their lives as migrants in our communities that remind us of the strength we have when we focus on what unites us, not what divides us.

The Morrison government is committed to supporting Holocaust museums in each state and territory in Australia, with the most recent museum announced in the ACT on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Our government has pledged $750,000 towards the establishment of this new Holocaust museum. It is important that our nation's capital houses a place that promotes tolerance and understanding while combatting racism and anti-Semitism. As there are fewer survivors to give testimony about their experiences, it is all the more important that these records and stories are recorded and shared. We must ensure that the voices of victims and survivors remain alive so that these stories can start conversations and inspire change for the future. Our Holocaust museums play an integral part in preserving these stories. I can speak highly of the Sydney Jewish Museum in my own state, which continues to educate future generations and give a voice to victims and survivors. The museum carries a mission to challenge visitors' perceptions of morality, social justice, democracy and human rights. These are the values that we, as a government, strive to protect and uphold as well. In remembering those who suffered during the Holocaust and by supporting these institutions of remembrance, we reaffirm the need to protect morality, social justice, democracy and human rights going forward so that these atrocities are never repeated again.

11:12 am

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I, too, would like to commend the member for Berowra for moving this motion, and the member for Macnamara for seconding it, calling for this remembrance to be acknowledged here in the parliament. It was one of the most atrocious periods in history, and we must learn from the past. Commemorating and ensuring that we recognise 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, is so important, especially in today's political climate. It's just as important today as it was at the end of World War II. When we look around the world we see the rise of right-wing extremism taking place in many parts of the world—the rise of anti-Semitism, racism and hate speech—and we don't have to look too far. Just look at what took place on 6 January in the US. It's a reminder that days like International Holocaust Remembrance Day are more important than ever.

Last year, it was my pleasure to speak in this place about the official opening of the Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Andrew Steiner Education Centre in my own electorate. I couldn't attend, because we were sitting here in the parliament, as it fell on a sitting week, but I felt compelled to talk about the important new institution in the electorate. I've also heard of many others around the country. I'd like to again commend Andrew Steiner and the entire South Australian Jewish community and its supporters for working so hard to make this dream a reality. The museum will serve as a reminder of the atrocities of the Nazi regime. It will remind people that we have a role to play in ensuring that it never happens again.

Today I'm also reminded of the history of the Jewish population in my parent's homeland, in Greece. Before World War II, the city of Salonika had the largest Jewish community in Greece, with over 50,000 people. It was one of the biggest communities. They lived in harmony, side by side, with different religions and different communities. At the time of the German occupation—within a week of that occupation—the Germans arrested the Jewish leadership and evicted hundreds of Jewish families from their homes. Over 45,000 were deported from Salonica to Auschwitz. Most never returned—the majority did not return. Some of the survivors ended up here in Australia, like my good friend Philip Dalidakis, who was a minister in the Victorian government. He is a descendant of those people and still has a close tie to Salonica. We've visited Greece together on a number of occasions. I remind people in this place that those events during World War II were just one example of the many atrocities that took place around Europe at the time and of the suffering that occurred.

I also want to remind people about the rise to prominence of Neo-Nazi parties across the world. In Greece there was a party called Golden Dawn—it was nothing other than a Nazi party. Their leader said that the Holocaust was nothing but a conspiracy theory, yet these people, in the economic crisis that took place in 2010, found fertile ground for the rise in popularity of that particular party. In the election in 2009, they had fewer than 20,000 votes across the country; the following election, they picked up seven per cent of the vote and 18 members of parliament. This is a Neo-Nazi party in the centre of Europe, in a country that felt the full atrocities of the Nazis between 1939 and 1945. It shows how easily, if we let this go, these right-wing movements can take place. I'm very pleased that the courts of Athens found them to be a criminal organisation not that long ago and disbanded them, but the worrying thing is that they have a branch here in Australia, which is still operating. I've asked the Attorney-General to have a look at it.

But, if parties like Golden Dawn can make such inroads—as I said—in a country that suffered under Nazism, it reminds us that anti-Semitism and racial and religious hatred should not be tolerated and that we must call them out and stamp them out immediately.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (11:17): The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.