In the face of a coordinated and sustained campaign initiated and led by Jewish activists, the Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has abandoned his 2013 election promise to water down or remove Section 18C of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
which makes it unlawful to act in a manner likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone on the basis of race. Abbott said he had made a “leadership decision” to walk away from his pledge despite having promised to remove this outrageous restriction on the free speech
after the law was used successfully against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt
in 2011. It is a measure of the power wielded by organized Jewry in Australia that the Prime Minister would rather damage his political credibility by breaking a clear election promise than suffer the consequences of defying the single most powerful group in Australian society
. Abbott, who made the announcement while outlining an extension of anti-terrorism laws, attempted to justify his broken promise by claiming “I don’t want to do anything that puts our national unity at risk at this time and so those proposals are now off the table.”
Abbott’s apparent desire to not further alienate Australia’s problematic Islamic community by repealing Section 18C (at a time when the government is set to strengthen laws against terrorism) is an obvious political smokescreen. The veteran Jewish journalist, Michael Gawenda, writing in the Business Spectator
, identified the real reason behind the Prime Minister walking away from his election commitment:
While Abbott said that the decision to ditch the plan to rid the Racial Discrimination Act of section 18C was taken because of “complications” in dealing with Islamic communities in the context of the proposed tough new terrorism laws, it seems likely that more was involved in this decision. The conflict in Gaza and the coverage and reaction to this appalling, heartbreaking conflagration, in my opinion, made it virtually certain that any move to change or abolish section 18C would extract too high a political price. The repeal of section 18C was vigorously opposed by the leadership of virtually every ethnic community in the country. But it would be fair to say — without wishing to give succor to those who reckon the Jews are too powerful — that Jewish community leaders have played a crucial role in organizing the opposition to any potential change to the RDA. It is the opposition of the Jewish communal leaders that had been of major concern to [Attorney General] Brandis and, to a significant extent, Tony Abbott.
Gawenda notes that the Jewish community’s overwhelming support for Section 18C (which was itself originally the legislative result of submissions by organized Jewry to the National Inquiry into Racist Violence and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1995) is linked to the broader Jewish commitment to “multiculturalism” in Australia.
The main reason that Brandis and Abbott were most concerned about the opposition of the Jewish communal leadership to any changes to section 18C is because the Jewish community is generally seen as a role model for successful multiculturalism. It is for these reasons that the Jewish communal leadership has played such an outsized role in the campaign against the watering down or elimination of section 18C. If the Jewish community is a prime example of successful multiculturalism, then its support for the retention of 18C, its highly effective campaign against any change to the RDA on the basis that any change would seriously undermine multiculturalism and free the racists to say whatever they please, represented serious political pain for Brandis and Abbott.
Gawenda is disingenuous in claiming
that the source of the Jewish community’s power in this debate resides in its being a “role model for successful multiculturalism” rather than in its status as a group with the kind of financial, political and media clout to instil genuine fear in those who oppose its interests. As in the United States, Jewish money
exerts a dominating influence over Australian politics, which guarantees that most politicians are willing to put the Australian Defense Forces (and Australian taxpayers) to the service of an ethno-nationalist state in which Australia has no economic or strategic interest. The Jewish academic and activist Dan Goldberg acknowledges that: “The annual report of the Australian Electoral Commission always includes Jewish names and Jewish-owned companies donating large sums to both sides of politics.”[i] The sway held by organized Jewry over Australia’s political leaders was highlighted earlier this year when the former Foreign Minister Bob Carr hit out
at the “pro-Israel lobby in Melbourne,” saying it wielded “extraordinary influence” on Australia’s foreign policy
during his time in former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s cabinet.Asked how the lobby achieved this influence he said: “I think party donations and a program of giving trips to MPs and journalists to Israel. But that’s not to condemn them. I mean, other interest groups
do the same thing. But it needs to be highlighted because I think it reached a very unhealthy level.” Carr’s observations were later corroborated by the former Australian Prime MinisterMalcolm Fraser
who said Carr was “absolutely correct” in his view that the Jewish lobby wielded too much power. Gawenda asserts that, unlike the vast majority of Australian Jews, he was originally in favor of the proposal to water down Section 18C of the Act until recent events gave him pause for thought: in particular the widespread criticism of Israel and its supporters for their attempts to justify the appalling massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza:
But here’s the thing. I believe that in recent days, in the light of what has been published about Jews and the conflict in Gaza, the clearly anti-Semitic cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald, for instance — for which the SMH has issued an apology in an editorial that I found unsatisfactory —\ not to mention the astounding amount of outright racist filth to be found on social media, it may no longer be the case that we can trust editors and executive producers when it comes to ensuring that what amounts to vilification is not given any room in mainstream commentary and analysis.
So, for Gawenda, the recent (and entirely legitimate) criticism of the actions of the ethno-nationalist state of Israel and its Zionist cheerleaders in the West only serves to confirm that Jewish leaders were right to oppose any changes to Section 18C. The criticism of the Israeli government and those who would defend its barbarity in Gaza simply confirms for Gawenda that Australians cannot be trusted with unfettered free speech. Incidentally, the supposedly “anti-Semitic” cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald to which he refers is less an anti-Semitic caricature and more an accurate representation of actual events — of Israeli citizens sitting outside to watch and cheer the bombing of the helpless Palestinian civilians as entertainment.