Senate Chamber Hansard Wednesday September 11
Senator Andrew BRAGG (New South Wales) (13:41):
I rise to speak about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Australia, because I believe Australians have a right to know what is driving people in our public affairs. Like many Australian families, my family served in World War II against the Nazis. One grandfather served in the Western Desert in the Middle East. The other one served in the Merchant Navy on the Atlantic in oil tankers under siege from U-boats. I studied genocide at university. I learnt about it here in Canberra at the ANU. I was taught by Professor Colin Tatz. I have been to death camps in Germany, including Dachau. I have been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. World War II and the Nazi atrocities have been part of my education. They have been part of the awareness of my being. I am worried that we are starting to forget.
I believe anti-Semitism is a rising problem in New South Wales and across Australia. Anti-Semitic incidents have increased by 60 per cent in the past year. There have been extraordinarily large increases in email threats, telephone based threats and vandalism. In New South Wales, there have been swastikas affixed to Bondi Beach’s graffiti wall. Bondi Beach is where many thousands of Jewish people live, including many Holocaust survivors.
My friend and colleague Julian Leeser MP, the member for Berowra, has been forced to endure anti-Semitic behaviour in his own electorate. During the last campaign, Mr Leeser had to deal with swastikas and Hitler moustaches as well as dollar signs for eyes. As he said himself: For the third time my campaign materials have been attacked by people trying to intimidate me by sending a message of hate. First it was swastikas and Hitler moustaches on my posters on a street in Normanhurst. He went on to say: The $$ refer to old anti-Semitic lies of an international Jewish banking conspiracy; that Jews have control of the world’s
money supply. These sentiments were used by Nazis and others who have sought to spread hatred of Jews for centuries.
I believe anti-Semitism is also underpinning a disgraceful challenge against the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s citizenship. His mother, Erica Strauss, fled the Holocaust and arrived in Australia from Hungary in 1950. There are three people involved with this outrageous attempt. One is Michael Staindl. Paul Karp reported in The Guardian on 31 July that Staindl launched a citizenship
challenge under section 44 of the Constitution, aimed at establishing whether Josh Frydenberg had inherited Hungarian citizenship through his mother. The Australian then reported on 7 August that Michael Staindl is a climate activist who supports GetUp! Further, The Australian reported in late July that Mr Staindl has been involved in climate change protests and led a ‘Stop Adani’ event in 2017.
Let me turn to Trevor Poulton. The challenge is supported by Trevor Poulton. Geoff Chambers of The Australian reported on 8 August 2019 that Poulton was working with Oliver Yates’s Kooyong Independents Group to test the Treasurer’s eligibility. On 16 July Rosie Lewis of The Australian covered Poulton’s activities.
Poulton admitted to being engaged with the Kooyong Independents Group on the Treasurer’s citizenship status. Poulton told The Australian he believes the Treasurer is a dual citizen and that ‘the focus should be on Frydenberg’. Poulton is the author of a book, called The Holocaust Denier, about a police officer who ‘begins to question the nature and the extent of the Jewish Holocaust’. Any reading of his 2014 submission on section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes clear that this man believes the Holocaust is overdone in Australian schools and that there has been a vast conspiracy to overblow the Holocaust. He rejects the established figure of six million dead Jews from the Second World War and he goes on to say: It would appear through the teaching of the Holocaust in Australian schools, non-Jewish school children, particularly those of northern European descent and Muslims, are potentially being encouraged to loathe their own ethnicity. Poulton said these amendments on 18C could ‘liberate the debate on the Holocaust in the public domain’. He’s gone on to say that the debate on the Holocaust was ‘the Holocaust narrative’.
This takes me to the third person, Oliver Yates. Yates ran against the Treasurer in Kooyong as an Independent and received eight per cent of the votes. Post election, Yates emailed the members of the Kooyong Independents Group. The email of 14 June 2019 says: ‘It appears many candidates in the last election failed to provide enough information on their section 44 disclosures. If thought appropriate, they will recommend candidates for referral to the High Court. This has started in Kooyong.’ Yates says he’s not involved in the section 44 challenge. Yet on 31 July Mr Yates told The Australian that he knew Staindl. This is the third limb of clear evidence that this man is organising resources on the eligibility of the Treasurer, which includes three points: (1) Poulton’s statement of 16 July, (2) Yates’s email of 14 June and (3) Yates’s statement to The Australian on 31 July. Yates is involved in, if not at the nerve centre of, this outrage. Staindl, Poulton and Yates should all be ashamed of themselves for their appalling behaviour. They are banding together in the shadows to try and unseat the son of a Holocaust survivor. They are pretending that they are not working together, when they clearly are. The basis for this challenge is anti-Semitism.
We are proud of Jewish Australians. They have risen to the highest offices in the land. We are proud of Josh Frydenberg. He is a great Australian and a great friend, who is well regarded across this parliament. The Liberals will always call out racism. We worked with the Labor Party to open Australia after World War II. We dismantled the White Australia policy together. I call on our education sector to keep teaching the truth about the Holocaust. We cannot afford to forget—what begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews.
Finally, I call on all Australia’s community and political leaders to never walk past anti-Semitism or racism in any form. Racism is a sickness of the heart and the mind. It should never be tolerated. This is an illegitimate challenge to the Treasurer’s citizenship by people who have an obsession with the Holocaust. I thank the Senate for the opportunity to speak out and call this outrage what it is—rank anti-Semitism.