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AJN opinion piece: “Where’s the money, Malcolm?” as published in the Australian Jewish News May 18,2018

1,275 days is a long time. 1,275 days ago, Hawthorn had just won the 2nd of their 3 premierships in a row and my beloved Saints had just won their 16th wooden spoon. Tony Abbott was still Australia’s Prime Minister, Donald Trump was just a TV personality and sadly MH370 had just disappeared.

It was also the date the then-Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews promised that a Victorian Labor Government under his leadership would provide Beth Weizmann with a $500,000 security grant to contribute towards its planned bomb-proofing upgrades. 1,109 days ago, the newly-elected Andrews Government delivered that funding. And 758 days ago, the Federal Labor Opposition, led by Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, made its own promise to match the funding under a Shorten Labor Government.

All Beth Weizmann needed at that point to start works was a matching $500,000 contribution from the Federal Liberal Government. What is little more than chump change for Malcolm Turnbull given the Federal Government budget handed down last week deals in the tens of billions of dollars, could have secured a building that hundreds of Jewish community professionals, volunteers, guests, library users and event attendees use every day.

It’s been 1,275 days of lobbying, meetings with Liberal figures, questions made both publicly and privately, and far too many unsuccessful grant applications. The Abbott/Turnbull Governments have still committed zero dollars to Beth Weizmann. I have even pleaded with many senior Liberal figures in private to match the funding or to no avail.

A couple of weeks ago in our own State budget, the Andrews Labor government committed to doubling our funding to $1 million. We understand that since the original cost projections, 1,275 days ago, the costs have nearly doubled to an estimated $2 million. The project is still in dire need of matching federal funding to go ahead. It’s still very much within the Federal Government’s capabilities to make Beth Weizmann’s upgrade a reality.

1,275 days later, I ask, the community asks – where is the money, Malcolm?

Join with us, join with the community and be a partner in making us all safer. If not, the community has the right to ask questions about why, when it comes to the Jewish community have the Liberals been all talk and no action. 

And that is a standard I am only too happy for the community to hold us too. From the over $3 million in infrastructure grants to the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Jewish Museum, Caulfield Hebrew Congregation, St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and Temple Beth Israel. We’ve also given various organisational support grants to the Jewish Community Council of Victoria; the Rabbinical Council of Victoria; Jewish Care; the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce; the National Council of Jewish Women Australia and funded emergency management plans developed by the Australian Council of Jewish Schools.

As Minister for Trade and Investment, I led an historic first Ministerial trade delegation to Israel on cyber security in 2016 with the AICC, and then in 2017, Premier Daniel Andrews visited to officially open the first ever State Government Trade and Investment Office in Israel, in the world-renowned innovation hub that is Tel Aviv.

As we say in Hebrew – this isn’t talk, this is tachlis – real, measurable support for our community. What the Liberals have delivered is all talk.

Instead of letterboxing homes in Melbourne Ports attacking Labor over support for Israel, Senator James Paterson’s time and resources would be better spent lobbying his Prime Minister for security funding.

Indeed, the Liberals have proved their capability when it comes to stunts, like their most recent motion at the Victorian State Liberal Party conference when they again called on the Federal Government to move the Australian Embassy to Jerusalem. Perhaps they could just pick up the phone. Last time I looked Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the Federal Liberal Party, is the Foreign Minister. Only problem is, she has already ruled moving the Embassy out – but don’t let facts get in the way of your silly stunts. Perhaps Senator Paterson, David Southwick, Tim Wilson and their friends could spend less time on stunts and more on tachlis. The community needs action in the form of security funding, they don’t want or need more talk.

As a Jewish Member of Parliament myself, in a caucus that features three proudly Jewish and Zionist MPs; led by a Premier who has spoken out for Israel and delivered for our Jewish community at every opportunity; I can honestly say I am privileged to serve in a Government that gets things done and makes things fair, for all communities, especially our own.

Community security should be an issue that goes above and beyond partisan politics. Chas v’shalom, God Forbid, our community should face a terrorist attack like Jewish communities in Europe. We want to be rest assured that our major communal buildings and organisations are as secure as they can be. We need the Federal Liberal Government to work with the Andrews Victorian Government to secure Beth Weizmann, and we need it now. Let’s hope Malcolm Turnbull finds the sense and the cents before it’s too late.

Philip Dalidakis MP