Government money is helping In recent weeks federal and state governments have given millions of dollars to the community. Victorian MP Philip Dalidakis discusses how proud he is to be a Jewish State Labor MP.

Australian Jewish News | Friday 26 May 2017

ON behalf of the Premier I was pleased to present a $250,000 cheque to the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation at its annual Yom Ha’atzmaut breakfast earlier this month.

I made this presentation as part of a massive and unprecedented investment by a Victorian Government into Jewish community infrastructure projects – an investment that will total more than $1 million.

This includes a $750,000 grant to the Jewish Holocaust Centre and further grants to the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation and the Jewish Museum.

Philip Dalidakis (right) with (from left) Nick Staikos, Helen Mahemoff and Sue Hampel at the Jewish Holocaust Centre.

This is yet another win for the Melbourne Jewish Community delivered by a Labor Government. It’s another reason I confidently say to the community that the Andrews Labor Government is as strong a friend to the Jewish community as any government has been, across all political persuasions.

In politics, as we have experienced with reporting of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, truth is sometimes the loser. The Jewish community, for its part, needs results more than it needs spin. The Andrews Labor government continues to deliver those results – in security funding, in education funding, in infrastructure grants, in organisational support, in multicultural policy and more. I am very happy to have the community judge us by what we have delivered. 

In Victoria since 2014, we have made significant investments in the community to the tune of well over $2 million. In addition to the infrastructure grants announced this month, we’re providing financial support to a wide range of organisations including the Rabbinical Council of Victoria, Jewish Care, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of Jewish Women Australia and to emergency management plans developed by the Australian Council of Jewish Schools.

Talking to Survivor Guide Joseph De Haan about his Holocaust experience, at the Jewish Holocaust Centre after the cheque presentation.

We are also working closely with the JCCV to find a way for the government to give much-needed financial assistance to our community’s peak roof body, and I’m confident we will be able to deliver that as well.

I strongly believe support for the Jewish community and its organisations should be above party politics, and usually it is. But I do have to point out that in the area of community security, the federal Liberal government continues to reduce and dilute the pool of funds available to the community to secure our schools, synagogues and community buildings.

I don’t need to tell anyone in the Jewish community how important securing our community safety is. Despite this, the community’s security funding has continually shrunk under the Turnbull Government to an alarming point. This too is another area that the Andrews Government is now working to address.

For example, take the Beth Weizmann Community Centre, which houses hundreds of staff and volunteers from 23 community organisations and many more hundreds in visitors to its tenants and for functions, events and its library. Three years ago Daniel Andrews committed $500,000 towards a vital $1.3 million security upgrade to create a bomb-proof wall, and we delivered it, but there is still no commitment from the federal government, leaving the upgrade in limbo. Mr Turnbull likes to pose as a friend of the community, but sadly when it comes to our most significant communal building, his support remains only talk. 

Presenting a cheque to Anthony Raitman (President), Rabbi Ralph Genende and Rodney Horin (Chair Redevelopment Project) of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation at the Sunday 7 May Yom Haatzmaut Breakfast at Palladium, Crown.

This continues to be our experience with the federal Liberal government, whether it is their shameful attempts to water down section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which would unleash anti-Semitism and other race-hate speech, or their most recent attack on our community as they attempt to strip funding from the Jewish school sector with their newly-derived funding model.

Support for Israel is very close to my heart. I’m the first to acknowledge that there are some people in my party whose views on Israel appal me. The record shows that I have not been afraid to call them out – in public, in Parliament and in these pages. But Labor’s support for Israel in the federal and Victorian parliaments is very strong, and there can be no question about the leadership that Premier Daniel Andrews and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have shown – two of the most pro-Israel leaders you’ll find. 

I’m proud to belong to a party which has always had close ties with the Jewish community and with Israel, and which continues to endorse and elect Jewish MPs to our federal and Victorian parliaments. This is the first time there have been two Jewish cabinet ministers in Victoria, who are both proud Zionists, the Attorney General Martin Pakula and myself. Add Marsha Thomson and we have three Jewish members in the Victorian Parliament, and two in the federal Parliament from Victoria. This is more than twice the number the Liberals do – one in Victorian parliament and one in Canberra. 

So the next time the Liberals try to distract you by passing motions about where the Australian Embassy in Israel should be located, ask yourself what are they actually doing for the benefit of the Jewish community. As a Minister in the Andrews Labor Government, I know I’m proud to stand behind our record.

The Article as it appears in the Australian Jewish News (Click to view)