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Several Good Reasons For Australian Regime Change!

Several Good Reasons For Regime Change!

Statement issued by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society for the Australian Federal elections.

Traditionally, the AJDS does not tell its members and supporters for whom to vote. Ours is a broad shul and our members are attracted to vote for at least six different political parties in the coming elections. However, our membership is not spread over the entire political spectrum. Our members' concerns over issues like refugees, the Iraq war, Indigenous Australians and social justice have a lot in common. These causes reflect our motto A progressive voice among Jews, A Jewish voice among progressives. Ours is a progressive organisation, and as such we have a major stake in the elections - we do have an opinion on whether or not we wish to see the re-election of the current government. So while we do not advise anyone whom to vote for, we are partisan in terms of whom we advocate you should vote against.

On every issue of those enumerated above, we have taken a stance diametrically opposed to that of the Howard government. For that reason alone we would like to see a regime change in Canberra.

Every Jewish person is familiar with the state of being a refugee; whether one, two or several generations ago is irrelevant. We cannot acquiesce when our government places children behind bars. Nor can we accept a situation in which a person who has not committed a crime, but who cannot return to his country of origin, has commenced his seventh year behind bars. What would have happened to the passengers of the St Louis if they had arrived in Australia in 2004?

The main cause for there being refugees in the world today is the dislocation caused by war. The Howard government has led us into a war based on lies. The AJDS argued before the invasion that the case that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction had not been made. We thought and stated that this was simply untrue, and furthermore that a war on Iraq would expand, not decrease, the danger of terrorism in the world. We now know that we were right. If we were able to work it out, John Howard, should have known the truth. The electoral defeat of yet another leader of the "Coalition of the Willing", who ignored domestic public opinion, would have a lasting deterring impact on future leaders who might be inclined to go to war.

The plight of Indigenous Australians continues to remind us of a shameful aspect of our society. Quite apart from the rollback of native title under this government, the most important issue has been the Stolen Generation. Again it was only two generations ago, during the Second World War, that thousands of Jewish children had their ethnic, cultural and religious identity forcibly erased while they were raised by foster parents in Europe. The Jewish people raised its voice as one against this. The Stolen Generation is no different. It is time for our own government to apologise.

Our involvement in social justice issues is rooted in our tradition. We have recently joined many others in denouncing the actions of James Hardie Industries, which tried to restructure its affairs by creating an artificial barrier between itself and its employees. While the government played no role in the James Hardie saga, the company was well aware of the precedent of the Patrick Corporation, which tried a similar manoeuvre earlier with the connivance of the Howard government.

There's Timor Leste (formerly East Timor) and the way in which the government, aware of intelligence reports of the Indonesian-sponsored militia plans, did not lift a finger to protect the East Timorese. It was only a massive outcry on talkback radio that forced John Howard's hand.

The list is long and we can keep on going. There's one issue, however, that we must mention, namely Israel. All our members want to see a peaceful Israel prospering within recognised borders. We do not doubt that John Howard sees himself as a good friend of Israel. But is falling behind the Bush Administration's uncritical support for the Sharon government really the best way to bring about a better future for Israel? Do we really want Australian recognition of the settlements prior to an agreement with the Palestinians? Is sending the SAS into western Iraq to hunt for non-existent Scuds the best proof of friendship? Would Israel's long-term interests not have been better served had the government thrown its weight behind the Geneva Accord, as did Bill Clinton, Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke and Bill Hayden?

Our members and supporters have ample choice in the coming elections. The choice of whom to vote for is theirs. But in our opinion the current government represents the opposite of what we stand for - it does not deserve to be re-elected. It's time for a regime change!


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