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Michael Danby: Fiercely Representing The Jewish Community For The Past 15 Years

September 3, 2013 – 11:01 am11 Comments

By Michael Danby:

michael danby4An important part of my role as a Federal Member of Parliament has been to stand up on the many issues facing our community and make sure that our voice is heard. It’s a responsibility I don’t take for granted.

Since the 2010 election, I have worked in Government to deliver:

  • $21 million dollars that have gone directly towards the increased safety of our Jewish Schools through the Secure Schools Program. Anyone who looks at Jewish schools now knows how much we have done to prevent attacks similar to the one in March last year on a Jewish school in Toulouse.

  • The Federal Government signing the London Declaration on Combatting anti-Semitism, which was initiated by Former Prime Minister Gillard

  • Australia contributed half a million dollars to the international fund to maintain the camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau for posterity. Both the Polish and Australian Governments have officially acknowledged my role ensuring that Canberra joined Israel, Germany, France and the US so the memorial is properly funded.

  • Instating Raoul Wallenberg as Australia’s first honourary citizen in a ceremony hosted by the Governor General

  • $65 million dollars in federal funding to schools throughout Melbourne Ports. Yavneh, Yeshiva, Adass, Sholem Aleichem, Bialik, King David and Mount Scopus have all built essential additions for their buildings.

  • The Australian economy has grown by more than 14 per cent despite a massive global financial crisis, resulting in the creation of 950,000 jobs and interest rates lower than at any time under previous Liberal Governments.

  • Australia has one of the lowest debt levels in the developed world and one of only 8 countries with an AAA credit rating. Our debt to GDP ratio is a modest 11%, significantly lower than the US and other major economies.

  • Cost of Living has remained at

Recently I joined the Minister for Education Bill Shorten and the Australian Council for Jewish Schools to discuss how the Labor Governments ‘Better Schools’ plan will benefit each and every Jewish school student.  The Better Schools program (previously known as ‘Gonski’) will enable schools to boost funding to provide more individualised catering for student’s specific needs, investment in our teacher training as well as much needed funding for resources. We have worked hard to will ensure every Australian student, irrespective of where they live, which school they attend or their family background, will receive a world class education. Every school will benefit from the Better Schools plan, including all Jewish schools, which will receive a minimum of 3% increase in funding and new increased funding for students with disabilities.

You will also remember my hot chocolate ‘sit ins’ in Max Brenner stores across the country, with leading personalities like Jana Wendt, Warren Mundine, Paul Howes, and Prime Minister Rudd, which have undermined the anti-Israel Boycott campaign. Equally as a Member of Parliament’s Intelligence Committee no one has been more active in focusing our security agencies on the local challenges posed by Hezbollah and Sunni extremists travelling to and from Australia to participate in the Syrian conflict.

2013 has been a difficult year but with your support , I look forward to continuing my work for the people of Melbourne Ports and in the interests of all Australians.

Response to previous email request by Rabbi Yaron Gottlieb.

1. You claim to have helped with the security at various institutions, however since I have never seen any antisemitism around the streets of Caulfield despite looking very Jewish, is this not simply feeding the unhealthy paranoias of your electorate while wasting government money? How can we justify government money going there rather than other programs?

2. You have made the news with your conscience preferencing of the Greens below the Coalition before anyone else in the ALP suggested it.

The nationwide Secure Schools Program helps finance security of various institutions not only in my electorate but elsewhere throughout Australia. The program was established in 2007 when $20m was committed to assist at-risk government and non-government schools to meet their particular security needs. A further $15m was announced in 2010 and most recently (2013) a further $10m has been committed to the program.  At least 101 projects in over 69 schools have been funded to date.

You may not be aware that Government, Christian, Moslem and other independent, as well as Jewish, schools have been supported by the Secure Schools Program.

In particular, a significant number of Moslem schools have received Secure Schools funding, reflecting antagonism Moslems have faced.

It is true that I have worked hard for Jewish educational institutions in my electorate and around the nation. Back in 1998, ‘Sunday’; the then premier current affairs program did a special in which I was involved, after Australian security services assessed that Jewish schools were prominent potential targets. Having served on the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, briefed directly by ASIO, I was made very aware of the ‘threat’ confronting Jewish targets – especially schools. ASIO has warned that vulnerable Jewish schools are as much of a target as the American Embassy. Adding to the risk is the growing number of individuals flying in and out of Australia to take up terrorist causes overseas. I’m sure you’ve read that the recent terrorist murders in Bulgaria were undertaken by an Australian citizen and operative of Hezbollah (for info on Australians convicted of terrorism see this article). A recent poll taken in the Jewish News asked the community ‘Is too much money being spent on our schools’ security?’ The community responded with a resounding 91% saying no. Whilst the threat is not something I enjoy discussing, it is still real, and I believe the Government’s commitment to continue Secure Schools will help prevent an event such as the Toulouse attack happening on Australian soil.

The distribution of electoral preferences is always a delicate matter in the Australian preferential system of voting and my main concern is to secure the best possible election result for the Australian Labor Party in Melbourne Ports.  My position against The Green Party in this electorate over the past several years has been stated on many occasions, is well known to all, and details can easily be found on my website. While I would always prefer to place the conservatives at the bottom of any How to Vote card, this year it was necessary to place that candidate ahead of such anti-ALP parties as The Palmer Party and the DLP.  And, while certainly having no fondness for the Rise Up Australia and Family First parties, neither of them will have preferences distributed to them and the ease of sequential voting, especially for non-English speaking background constituents, is something as a pragmatic experienced politician, I, and the Labor Party, have to take in to account.  Faced with the possibility of an Abbott conservative government after this election and the resulting rampant destruction of Labor’s legislative achievements of the past six years, I find myself in a position similar to that as stated by Winston Churchill when referring to the German invasion of the Soviet Union: “If Herr Hitler invaded hell itself I would at least make a favourable mention of the devil in the House of Commons.”

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  • Bernie says:

    I can’t believe he failed to mention that the ALP froze funding for independent schools in 2010. The Education Minister stated at the time that “no school will lose a dollar of funding in the sense that their school budget per student will not reduce in dollar terms”. But in real terms, with the Education CPI index running at 5%, Jewish schools have lost money that otherwise,under previous arrangements, would have been provided. The result – higher and for many, unaffordable school fees.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I hope that first question from Rabbi Gottlieb gets in the Grauniad – that is a classic and its amusing that the MP actually responded at all.

    Btw, what does “looking very Jewish” mean?

    If any non-Jewish person had suggested something like that they would be rightly smacked down for prejudice – tragic to be honest.

  • Yaron says:

    1. The talking up of security threats, especially in a post-Holocaust community is a great way to create a problem that needs fixing.

    There are plenty of organisations that have no security and have had no problems.

    It seems that Mr Danby and ECAJ (in their new year message) have found the perfect issue to play with, since who wants to be the one to suggest we remove security?

    2. Mr Danby wishes to be a conviction politician yet his actions are those of a cynical pragmatic politician.

    It is fine to be like all the others, but he should not try to present himself as somehow better, when his actions show him not to be.

    3. Sadducee,
    Wearing a kippa and titzit is not ‘looking very Jewish’?

    I would have no issue with a non-Jew pointing out that I look Jewish for those reasons.

  • Ash says:

    You should have ran as an Independent Michael, your views no longer align with the Labor party and I won’t vote for them regardless. You’ve been good but I’m voting for Kevin Ekendahl this year, Liberals are more receptive to Jewish interests then the Green influenced Labor party.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Your point to me makes me think of that old warning – “never judge a book by its cover.”

    Nonetheless, you don’t appear to be particularly concerned by outward identity markers being used to make judgements. I’m very concerned about these sort of things because they lead to dangerous assumptions.

    What about if a man is walking down the street and he is wearing a turban – would it be ok for you if someone suggested that they were looking very Muslim? very Sikh? very Hindu? very Jewish? very Christian?

    Incidentally, how many mainstream Australians do you think would know what tzitzit are? I suggest far fewer would know what they are and/or even what religious group wears them.

    They might recognise a kippah, then again maybe not – monks and bishops wear them too.

    As to security – the MP has access to national security intel and analysis – do you?

    Are you in an informed position to query ECAJ’s and/or his assessment of security needs/requirements and risks and threats?

    Are you able to support your assertion that the MP and ECAJ are “playing” with security as a community issue? That is a very serious suggestion to make publicly you know.

  • Yaron says:

    You are suggesting that any dangers to the community happen in isolation to what is to the average Jew in the street.

    The Jews in Melbourne have very low level of day to day risk, with the worst that would happen is perhaps someone shouting out ‘bloody Jew’. To suggest that is suddenly mounted to code red when it comes to a shule defies logic, and the reality that not every communal building has 24 hour security.

    As to my appearance, I cannot tell you how many times I have been mistaken for the Archbishop of Canterbury while walking the streets of Caulfield. And just because of the kippa.

    The point is I look obviously Jewish. If that makes you uncomfortable I make no apologies.

  • letters in the age says:

    Thanks for your contribution Mr Danby but your’e tenure is over..

    I would suggest the labour party take a very good hard look at themselves for allowing a Mr Rudd and a Mr Obeid to grow within it’s very toxic culture..

    Furthermore i see there are links with Mr Sinodinos and the son of Obeid in his Water Holding company…

    That will catch up with The Coalition as well..

    Stay tuned there’s more folks..!!

  • TheSadducee says:


    Yes – there is a difference to the level of danger to a Jew walking in the street and to that of the community in terms of fixed structures and organised terrorism.

    A terrorist may target a packed shule and kill 100 Jews with an IED – a total of 100 casualties with spectacular visual impact.

    A terrorist may also target a very Jewish looking man in the street and kill him – a total of 1 casualty with limited visual impact.

    Which do you think the terrorist is going to sensibly target and devote their resources to?

    If you are talking about other forms of crime then you may have more of an argument, but I don’t think the ECAJ/Danby etc are particularly concerned about these types of crime as being a major threat to the community.

    I am not sure if you have access to national security intel and/or analysis work and you are disagreeing with that and/or you are just talking from your own anecdotal experience? Either way I’m disturbed by your casual disregard for your own community safety.

    I would suggest that you pursue ECAJ for some of their information/intel/analysis and see why they hold their position before dismissing their positions.

    And I’m not fussed about how you dress, I just wouldn’t assume that someone is Jewish because they dress a particular way.


  • Reallity Check says:

    Rubbish Bernie, Labor has always provided more for education, both private and public. The Labor government gave more money to schools with the BER program, and Jewish schools did very nicely from that. But that is typical of the Liberals to distort and deceive. You say that repealing section 18c of the racial descrimination laws is meant to stop making it unlawful to insult individuals. Also rubbish. The law forbids people from being insulted humiliated, intimidated and offended on grounds of race. That’s why Toben and his friends are supporting the Liberals.
    But you think that Danby has gone a crap job representing our community. Well good luck with Kevin Ekendahl, he thinks he can change Abbott’s mind on his asylum seeker policy, or should I say Border Protection, and on allowing same sex marriage. Now Abbott confesses that his direct action plan on carbon emissions is in doubt in achieving its targets (really), wants to take our school ciriculum to Vitorian times and give more money to schools who think that evolution and science is crap.

  • Yaron says:


    It really is political correctness gone mad if we cannot refer to a person wearing a kippa as ‘looking like a Jew’. What is next we cannot refer to a masculine looking person with a long beard as a man? Or perhaps it is wrong to describe a Labrador as a dog, since it may be a cat in costume?

    But you are right people would only target institutions.

    Like no one would walk up to a military camp in London, butcher a soldier, and display their bloodied hands to the crowd.

    It just wouldn’t get exposure since it is only one person.

    The logic does not stack up. The threats do not occur in a vacuum.

    But that is OK. If you want to continue to live your life in fear, watching over your shoulder for the boogie man, I am fine with that. It is just a pity that the wasted money that goes towards paying for our paranoias could be better spent elsewhere.

  • Sam says:

    Yaron and The Sadducee

    The brutal hacking to death of British soldier Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists (May 22 2013) near his army barracks and the flaunting of the blood soaked weapon in front of the news cameras seems to fly in face of the logical argument that a terrorist would always try to kill many and not one. And you say that it would not get exposure.


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