SYDNEY, Australia (Mar. 22)
The Labor Party’s victory in last weekend’s federal election has been welcomed by Australian Jewish leaders, despite ongoing differences with the ruling party’s Middle East policies.
Preceding the election, the Labor Party made a series of campaign promises to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the umbrella organization of the Australian Jewish community, on the subjects of anti-racist legislation, family reunification in immigration laws and ethnic radio programs.
Prime Minister Paul Keating said his party “would make it a criminal offense to incite racial hatred against persons in Australia by reason of their race, color or national or ethnic origin.”
The opposition Liberal/National Party promised only “wide community consultation and discussion about legislation.”
Executive Council President Isi Leibler called anti-racism legislation “the most important Jewish issue of domestic concern over the next 12 months.”
Leibler said he welcomed the government’s renewed commitment in this area.
The government also promised that a special immigration program will be maintained that allows immigrants from the former Soviet Union to sponsor family members still in Russia and other republics in their applications as new immigrants to Australia.
Jewish radio programs, in Hebrew, Yiddish and English, should also be expanded, if the government honors a campaign commitment to sponsor a national “ethnic radio” network.
The network would supplement existing state channels which carry “Jewish-language” programs.
In its campaign, the Labor Party also made a series of statements on Middle East policy, in response to questions posed by the Australia/Israel Review.
Keating promised to continue to oppose the Arab boycott of Israel “in public and in private,” and said his party “is continuing to keep under review the possibility of Australian anti-boycott legislation.”
Both the Labor Party and the opposition said they supported the current peace process.
The opposition said it would oppose contact with the Palestine Liberation Organization until that organization shows it “accepts explicitly Israel’s right to exist, that it is genuinely committed to peace and that it is prepared to back its words on both matters with consistent action.”
By contrast, the Labor government said discussions with the PLO would continue as part of its effort “to encourage the moderate factions within the PLO that support the peace talks.”