Two Jews given Australia’s top honor



A Jewish Queen’s Counsel and a former parliamentarian have received Australia’s top honor.

David Bennett, for the last decade the federal government’s top legal adviser, and Professor Peter Baume, a Liberal Party senator from 1974-1991, were awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia during the Queen’s Birthday honors Monday.

They lead a list of at least 17 Jews among the more than 450 recipients of the Order of Australia, which began in 1975 to celebrate the outstanding contributions and achievements of a diversity of Australians.

Bennett and Baume were among only eight people, including former prime minister John Howard, who received this year’s coveted Companion of the Order of Australia.

Following a distinguished political career in which he served as education minister, health minister and minister for Aboriginal affairs, Professor Baume was appointed chancellor of the Australian National University in Canberra.

Baume, 73, the first and only federal Liberal MP to identify as Jewish, also famously crossed the floor in parliament to support Nazi war crimes legislation introduced by the Labor government of Bob Hawke. He is a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq.

Born in Britain, David Bennett has been the Commonwealth Solicitor General since 1998, advising Howard’s Liberal government before Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party swept to power last November.

He represented the Howard government in contested cases, including the brouhaha surrounding Mohamed Haneef, whom the government wrongly accused of being a terror suspect in 2007, and the scandal of the Tampa, a ship carrying refugees who were initially denied entry to Australia on the eve of the 2001 election.

Among other Jewish recipients of awards were Australia Israel Cultural Exchange founder and chairman Albert Dadon, Stanley Roth, a former federal president of the United Israel Appeal, and Phil Wolanski, a director of Football Federation of Australia.

The Order of Australia awards began in 1975 and replaced the British Imperial awards. They are awarded twice a year – on Australia Day and on the Queen’s birthday.

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