Maxine McKew (MP for Bennelong) is definitely in. For example, when it comes to the Middle East conflict, she has a knack for articulating her party's position that is second to none. Which probably means she's destined for a senior position in the parliamentary party and explains why she gets to appear on cool television shows such as Q & A (31/5/10):
Audience Member: Are we applying double standards to Israel?... If [say] Iraq had behaved like that [massacring unarmed protesters on the high seas] we would be jumping up and down... and intervening...
Tony Jones: I just want to get a quick response from Maxine McKew, and I'll ask you as a corollary to that, Maxine, does this shake your faith in Israel at all?
Maxine McKew: ... I think it's a bit too early to say we should be jumping up and down about anything. We were only really apprised of this about mid-afternoon Australian time... We need a lot more information so I'll leave it at that. Shake my faith in Israel? Well, Tony, I remember being in Israel in the 90s and there was still hope after the Oslo process that things could move, but, you know, things are very fragmented now, very far apart. So I lament that. You know, I grew up, you know, schooled in, you know, the horrors of the holocaust and absolutely believing in the fundamental importance of the state of Israel and its right to exist, but I also believe that there has to be, you know, space for the Palestinians. The fact that this issue is still as unresolved in the new century, you know, as it was in the last century is deeply depressing.
Julia Irwin (MP for Fowler), on the other hand, is definitely out. You can see why from her 16 June adjournment speech, where her grasp of party policy detail on the Middle East conflict was embarrassingly shaky to say the least. Which, I suppose, helps explain why she's not only on the nose in party circles but why she won't even be standing for re-election next time around. Oh, and why you'll probably never see her on Q & A:
"Like millions of people around the world I watched with horror the actions of the Israeli armed forces in their assault on the freedom flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. The predictable response from the Israeli propaganda machine portrayed the murder of 9 peace activists as yet another act of self-defence. While the Secretary-General of the UN has called for an independent international inquiry, the US and Australia are again happy to leave the inquiry in the hands of the Israeli authorities. And even if there were any adverse findings we could expect the matter to be brushed aside like the damning Goldstone report into Israel's war on Gaza in 2009. This reminds me very much of those apologists for Stalinism who were blind to the human rights abuses of that brutal regime. They would justify any atrocity by saying that it was in defence of socialism and begin each statement with words like 'you have to realise that more than 20 million Russians were killed in the great patriotic war'. But that is how Western leaders excuse the gross abuses of human rights committed in the name of self-defence by the state of Israel. Are they blind to the evidence presented by UN agencies, by Amnesty International or by the Red Cross, none of which could remotely be described as terrorist organisations? And are they also blind to the damage done to their standing in the world community by their unquestioning defence of Israel?
"My own awakening to the reality of life in the illegally occupied territories came in a visit in 2000. I mention just one incident that has left a lasting impact on me. We were walking through the streets of East Jerusalem when we were confronted with a group of teenage Israeli youths each carrying a submachinegun slung over their shoulder and with a 'go ahead, make my day' look in their eyes. The group came across an old woman sitting in her doorway selling her homemade cheeses from a large platter. To my amazement, one of the youths kicked the platter down the alley spilling the cheeses onto the ground. I will never forget the tearful expression on that old woman's face or the mocking laugh of the youths as they swaggered off down the street.
"While this was hardly a gross abuse of human rights, it is part of everyday life in the illegally occupied territories. When taken together with the abduction, imprisonment and torture of more than 10,000 Palestinians, including children and a number of members of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly, the reality of life under the jackboot of Israeli occupation can be felt. And to that can be added the bombing of schools, hospitals and UN stores during Israel's war on Gaza and so many other documented cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity. These are not the acts of a civilised nation.
"Yet, like the Stalinists of old, some world leaders continue to deny the reality, or, worse, defend it in the name of Israel's right of self-defence. But while nations' leaders fail to act, responsible citizens throughout the world are beginning to take action. The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] against products and services originating in whole or in part in the occupied territories is gaining momentum. I am pleased to see unions in Australia, including state branches of the CFMEU and the Australian Services Union, joining this movement. Churches, universities and trade unions are refusing to invest in enterprises conducting business in or involved in construction in the occupied territories. Unions in Europe have applied international law forbidding the international exploitation of illegally occupied territory and have embargoed goods made in the West Bank. Faced with the refusal by Israeli authorities to allow academic freedom in the occupied territories, many universities have broken contact with Israeli institutions with ties in the West Bank.
"When governments refuse to act in the name of civilised society t0 prevent gross abuses of human rights, we as individuals have a duty to act. The campaign of BDS deserves the full support of every thinking and caring Australian."
No sooner had Irwin finished her speech than Graig Emerson (MP for Rankin and Minister for Small Business etc, etc), who by the way was on Q & A this Monday night, stood, peg on nose, and relieved himself thus: "I want to make it clear that, in making her adjournment speech tonight, the member for Fowler was not speaking on behalf of the Rudd government."
Tell us something we don't know, minister.
PS: "Lunch with [Mark] Arbib at Azuma's in Sydney. It's interesting to listen to these machine guys: they live in a world of non-stop political manoeuvres and gossip, no structured thoughts about making society better. Their only points of reference in public life are polling and focus groups. And so it is with Arbib. Some snippets from him. The focus groups showed that people like me, but they think I need another three years in Opposition, after which they will give me a go... The focus groups also show that it's popular to bash the blacks: 'You need to find new issues, like attacking land rights, get stuck into all the politically correct Aborignal stuff - the punters love it'. Maybe he should have had lunch with Pauline Hanson, though not at Azuma's... We also talked about the quality of Labor MPs in NSW, and he wants to get rid of Irwin in Fowler: 'We had it all lined up before the 2001 election. Irwin was going to the State Upper House and Maxine McKew was going to run for Fowler. She would have been fantastic but then she backed out, said she couldn't stand living in Cabramatta or Liverpool'. So Maxine wants to be a Labor MP, but can't stand the sight or smell of Labor voters, hey?" (The Latham Diaries, 1/11/04, Mark Latham, 2005, pp 369-370)