Alas, the brain drain goes on. For NSW to be deprived of these folk, Barry's best and the brightest, even if for only a fortnight, is a loss this state can ill afford:
"State government MPs Jonathan O'Dea [MP for Davidson] and Peter Phelps [Government Whip, Legislative Council] joined a group of their Victorian Liberal counterparts on an Israel study tour last month. Coordinated by the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), the tour involved meetings with Israeli media, visits to the Knesset, Temple Mount and Western Wall, and briefings on the history of Israel and its current work in the areas of innovation and research." (NSW state parliamentarians visit Israel, The Australian Jewish News, 10/8/12)
Still, no lasting harm done I guess, because frankly, Messrs O'Dea and Phelps appear, if anything, even brighter of eye and bushier of tail than before they left!
You know, it's quite amazing really. Just two weeks of Israeli spit and polish and it's impossible to say now where Likud leaves off and Liberal begins.
Here's Mr O'Dea*, for example: "[T]here was 'nothing like personally witnessing a difficult situation' in order to better appreciate its complexity and become confident that there are no easy solutions. 'When you see the bomb shelters for children in Sderot outside Gaza and the memorial to Israeli soldiers killed on patrol in the Golan Heights, you better understand the level of Israeli anxiety, especially of those living near neighbouring borders'... 'While 'right' is rarely the exclusive domain of just one nation [sic] group, the merit of Israeli causes is enhanced through their pursuit within a framework of open and democratic institutions.'" (ibid)
And here's Mr Phelps: "The remarkable achievement of Israel lies with its people... The spirit of entrepreneurship, the drive of Israelis who turn the deserts to productive land, the sheer courage of people in a place like Sderot, to the old lady who had never met me but still invited me to Shabbat dinner because she was worried I might be lonely on a Friday night - it was the people that really made the trip for me. AIJAC does a great job in spreading the message about Israel, and their program of events is exactly what I was looking for. Not propaganda, but with all views and perspectives included." (ibid)
Blimey! A bit too starry-eyed for you? A bit too sacharin? A bit too like what you'd expect from one of those pre-war, knuckle-dragging Western commies on his first ever visit to Uncle Joe's workers' paradise? What about a bit of perspective here?
Well, I'm pleased to say, at least with respect to Mr Phelps, there's another version, more unbuttoned, picaresque even, thanks to the miracle of Twitter.com.
Introduced to Twitter only late last year by one of his GenY staffers, he's taken to it like the proverbial duck to water, even achieving a touch of notoriety in the Twittersphere by telling one of his 'followers' to "go f*** yourself, commie!"**
Herewith a goodly helping of Mr Phelps' tweets from Israel (Peter Phelps (PeterPhelpsMLC) on Twitter), interrupted by a wee bit of exegesis from yours truly:
11 July: An early morning start for leg one of my trip to Israel, via Bangkok.
[Response tweet: @PeterPhelpsMLC Is this the usual winter junket MPs go on at taxpayer's expense?]
12 July: @Muzzpol No, I am paying for it myself. Are you OK with that?
12 July: Can't stop singing 'Jerusalem' and 'The Holy City' since I've arrived here.
13 July: @ianfarrow I love kippahs on toast for breakfast!
13 July: Spent ages looking around Jerusalem's Jaffa gate, but still could not find any.
[Phelps is to wit what Abbott is to empathy.]
13 July: Off to Masada and the Dead Sea - with expected temps of +35 degrees!
13 July: Masada in the morning, now enjoying a beer by the Dead Sea.
14 July: Ran into @hannahpandel at the Western Wall last night. Thank God there are no Labor people on my delegation!
[HP is a Young Libber. When the rambammed start bumping into each other you know the business is getting out of hand.]
14 July: @journo_realdeal Actually, it's remarkably peaceful here. And the Arabs I was having lunch with seemed quite contented.
[Hand-picked House Arabs? Why wouldn't they be?]
14 July: @DBreban Actually, you would be in heaven here, Dan. And the girls are not too hard on the eyes either.
[Jeez... Is AIJAC really getting its money's worth here?]
14 July: @ChrisAshton Worky-play. It's an AIJAC tour, so lots of meetings interspersed with a bit of sightseeing! Speed dating for pollie tourists!
[Hm, not sure Peter's quite entered into the spirit of his rambamming. I mean, how's a deep and meaningful relationship supposed to emerge with an attitude like this?]
15 July: Israeli Supreme Court and Knesset done, now off to lunch. There really is something great about enthusiastic guides.
15 July: Lunch was at what is probably the only kosher-certified Indian restaurant in the world!
16 July: Visiting PA-controlled Bethlehem, followed by an Israeli settlement. Interesting perspectives from both.
[Oh, it's sooo hard to make up your mind, isn't it? What would Daddy have made of it all? What was his position again? Ah, yes: "There is good and there is bad, and we should fight for the good and oppose the bad. He was the Polaris by which I set my moral compass..." (Is this the greatest maiden speech of all time? Yes. Yes it is, Peter Phelps, menzieshouse.com.au/2011/05/)]
16 July: Met first IDF mega-babe on road to Beersheba; but her ugly Sgt got jealous and demanded we all show passports.
[Response tweet: @PeterPhelpsMLC This would be embarrassing from a young lib, from the LC whip it's ridiculous, joking or not.]
16 July: @aarondibdin If you don't like my tweets, stop following me, you fool.
16 July: Just peered into Gaza - now I know how Frodo felt when he first gazed upon Mordor.
[Damn if this doesn't capture the parallel, up-is-down universe of the Zionist dupe: a caged population of 1948 refugees, kept on a strict diet and periodically hammered by the world's 4th largest US-backed military machine, becomes in an instant the evil hordes of Sauron the Dark Lord. Meanwhile, Sharon, the real Dark Lord, lies comatose at his Negev Desert ranch, with all the resources of modern medicine deployed just to keep the old war criminal ticking over.]
16 July: Just sang 'Hava Nagila' on a sand dune in Negev Desert while drinking Heineken #freedom.
17 July: On my way to the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee. Looking forward to seeing a bit of IDF kit and some burnt out T-62s!
18 July: Off to a Chamber of Commerce Dinner. Low taxes, pro-enterprise culture and can-do spirit very evident in Israel.
[Be still my jutting trousers!]
18 July: Just finished a meeting with a Labor member of the Knesset, Yitzhak Herzog - his views on Israel and Australia were very interesting.
[YH is chairman of the Israel-Australia parliamentary association. See my 25/6/09 post Now Honestly...]
18 July: Great visit to an Israeli hospital which offers free treatment to foreign kids with congenital heart conditions. Very moving and inspiring.
[Were there any from Mordor? Were their hearts black? Did they even have any hearts?]
20 July: Stuffed full of Jaffan falafels.
[Food first. Israel second.]
20 July: Number of Rainbow flags spotted by me in Tel Aviv beach area alone: 6. Number spotted in entire West Bank: zero. PING: @DBreban.
[How very Mordorish of them! Maybe they're a tad distracted by something or other? Think about it.]
21 July: Leaving Israel with sour taste in my mouth after a 90 minute ordeal with with officious security idiot who wouldn't let me get to a national park.
[Response tweet: Isabel McIntosh@greens_bel Imagine if you were Palestinian...]
22 July: @greens_bel Bureaucratic butt-heads happen in all countries.
[Ah Isabel, Peter'll go to Israel alright, but he won't go there. One may offend all & sundry, but not the hand that feeds you.]
And the Victorians? Lest we forget:
"O'Dea and Phelps were joined by Victorian Liberal MPs David Southwick, Neil Angus, Elizabeth Miller, Clem Newton-Brown, Bill Tilley and the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Nick Kotsiras." (NSW state Parliamentarians visit...)
Now if you thought O'Dea and Phelps (at least the official Phelps) had arrived back home hot to trot for Israel, wait till you hear what Mr Kotsiras had to say:
"This was my first trip to Israel. A land filled with history, diversity and religious observance. A land filled with fascination and relevance and a land that has now been turned into an oasis thanks to the foresight and hard work of its Jewish pioneers. At first observation, Israel seems to be a peaceful and serene place, yet you are all too aware that violence, danger and hatred surrounds you at every border... My visit to the main sites of religious significance - the Kotel, Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Sea of Galilee, Mount of Olives - evoked strong emotions in me but also raised many questions. While my visits to Yad Vashem, Sderot, Golan Heights, Masada, and the Lebanese, Syrian and Gazan borders invited the question: How can human beings be so merciless and so brutal? How can a nation that seeks only to exist and contribute to the betterment of civilisation have so many who seek its destruction?" (The potential of peace, AJN, 10/8/12)
See what I mean? Just take a Gandalf at that final sentence! No commie fellow traveller ever came on quite like that. I mean, roll over Tolkien, we're talking Manchurian Candidate here, know what I mean? Surely, like Mr Phelps, Mr Kotel - sorry, Kotsiras - has got a GenY staffer or two who could wise him up to the therapeutic benefits of tweeting? How else are our creme de la creme to retain some perspective in this matter?
[*See my 25/2/12 post Jeremy Buckingham Crosses the Rubicon; **NSW Liberal whip Peter Phelps slams Twitter critic, news.com.au, 9/12/11.]