Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Understanding Australia's Bipartisan Support for Israel

Isn't it beyond amazing that, despite their political differences, there is only one nation (apart from the lucky ducky country, of course) that has the power to move both PM Trumble and Opposition leader Bill Short-on to near constant declarations of undying love and affection - namely, Israel.

This remarkable coincidence, of course, is no doubt due, in both cases, to years of research and rapt contemplation of respective moral compasses by both parties.

Or could there be an another explanation?

"Bill Shorten first became a household name in 2006, surfing a wave of favourable publicity when the news broke that two men had survived the dreadful Beaconsfield mine disaster. It was a brief burst of fame, still more than a year before Shorten resigned as head of the Australian Workers Union to enter parliament and have a shot at realising his dream of becoming prime minister one day...

"Dick Pratt, the super-wealthy cardboard industry king, was Shorten's enabler on that occasion. It was a Sunday night and all hope of finding survivors of the mine collapse was lost. Shorten was stranded at home in Melbourne when the stunning news came through - he'd just returned from the mine site and there were no domestic flights back to Tasmania until the next day. Shorten's first thought? Naturally, call Pratt and ask to borrow his private jet... In quick time, Shorten was back in Beaconsfield. With the mine's management falling silent, he happily filled the void for an information-starved national media... It was a mark of Shorten's closeness to one of Australia's richest men that just a phone call to Pratt could secure his private jet free of charge.

"But that was far from the first, or last, time that Shorten would fly Air Pratt. He and his then wife, Deborah Beale, flew to the US on board Pratt's jet for family holidays at the packaging magnate's New York apartment... Privately, Shorten has always been keen to say the Pratt connection was because of Beale... Those close to Shorten say he conveyed the impression, indeed encouraged the idea, that Pratt was Beale's godfather... The marriage to Beale, say Shorten insiders, offered much more to a man who relished mixing with the rich and powerful... Beale helped open doors... to the Melbourne establishment [and] assisted with introductions for Shorten to captain's of industry.

"[Shorten] also got to know retail giant Solomon Lew. The Lew relationship was based in large part on their shared pro-Israel stance. As leader of the right-wing AWU in Victoria, Shorten devoted much time to battling the Left over Israel. He mixed easily with Lew and other Australian Jewish businessmen. It was good politics, too, for Shorten, to win the support of Melbourne's Jewish business community." (High-flying fake or workers' champion? Brad Norington, The Australian, 11/2/17)

"No domestic house in Melbourne has had more influence on public and philanthropical life than Raheen, the 1870s Italianate mansion owned for more than 35 years by the family of billionaire packaging king Richard Pratt... Raheen is used by the Pratts to court and entertain both sides of politics, to conduct fundraisers and to highlight the cause of Israel, into which the Pratt Foundation pours millions of dollars... Last week Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy were invited to a party at Richard Pratt's son Anthony's Fifth Avenue apartment above New York's Central Park... " (More than just a home, Pratt mansion welcomes all parties, John Ferguson/ Rebecca Urban, The Australian, 11/2/17)

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