Proud defender of Israel to step down from Aussie Parliament

Michael Danby is most likely not well known among people in the northern hemisphere. He is a politician and member of the Australian national parliament, the House of Representatives.

But he has been a long-time staunch defender of Israel. I have heard him referred to, sympathetically, as the “Member for Israel”.

He has stood firmly and proudly at the front of the battleline to defend Israel and the Jewish people, unwavering in his commitment despite the onslaught against him.

I hope he continues to stand in the shield-wall after he leaves public office!

Here is his wiki page:

Danby passion will be missed by many

From The Australian, 5 July 2018, behind paywall

By Greg Sheriden

The member for Melbourne Ports is not contesting his seat at the next election.

At the funeral of Sir Zelman Cowen almost seven years ago, former prime minister John Howard ran into the Labor member for Melbourne Ports. Howard remarked: “Ah, Michael Danby, we’ll never win this seat while you remain the Labor member.” Howard was right, but now the Liberals will have a chance. For a Labor lion will roar no more, at least not in parliament. After 20 years and seven successive election wins, Danby has decided to retire from federal parliament at the next election.

Danby’s political career was of a type not much celebrated in Australia but one that should be celebrated much more. He was a courageous and highly influential backbencher who used parliamentary committees and every bully pulpit opportunity afforded by politics to further the causes he cared about deeply.

Because he is so passionate in his commitments, he is sometimes impetuous and prone to overstatement, and I don’t think he is one of nature’s born administrators. But, by God, Australia would benefit if there were more like him in parliament. For Danby is utterly fearless, utterly committed to the causes he believes in, he sticks in good times and bad, and the causes he champions are good causes.

He is not remotely an identikit professional politician. But his straightforward political achievements should not be overlooked.

In 1997 he beat the formidable Tim Pallas, now Victoria’s treasurer, for preselection. He won what was a marginal seat and has held it ever since. Really, Melbourne Ports is a natural Liberal seat with a deep green tinge. It is the eighth most affluent seat in Australia and its electors would make it the fifth biggest beneficiary of Malcolm Turnbull’s tax cuts.

Danby has sometimes achieved swings to him and sometimes recorded swings against him. But his personal vote and his indefatigable networking throughout the electorate and beyond have kept the seat Labor.

I asked him to nominate his three biggest achievements in office. He is immensely proud of all the local work he has done for Melbourne Ports but the three he listed off the top of his head were activism for international human rights in cases such as the Darfuris, the Baha’is in Iran and the Tibetans; activism on national security issues around terrorism, foreign interference and the US alliance; and No 3 was this: “I think over 40 years I’ve had some effect both on people who have worked on my staff and other Labor Party members to help make the Australian Labor Party a middle-of-the-road party that can still credibly be elected to office, unlike the Corbynistas in Britain.” It is hard to capture quite the distinctive political personality of Danby. He is Jewish, and proudly so, as he should be. Melbourne Ports, with Wentworth in Sydney, is one of the two most Jewish federal electorates. Danby’s father escaped from Germany as World War II was approaching. His father’s parents died at Auschwitz.

Danby is a strong, though not uncritical, supporter of Israel. This, too, is a good cause.

Being a Labor right-winger and a strong Israel defender ensured that he never got a fair go from the ABC or Fairfax, and all his parliamentary career he has laboured under the settled hostility of both organisations.

But he has never flinched, never backed down. It is a career that truly exemplifies independence of mind and courage of spirit. And while he occasionally overstates his own arguments, this is as nothing compared with the calumnies routinely flung at him.

But while Danby has been important in Australia’s Israel debate, his effect on politics has been much broader. Because he doesn’t just drift into parliamentary committees but consciously fashions them to advance his issues, and because he is at heart always an activist, he has used the opportunities of parliament’s committees to secure big results.

He used his position on the electoral affairs committee to secure much simpler and more automatic registration of voters on the electoral roll and helped gain support for these reforms with the Senate crossbench. Perhaps hundreds of thousands more people are entitled to vote at each election as a result.

Most significant of all has been Danby’s activism on human rights and national security. The causes he supports, such as the Tibetans, or the Muslim Uighurs in western China, or the Baha’is, or the Darfuris, don’t lead to promotion, lavish grants or remunerative post-politics career opportunities. But I am very glad that somebody significant supports them.

Although he briefly served as a parliamentary secretary in the Gillard government, Danby’s talents would have been wasted, or misapplied, as a generic minister for potholes and drains or some such. I thought he reached the zenith of his public influence when he was chairman of the foreign affairs, defence and trade committee. Very much like a powerful US congressman, he would call witnesses to highlight issues and achieve outcomes.

His committee got Huawei to talk about the role of the Communist Party committee in its headquarters. It got the vice-president of the Chinese National People’s Congress to testify about the South China Sea.

When Danby was a member of the treaties’ committee, he was a central player in getting Labor to oppose ratification of a mutual extradition treaty between Australia and China. He gave powerful speeches about the unreliability of the Chinese legal system, pointing, for example, to its higher than 99.6 per cent conviction rate. This was one of the most significant moments in our recent history when the Australian polity registered in the starkest manner its objection to the operation of Chinese government law on Australian territory.

A decade ago, with only the small resources of a backbencher’s office, Danby staged in Melbourne a big international conference on human rights in North Korea. For two days in Melbourne, somebody cared about the unspeakably foul wickedness of the North Korean gulag. There was absolutely no political pay-off for Danby in this.

It was at heart an expression of human solidarity.

On another occasion, Danby introduced me to an activist for free trade unions in China. A Labor Party politician actively supporting free trade unions in China – now there’s an idea.

I have known Danby for more than 40 years and have greatly enjoyed his humour and his connoisseur’s delight in ideological eccentricities, the strange and florid plants to be observed if you journey far enough into the labyrinths of political obsession.

There is a Yiddish word perhaps designed to describe such as Danby. He is a mensch.


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2 Comments on “Proud defender of Israel to step down from Aussie Parliament”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Israel is more than a country. It epitomizes a philosophical and ethical paradigm that signifies the value and agency of human beings. It is also a criterion that defines light and dark forces.
    Those who defend it are human rights and freedom fighters, while anti-Israelism stands for demarcation within humanity.
    In this disturbing time of political correctness, appeasement, and cultural and moral relativism, people like Michael Danby should be highly revered.
    I salute him .

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