Final election forum

Candidates’ robust debate

In the final election forum for the upcoming 2023 NSW Election, all candidates in the Vaucluse and Coogee electorates pledged to fight antisemitism and increase Holocaust education.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies hosted an election debate at Moriah College. Photo: Giselle Haber.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies hosted an election debate at Moriah College. Photo: Giselle Haber.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) hosted a robust election forum at Moriah College last week, featuring a panel of candidates from the Vaucluse and Coogee electorates.

Coinciding with International Women’s Day, the all-female panel debated the hot topics of safety for the Jewish community, rising antisemitism, as well as over-development and the building of another public high school in the eastern suburbs.

The forum was moderated by JBD CEO Darren Bark, who at one point asked Vaucluse independent candidate Karen Freyer which major party she would side with if neither claims a majority in the March 25 election.

“I will put into government the side that best serves the needs of Vaucluse,” Freyer said.

“I don’t know if I can say it any clearer – I know everyone is desperate to pigeonhole me, but I’m not a politician, I’m an independent. I’m not here to represent a party and you can ask me the question 3000 times, Darren, I’m not aligning myself to a particular party.”

All candidates pledged to fight antisemitism and increase Holocaust education, while Coogee MP Marjorie O’Neill reiterated Labor’s pledge to commit $15 million to the security of faith-based organisations.

“I’m incredibly lucky I’ve got two huge, great Jewish schools here,” O’Neill said, referencing Moriah College and Emanuel School.

“It is awful that kids have to go to school with security guards around them, and that in order for people to practise their faith there is required security around them. Unfortunately though, this is necessary and it is required that the government should be funding it, which is why we are.”

Liberal candidate for Vaucluse Kellie Sloane acknowledged that, “a lot of the heavy lifting has been done by the Jewish community in the east when it comes to security”.

“I want to thank you for that, because it’s come out of pockets of people in this room and people in the community, and it has saved the government money,” Sloane said.

“Your security shouldn’t be your responsibility only – we are one in this community and it’s a shared responsibility.

“What you’ve seen from the Liberal government is a series of commitments over many years – we have been very good friends of the Jewish community.”

The issue of urban congestion was also hotly debated, with Labor candidate for Vaucluse Margaret Merten closing with a pledge.

“Should I be elected to represent the people of Vaucluse, I will put my heart and soul into ensuring that there is no more inappropriate over-development,” she said.

“We simply can’t take it.”

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