DURING his nine years as Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews – who announced his resignation on Tuesday – has had a major impact on Victoria’s Jewish community – as a champion of Israel, a driving force against antisemitism, and for security upgrades to schools and shules.
The triple-election winner – acclaimed for ambitious public works programs but slammed for Victoria’s spiralling public debt and his top-down governing style – told media, “It’s time to go and to give this privilege, this amazing responsibility, to someone else.”
An avowed supporter of Israel, Andrews told a Yom Ha’atzmaut event at Caulfield Shule in 2015 he saw Israel as “a home for a culture as old as civilisation … for the survivors of mankind’s worst crime … a great, precarious social and economic experiment willed by a brave people”.
His government adopted the IHRA antisemitism definition and banned public displays of Nazi symbols. And after neo-Nazis demonstrated at Victoria’s Parliament this year, Andrews began efforts to ban Nazi salutes. But in an exclusive sit-down with The AJN, he cautioned, “Getting this [salutes ban] right is perhaps more important than doing it quickly.”
In 2021, at a federal-state funding announcement for a milestone security boost at Beth Weizmann Community Centre, Andrews said, “We ought not in this day and age have to fortify buildings like this in the way that we do. But antisemitism … is very much a part of daily life for Australian Jewry.”
However, the Premier faced criticism in the Jewish and wider community during Melbourne’s extensive COVID lockdowns. When The AJN asked about lockdown breaches within the Jewish community, the Premier said, “I would have thought at a time like this, those who have that gift of faith and are religiously observant … would have a unique understanding [of] kindness and generosity towards others.”
The Victorian ALP was scheduled to meet on Wednesday afternoon to choose a new leader. Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan, tipped as his successor, denied any ambitions when The AJN prompted her in May during her first visit to Beth Weizmann. “I’ve got the job that I want,” she said. Asked by The AJN whether Allan would make a good premier, Andrews had responded, “That will be for others to judge.”
For Jewish Community Council of Victoria president Daniel Aghion, Andrews “has been a strong and consistent supporter of the Victorian Jewish community and of Israel … In recent years, his government has taken efforts to address antisemitism in Victoria … adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism … outlawing the public display of the Nazi swastika, and hopefully soon the Nazi salute and other symbols … funding a groundbreaking antisemitism training program for teachers.”
Zionism Victoria president Yossi Goldfarb recounted Andrews “opening a Victorian Trade Office in Tel Aviv … and declaring his opposition to the ALP conference’s push for Palestinian statehood”. Zionism Federation of Australia Jeremy Leibler described him as “a genuine friend of the Victorian Jewish community and the State of Israel”.
Rabbi Yaakov Glasman – to whose synagogue, St Kilda Shule, Andrews made multiple visits – lauded “a wonderful friend of Israel, of the Jewish community”. Progressive Judaism Victoria president Maureen Barten noted “a number of progressive programs that have made Victoria one of the leading liberal states in Australia”.
Macnamara MP Josh Burns, who cut his political teeth in Andrews’ office, posted that he “could see through the political noise better than anyone I’ve ever met”.
While noting they disagreed on many issues, Deputy Victorian Liberal leader and Caulfield MP David Southwick described Andrews as “a steadfast supporter of Israel and Victoria’s Jewish community, even when it put him at odds with many in the Labor Party. I sincerely hope the next Premier is an equally strong ally and will commit to continuing our bipartisan work to fight antisemitism”.