A staunch friend

Parliament ‘a poorer place’ without Mike Kelly

Jewish community leaders have paid tribute to outgoing federal Labor MP Mike Kelly, noting he 'always maintained a firm commitment to Australia's strong relationship with Israel'.

Dr Mike Kelly.
Dr Mike Kelly.

OUTGOING federal Labor MP Dr Mike Kelly has been described as a “mensch” and “one of the staunchest supporters of Israel and the Jewish community” within the ALP after announcing his resignation from federal Parliament.

In a statement today (Thursday), Kelly said ongoing health issues had “made it impossible to fulfil the challenging duties that the community in Eden-Monaro rightly expects of its member”.

“This has been an intensely difficult, gut wrenching decision,” Kelly said.

Stating that serving in Parliament “has been the greatest privilege of my life,” he said, “This community and region mean everything to me … I intend to keep fighting for our region and the issues that concern me.”

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies president Lesli Berger said, “The highest praise one can be given by the Jewish community is to be regarded as a mensch – a person of honour and integrity; Mike Kelly is a mensch.

“He worked hard to achieve a balanced policy on Israel within NSW Labor, and in large measure due to his efforts, the policy adopted by NSW Labor and nationally, while far from perfect, was testament to his support and our close friends in the Labor movement.

“For that we are eternally grateful.”

The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council said Kelly was a “great loss to our Parliament and always maintained a firm commitment to Australia’s strong relationship with Israel.

“We wish him nothing but good health and good fortune for the future.”

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin wished Kelly a “swift return to good health and to public life”.

Describing him as “one of the nicest and most intelligent people I’ve met”, Ryvchin stated, “The parliament will be a poorer place without him.”

Hailing Kelly as “a great friend of the Australian Jewish community”, Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said, “Mike’s service to Australia began long before he entered Parliament and, since being there, he has been an excellent local member and a strong voice in the Labor Party supporting the bipartisan consensus on Israel.

“His time in Parliament has sadly come to an end too soon, and I wish him and his family the very best into the future.”

Mike Kelly addressing a previous NAJEX Anzac commemoration. Photo: Noel Kessel

Federal Labor MP Josh Burns said Kelly had been a “true friend since long before I entered Parliament and I will miss his guidance and camaraderie”.

“We have been lucky to have Mike Kelly’s thoughtful and knowledgeable contributions on our national debates on defence, national security and many other issues,” Burns said, adding, “I thank Mike for his service and wish him and his wife Rachelle nothing but the best health and happiness for the future.”

NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel deputy chair Walt Secord said Kelly will be deeply missed.

Noting Kelly’s commitment to a balanced position on Israel within NSW Labor circles, Secord said he “could be relied upon at state Labor party conferences and within the ALP to fight for a balanced position”.

Mike Kelly in 2011, pictured with current Zionism Victoria president Sharene Hambur. Photo: Peter Haskin

“Dr Kelly always conducted himself with dignity and authority,” Secord added.

“[He] also served Australia with honour as a decorated soldier. He was also a fantastic federal minister and a great local MP for the electorate of Eden-Monaro in southern NSW.”

The Labor Israel Action Committee (LIAC), of which Kelly is a patron, expressed “profound sadness” at his retirement.

“Dr Mike Kelly has served Australia with distinction, honour and integrity and will be sorely missed by us all,” LIAC convenor Lorin Muhlmann said.

“He has been an incredible supporter of Israel and the Jewish community within the Parliament and a vocal advocate within the ALP.

“We are grateful for the contribution he has made and will continue to honour his legacy through the pursuit of hard work, commitment to serving our country and a balanced, nuanced perspective of the Middle East.”

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