THREE years ago, Josh Burns became the first MP for the new seat of Macnamara – renamed from Melbourne Ports, which fellow-Jewish Labor politician Michael Danby had represented for 21 years, leaving big shoes to fill in standing up for Israel from the heart of Melbourne’s Jewish community.
Looking back on his term, Burns, whose grandfather fought in Israel’s Independence War, stands on his record.
“I’ve been a firm voice for the Jewish community and for Israel throughout my first term,” he said, noting his strong stance in Parliament and the community during last year’s Israel-Gaza war.
“When Israel was facing a barrage of rockets, I was the first person to say so publicly – and say so in the House of Representatives.”
No doubt many will look to what Burns might say if he becomes a member of a Labor government which activates a clause added to its party platform last year and recognises a Palestinian state. “There’s no change to our policy,” he emphasised, noting a recognition of Palestinian statehood by an Albanese government would come amidst “a lasting peace deal”.
On the Religious Discrim-ination bill, shelved in February, Burns reiterated Labor’s in-principle commitment, but was emphatic: “It doesn’t mean we’re going to enable discrimination, it’s all about protecting people from discrimination, and needs to be a shield, not a sword,” he said, slamming PM Scott Morrison’s willingness to drop protections in the bill.
Burns said Jewish schools and communal organisations can expect continued levels of government security funding.
“We’ve been in contact consistently with the CSG and ECAJ about their views on how that program should be designed,” he said.
Describing climate change as “one of the biggest failures of the Morrison government”, he asked why solar and wind power have not been converted into viable industries under the Coalition.
“We need a government that’s willing to grasp the opportunity.”
Looking back at the height of the pandemic, Burns said today’s “increased casualisation of the workforce” and wage stagnation are letting down those essential-services personnel that kept the country moving during 2020-21. The Morrison government “has been too passive in ensuring people have good, secure jobs that are paid properly”.
On his prospects for re-election, Burns, who held Macnamara on 4.9 per cent in 2019, said of the Liberals, “I’ve never seen them this disinterested in Macnamara”, but with the Greens once again pressing, he said, “We’re going to need every vote out there.”
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