Following the recent criticism of the local Zionist lobby sending journalists and politicians on free trips to Israel, today’s Canberra Times features an interesting piece by Joe Wakim, founder of the Australian Arabic Council and a former multicultural affairs commissioner:
If we are going to blow the whistle on undeclared overseas junkets by our MPs, then we need to take a deep breath before we exhale. To be fair and ethical, this issue extends far beyond Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon and his subsidised trips to China.
As a former Australian ambassador to Israel, Ross Burns, recently declared, a ”disproportionate number of visits” to Israel have been part-funded by ”Israeli lobby groups”. After China, Israel was the most frequent subsidised destination for our politicians, even ahead of the United States, according to a recent media survey. Since the last federal election 13 MPs have visited Israel.
From the perspective of Australia’s national interest, this is indeed ”disproportionate”. Neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Egypt constitute far greater sources of immigration than does Israel. Surely it would make more sense for our politicians to deepen their understanding of the previous homelands of so many fellow Australians. They would understand the demography, geography, poverty and opportunity…
Despite all the euphemisms, we know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and we generally do not bite the hand that feeds us.
Despite the predictable rhetoric that ”we let them make up their own minds” and allow them to ”see for themselves”, this initiative appears to be yielding a high return for the investors.