Jewish groups have questioned claims by a former Australian ambassador to Israel that Julia Gillard was silent on the “excesses” of Israel.
And the former editor of The Age, Michael Gawenda, yesterday labelled as “bizarre” a report in the Fairfax newspaper and its sister paper, The Sydney Morning Herald, that linked Ms Gillard’s stance towards Israel with a job given to her partner by an Israel lobbyist.
Former ambassador Ross Burns reportedly wrote in a letter to the Herald that Ms Gillard had been “remarkably taciturn on the excesses of Israeli actions in the past two years”.
He said Ms Gillard led a delegation to Israel last year for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum, but failed to raise the issue that was “No 1 on the horizon”.
Mr Burns said the perception that Ms Gillard’s support for the Australia-Israel Leadership Forum was linked to a job later given to her partner, Tim Mathieson, by the man who helped to organise it, was unavoidable.
Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle said the newspaper report did not accurately portray comments made in the past by Ms Gillard and the Rudd government, nor their behaviour.
Speaking in Ramallah in the West Bank during the trip, Ms Gillard called for a freeze on settlement activity by Jewish settlers in Palestinian territories.
Mr Mathieson accompanied the then-deputy prime minister to Israel last year.
A few months after the trip, Mr Mathieson, a hairdresser, began working as a real estate salesman for the founder of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, Melbourne property developer Albert Dadon, who organised the leadership delegation.
Last night, Mr Dadon, chairman of the Ubertad Group, released a statement saying Mr Mathieson was employed to fill a vacancy as a real estate salesman, and the company was pleased with his performance.
He said contrary to reports that Mr Mathieson had lobbied the Victorian government for approval for Ubertas’s developments, Mr Mathieson was involved only in sales.
Ubertas has already made its mark on Melbourne’s St Kilda Road office boulevard with an $86m twin-tower apartment that backs on to the inner city’s Fawkner Park.
But flush with the success of that 505 St Kilda Road project, the group has already started work on an even larger project at 568 St Kilda Road that will have more than 313 apartments and cost more than $160m.