Debate required – Australia, racism and the Middle East

“Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma attends UN racism meeting in Geneva

Patricia Karvelas, Political correspondent | April 23, 2009
Article from: The Australian

AUSTRALIA’S Race Discrimination Commissioner Tom Calma is attending the controversial UN anti-racism conference in Geneva, despite the Rudd Government’s decision to boycott the event because of fears it would become a platform to attack Israel.

Mr Calma’s decision attracted immediate criticism from several Jewish leaders, but the Government said it could not influence his decision on whether to attend.

The decision to boycott the conference was taken after Australia, in conjunction with the US, Israel and other countries, was unsuccessful in pushing for changes to the wording of a draft document upholding anti-Semitic remarks in the 2001 Durban Declaration.

A spokeswoman for Mr Calma said he would be participating in talks in his capacity as race discrimination commissioner. Mr Calma could not be contacted last night, but his spokeswoman said he was already at the conference.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said it was entirely up to Mr Calma if he wanted to attend. “He is an independent authority. His attendance is entirely a matter for him,” she said.

Former Executive Council of Australian Jewry president Jeremy Jones said Mr Calma should have boycotted the forum. “Last time the race discrimination commissioner was part of the Australian government delegation, so I don’t know where he would sit,” hesaid.

“Beyond that, it seems odd that if the Australian Government doesn’t want to participate in the conference, why would he participate?

“There are Australians there who represent non-government organisations, but his wage comes from the Government, he is on the Government’s payroll.

“When he gets back, people will want to know exactly what he is doing there.”

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We welcome this debate and insist that we included some other questions which we would like to know the answer to :

The Australian Parliament does not have a single indigenous Member of Parliament. How can it claim to take any kind of high moral ground on the issues of racism overseas?

What is the extent of political donations to Australian political parties from sources which support the State of Israel at the expense of the human rights of other peoples in the Middle East?

How much money from mining minerals in Australia from wrongly expropriated First Peoples country is sent to support Israel?

Is any of this money used, directly or indirectly, to harm the interests of non-Jewish people in the Middle East?

Answers and comments to