On 11 September 2019, Liberal Party Senator Andrew Bragg made a statement to the Senate outlining his theory that anti-Semitism is “underpinning a disgraceful challenge against the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's citizenship”. Senator Bragg is now the third Liberal parliamentarian to lash out over the s44 petition which is currently being dealt with by the High Court.
The Liberal Party needs to be advised that concocting a conspiracy theory of anti-Semitism in relation to Frydenberg’s citizenship predicament simply plays into the hands of those who do, in fact, seek to trivialise or deny the Holocaust, an event in which 5 to 7 million Jewish people perished at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators.
Bragg asserted that Michael Staindl, who filed the s44 petition, was driven by anti-Semitism but failed to provide a shred of evidence to support the claim and simply emphasised that Staindl is a “climate activist” as if that was sufficient to convince the Senate of Staindl’s guilt and send him off to the gallows.
Bragg then focussed on me, as I had independently published the ‘Legal Opinion — Frydenberg Case’ which has been identified as a building block for the High Court petition. Firstly, he inferred to the Senate that I am anti-Semitic because I had written a fiction novel in 2012 with the title ‘The Holocaust Denier’.
Bragg has not read the book. In fact, the dark literary work illuminates identity politics and the danger of obsessively embracing extremist views in the search for an identity. By the end of the novel, the protagonist has completely lost his humanity. Until the current Frydenberg saga, there had never been any condemnation of the novel or the title.
Secondly, Bragg referred the Senate to my comments made in a submission to the 2014 Brandis Senate Inquiry concerning free speech and amending s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Public discourse conducted by the media focussed on the need to maintain s18C to shield the community from anti-Semitism and hence my focus on that theme.
With increasing loss of privacy in Western society, there is a greater need to secure free speech. Think about it. My chief response in the 2014 submission process was to highlight to the Senate Inquiry the potential impact of s18C legislation on education in schools. The point I made was that s18C does put inquisitive or rebellious students in an invidious position. Without the right to question, what remains is indoctrination.
Whilst the overall narrative of the Holocaust will, without doubt, forever remain true, details obviously need to be accountable within education settings and not beyond questioning under Australian law, whether speculative, wilful or otherwise.
Bragg falsely claimed to the Senate that in the submission, “[Poulton] rejects the established figure of six million dead Jews from the Second World War”. No such claim was made by me in the submission or personally elsewhere.
Bragg claimed, “Poulton said these amendments on 18C could 'liberate the debate on the Holocaust in the public domain’”.
“A new legislative right to engage in racial vilification in the course of public discussion would, for instance, open the door to Holocaust deniers.”
The relevant point made by me was that the digital marketplace is already swamped with such material and the actual issue at stake was how that ought to be addressed under freedom of speech principles and legislation.
My own position in the submission was consistent with the view held by the formidable Jewish journalist for the Jerusalem Post, Geoffrey Alderman, who states in reference to Holocaust history in an article which was annexed to the submission:
‘The task of the historian is to investigate, confront, challenge and, if necessary, correct society's collective memory. In this process, the state ought to have no role whatever, none at all.’
I came to the Frydenberg dual citizenship saga with clean hands — as a lawyer, a writer and as a member of the general public. Ludicrously, however, Senator Bragg posits that any questioning of Frydenberg’s citizenship status under Section 44 of the Constitution of Australia is an act of anti-Semitism.
Next, Senator Bragg targeted Oliver Yates, who was an independent candidate for the seat of Kooyong at the 2019 Federal Election. He has filed a separate petition to the High Court regarding the Liberal Party using Chinese language signs in the seat of Kooyong, allegedly designed to resemble Australian Electoral Commission material.
Senator Bragg asserted in his speech that Oliver Yates has also been actively involved with the filing of Staindl’s s44 petition and part of the anti-Semitic conspiracy. Bragg failed to produce any evidence to support his claim, other than quoting from an email dated 14 June 2019 in which Yates made the observation that a number of candidates at the last Federal Election were under scrutiny for breach of Section 44 including Frydenberg in Kooyong. That is hardly evidence of Yates being involved in filing the Staindl s44 petition.
In fact, as early as 8 June 2019, I was informed by a constituent associated with the Kooyong Independents Group regarding the efficacy of filing a petition, that:
“Labor will probably stay away. Oliver, too. Pity.”
Further, Oliver Yates has maintained to the media that he is not interested in the s44 petition.
I have never met Michael Staindl or Oliver Yates, yet a paranoid Senator Bragg concludes:
“They are pretending that they are not working together, when they clearly are. The basis for this challenge is antiSemitism.”
So what is Bragg’s motivation to vilify Australian citizens under parliamentary privilege? The Liberal Party clearly feels threatened with the imminent prospect that Frydenberg will be deemed ineligible to sit in the Parliament, resulting in the Government ending up with a hung Parliament after a new election for Kooyong.
Trevor Poulton is a lawyer, author of books 'The Holocaust Denier' and 'Brick Through The Window (Poems from the 1990s)', a champion for environmental causes, and has been a member of the Labor Party for 26 years.
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