Speech - Senate Chamber - BDS
The response of the Chairman of the ACCC to the Senate's motion concerning the anti-Israel BDS campaign against Max Brenner chocolate cafes is disappointing.
I also note that this motion was opposed by Greens Senators.
Since Greens Leader, Bob Brown, took his alleged 'robust' line against Senator Lee Rhiannon's support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign in the March NSW election, Senator Rhiannon has repeatedly needled him on this issue.
After the backlash against the Greens at the March NSW election, particularly in the seat of Marrickville, Senator Brown lambasted then Senator-elect, Lee Rhiannon.
Senator Rhiannon's first reaction had been to suggest the Greens should have done more to explain this issue. "Collectively we didn't do enough to amplify support for BDS and show that this is part of an international movement," she was quoted as saying.
Senator Brown publicly accused the NSW Greens of having mistakenly taken to "having their own shade of foreign policy". "I've had a good, robust discussion with Lee," he said. "She and I, not for the first time, have engaged in a very frank discussion about the way the NSW election went."
Days later Senator Brown said, "It,s the federal party that makes foreign policy& Simple as that& The NSW position was rejected at the national council of Australian Greens. It was brought forward by New South Wales but rejected last year."
On Lateline Ali Moore asked Senator Brown: "Do you support the policy that New South Wales Greens have for a boycott?" Senator Brown replied: "No, I don't and I've said this before publicly, Ali, that it was rejected by the Australian Greens Council last year."
Not long after, senator-elect Rhiannon staked out her ground: "...we have that position in NSW and I support the NSW position," she told Sky's The Nation program, adding that it was "not something we're taking to the federal Parliament." Then, a month later in her blog, she threw down the gauntlet, declaring that:
"Despite the intimidation, misinformation and abuse in recent months directed towards the Greens NSW, my colleagues in Marrickville and myself, I will not step away from speaking out for Palestinian human rights. In the context of my work as a federal Senator this will be one of just many issues I will work on."
Intimidation? To whom could she have been referring? She then took issue with Senator Brown's assertions about the Greens national council rejecting BDS:
"It is not accurate to say that the Greens National Council rejected a BDS proposal; there was no vote to reject it. A less stringent boycott was supported& The argument that the NSW position is a contravention of the national policy does not stand up."
When The Australian put Senator elect Rhiannon's declaration to Senator Brown, that there had been no national Greens vote against the BDS, he watered down his original assertion to: "There has been no vote in favour of the BDS proposal."
Senator Rhiannon repeated her assertions at a 'Politics in the Pub' event in Sydney in July:
"&One of the pieces of misinformation was that the NSW Greens were going against the national policy&. So the boycott was not in contravention of our national policy... There is a diversity of opinion only about how we take forward the Greens position".
Misinformation from whom? To whom could Senator Rhiannon be referring?
In a motion in the federal Senate after Senator Rhiannon's arrival, Senator Brown squibbed the opportunity to vote against the BDS. In fact Senator Brown has voted against anti-BDS resolutions in the Senate on numerous occasions now, notwithstanding his declaration on Lateline that he didn't support the BDS policy.After their public spat following the NSW election, Senator Brown seems to have been at pains to appease his new Senator on BDS, but to no avail.
Meanwhile Senator Rhiannon keeps pushing the boundaries on BDS. Last week, while supporting the boycotting of Israeli businesses (like Max Brenner's) which don't acknowledge the Palestinian cause, Senator Rhiannon placed a use-by date on her commitment not to push the BDS campaign in the Senate:
"I am quite aware that Bob Brown has a different approach on this, that within the Federal Parliament there isn't the support for this issue at the present time. But in the wider community there is growing understanding about the need to take a stand for Palestinian human rights. So I am not taking this into the Senate at the present time."
Well, we will see how long this lasts.
Finally, I should not fail to congratulate Brother David Cragg from the Victorian Trades Hall, for telling the truth to BDS proponents in the union movement, regarding flaws in the logic and integrity of the BDS strategy and the 'totally repugnant history' of boycotting Jewish businesses.
With all this background one wonders why the ACCC has failed to take decisive action.