PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 2503

OPENING OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH MEMORIAL CENTRE - CANBERRA - SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER, MR WILLIAM MCMAHON - 13 DECEMBER 1971

Photo of McMahon, William

McMahon, William

Period of Service: 10/03/1971 to 05/12/1972

More information about McMahon, William on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 13/12/1971

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 2503

OPENING OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH MEMORIAL CENTE
CANBERRA
Speech by the Prime Minister, Mr. William McMahon
13 December, 1971.
Mr. Jacobson, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies
and Gentlemen-, This afternoon we are about to add something to the
history of Canberra and something of enduring importance to the
vast panorama of the Jewish story in Australia.
I wonder if I could, with some architectural licence
considerable licence in fact describe this fine new building as
a pillar. I do so because I see it as a pillar of faith in our
national capital. A pillar of faith which will stand for a long,
long time,. as the national centre of Australian Jewry the first
of its kind and as a meeting place, a House of . worship, a school
and a memorial to Jews who died for Australia.
I sometimes think we miss the sight of history in the
making whken we get mixed up in the process oursel-es on a summer
afternoop in Canberra with familiar sights and familiar faces around
US. But history this is, and my wife and I are h1onoured be with
you on this very special occasion. I'm afraid we arc both ' oing to
make speeches. We each know what the other is going to say and as
I'm speaking first I have to be careful to keep in my own corner,
Sir, I think it is almost ten years since the foundation
stone was laid here by Rabbi Brodie, Chief Rabbi at that time, you
have built well as the result of your own energetic fund-raising and,
I understand, some help from friondly governments. The Commonwealth's
corntribution to this centre.. as you know, is a perpctual lease of the
land for a rental of ten cents a yaar on demand. To my knowledge the
demand has never been made, nor likely to be, it's just one of those
curious things put in to make overything look legal. All this
having been said, I do congratulate those who havc worked so hard to
make this Centre. You should bc well content and very proud. It is
a handsome addition to the buildings in Canberra and, as I said, at
the beginning, it is -a pillar of faith in our midst.
Jewry has won an honoured and permanent place in
Australia and I am proud to be Primo Minister in a country where
bigotry is at a discount and where Australians accept each other
for what they are. We are not troubled by what each man's faith
might be or what form t4-he worship of his God might take. And I
take this opportunity of acknowledging here what the Jewish community
has done for Australia. It is to the la~ sting credit of the Jewish people and it
is evidence of the durability of the spiritual values which bind them
together that they have maintained their identity no matter where
they have been born or where they have settled. ./ 2

They have done this in Australia and their integration
in the Australian community is complete. The Jewish community in
Australia has given much to the development of an. Australian culture
by the infusion of elements of their own rich, rare culture. And
its members are sharing, very fully, in Australia's great effort at
nation-building. I take just two names among many from the list of
distinguished Jews who have brought honour to Australia. The late
Sir Isaac Isaacs, our first Australian-born Governor-General and the
late General Sir John Monash who led us in the first great war and
gave so much of his talents to works of peace in this country when
the battles were won. We remember them today because they were big
men who thought and acted in a big way. They were national in their
outlook and in their achievements.
I think, too, gn this occasion, it is right that wt
should pay our tribute to the fortitude of the Jewish people in
Israel who press on with nation-building though the shadows of war
lie always along their frontiers.
There are three things, I think we should remember
about Israeli-
The first That Isreal came to be because of the courage of
its people.
And the determination of a majority of nations that
the Jews shQuld be free, independent and able to live
in the land of their fathers.
Through its active membership of the United Nations
Palestine Commission and the General Assembly, Australia
helped to make this possible.
The second That forbearance, courage, resolution and industry have
made a nation in a timeless desert.
And by that result the world is reminded once again
that there are few limits to what men and women can do,
given freedom and faith.
and
The third That the future holds a tremendous challenge for
Israel, for other countries of the Middle East and
indeed for us all. A challenge which has its dangers
as well as its opportunities.
Sir, there is much in common between cur two countries
and in many ways we have faced the same hazards of nature in nationbuilding.
It is distressing that tho issues which divide Israel
from its Arab neighbours, with all of'whom Australia enjoys friendly
relations, have not yet been resolved.
The Australian Government is convinced of the need for
a settlement which ensures the sovereignty, independence and
territorial integrity of Israel and all other states in the Middle
East. Without that there can be no lasting peace.
Sir, this year international attention is being focussed
through the United Nations on prejudice and discrimination on racial
grounds.

My Government has strongly supported, in the United
Nations and elsewhere, the riahts of peoole, including minorities,
to freedom from fear and suspicion-without distinction as to race,
language or religion.--In the United Nations last month, we again urged, as
we have in earlier years, that Governments which find it difficult
to eliminate prejudice against, for example, Jewish minorities,
should at least allow those people to emigrate if they desire to do
so. We hold strongly to the belief that people should be
able, both in law and in practice, to pursue their cultural and
religious heritage and traditions as they wish. This national
centre, this -pillar of faith, reflects that belief. It expresses,
too, in a noble form the confidence of the Jewish people that while
their ancient homeland lies faraway along the Jord7. n, they have a
home here where they are part of one people inhabiting one continent.
And where Australians of every faith and persuasion are free to walk
the ways of peace together.
Now Mr. Jacobson, Ladies and Gentlemen, I understand
I am to unveil the plaque and n-. mo this building. I am delighted
to do so, and I name this building " The Mona and Louis Klein
Building".

Transcript 2503