But, as we celebrate the modern-day achievements of our friend and ally and the many Australians who hold deep connections to Israel, it behoves us to understand their history and contemplate the adversity through which they have come, so that we can better support each other for a prosperous future.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (19:45): The first step on the road to establishing the nation of Israel truly began at a meeting of the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council in San Remo, Italy, from 19 to 26 April 1920. During the First World War, the British government had committed to create a Jewish national home. The outcomes of the San Remo conference would enable this commitment to be met. The San Remo resolution passed on 25 April 1920, just over a hundred years ago. It’s a significant date in the history of Israel: the founding of a homeland for the Jewish people. The outcomes of the San Remo conference were that: the northern half of what was called Syria, modern day Iran and Lebanon, was mandated to France; the southern half was mandated to Great Britain; and the province of Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq, was mandated to Great Britain. This complex arrangement was the first step that eventually led to the foundation of Israel. Subsequent to the San Remo conference in 1922, the League of Nations confirmed the mandate for British rule of Palestinian order to facilitate the creation of Israel, which came into effect in 1923.
Sadly, the intervening decades saw unfathomable harm and injustice brought upon the Jewish people. The crimes and atrocities of the Holocaust will forever be remembered to make sure they are not repeated. In the shadows of the Holocaust, the British government continued relentlessly on their path to establish a homeland for the Jewish people, a journey that formally had commenced in San Remo 2½ decades earlier. On 14 May 1948, the anniversary of which is tomorrow, the British withdrew from Haifa. Jewish Agency chairman David Ben-Gurion proclaimed at the Tel Aviv museum the establishment of the State of Israel and became its first premier. All of these milestones are based on the consensus reached by Western and Arab leaders during the San Remo conference. Both the US and the then USSR recognised the new State of Israel.
Since that time, we have seen this beacon of democracy flourish in the Middle East. It is a bastion for democracy and human rights, where freedom of speech, liberty and intellectual freedom have been abundant and revered. Israel is an important ally to Australia in many ways, and our bilateral cooperation, especially in innovation, security and defence, is of benefit to both of our nations. Australian defence officials began annual strategic talks with Israel in 2018, and in early 2019 Australia appointed a resident defence attache to the embassy in Tel Aviv. In 2018, Israel was Australia’s 41st largest merchandise trading partner and the 50th largest export market. It’s an important business and technological partner of Australia.
The opening in 2019 of an Australian trade and defence office in West Jerusalem was designed to facilitate trade investment and defence industry partnerships. Israel’s economy has been growing continuously for the past 16 years, averaging 3.8 per cent GDP growth annually. It makes sense to have good trade and economic relationships with innovative and industrious nations like Israel. But, as we celebrate the modern-day achievements of our friend and ally and the many Australians who hold deep connections to Israel, it behoves us to understand their history and contemplate the adversity through which they have come, so that we can better support each other for a prosperous future.
Recognising the significance of the San Remo conference and 14 May 1948, the date the State of Israel was formed—an important world event that changed the course of human history forever—is my mission today. I want to acknowledge and recognise the significant contributions of the many Jewish people in Australia who hold in high regard the role of Israel as a force for good in the world.